From a liquor bar to a juice bar

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AUSTRALIA | GEORGE KWONG/RECORD STAFF

Wailoaloa Beach is a famous tourist destination in Nadi, Fiji, known for its affordable lodging, restaurants, and especially its liquor bars and night spots.

When COVID-19 struck Fiji in March 2020, many of the small coffee shops, fast food outlets, and restaurants along the beach lost business as the tourist industry took a plunge. One such place was the Bamboo Resort.

Sensing an opportunity to take advantage of the availability of affordable, abandoned space and the need to expand the influence of the 10,000 Toes campaign in turning the tide on diabetes, 10,000 Toes ambassadors from three local Seventh-day Adventist churches partnered with the Bamboo Resort to set up the Bitu Wellness Bar (bitu being the local name for bamboo), using a space in the resort that was once a coffee and pastry outlet.

The bar—offering a host of wellness and health programs, including free biometric screenings, exercise programs, fat loss challenges, and personalized meal plans—gained popularity in a short time. Locals flocked in daily for their daily doses of traditional natural herbs, and therapeutic, healthy fresh juices.

The idea was to have the bar as a center of influence that encouraged Fijians to take a more holistic and natural approach to their health in the war against lifestyle diseases—particularly diabetes. It was also to create awareness among patrons that this bar offered healthier and better alternatives than alcoholic drinks.

In April 2020, the second wave of COVID-19 struck Fiji in a very unexpected and serious manner. Authorities ordered that the Bamboo Resort be completely shut down. All activities came to a halt, including the Bitu Wellness Bar. For two weeks the patrons and regular customers were calling daily to find out when and where the new bar location would be. What happened next is beyond the ordinary.

One hundred meters up the road is the Beach Escape Resort, a neighbor to the Bamboo Resort. Managers Anne and Ruben had been watching daily with interest, curious about the crowds of people driving in and out of the Bamboo Resort, and noticing that more people were visiting the juice bar than the alcohol bar. They also noticed that there were fewer alcohol-induced incidents on the street—that the neighborhood was now much quieter and more peaceful.

Happy with what they had observed, the couple offered their liquor bar to serve healthy juices and their premises to be used as a wellness hub. At first, the 10,000 Toes ambassadors turned down the offer because they believed healthy juices should not be sold from the same bar as alcohol. However, the managers had already decided that no more liquor would be sold on the premises.

Alcohol was completely cleared out from the bar, fridges, and coolers and replaced with juicing machines, blenders, and healthy local fruits, herbs, and veggies. Last Sabbath was the first Saturday the bar was closed. What was usually a very busy bar day has become “a restful and peaceful day”, says Ruben. Now Ruben’s kitchen offers a special healthy plant-based menu daily.

The Bitu Wellness Bar is up and running again. God works in marvelous ways. The juice bar has not only influenced patrons of the old Bamboo Resort but has also been able to transform the Beach Escape Resort to be part of something that brings hope and healing to the community. What better influence could a center of influence be!

Praise God the 10,000 Toes campaign goes far beyond saving limbs and lives. It allows people an opportunity to open their hearts and be a positive influence to others. Anne and Ruben cannot wait to be trained as ambassadors for 10,000 Toes and to be part of this great life-saving movement.

“The South Pacific Division Comprehensive Health strategy aims to positively impact the community and has set a goal of 400 wellness hubs across the South Pacific sharing whole-person health by 2025,” says South Pacific Division Health Strategy Consultant, Geraldine Przybylko. “We encourage you to be part of this vision!”

For further details on how to partner with us contact 10,000 Toes Coordinator Pamela Townend at pam@10000toes.com.

This article was originally published on the website of Adventist Record