Karlotta is a long-term associate of the Orthodox Apostolic Ministry in the Pacific, working at its base in New Zealand as part of its secretarial team. She and her husband are involved with accounting and providing administrative help for the Mission. She is also a devout Orthodox Christian whose deep desire to help the Mission led her to personally visit the young Orthodox communities in the islands.
On her first visit to Fiji, in July 2017, she arranged a three-week stay. She made a specific and well considered request to stay on-site, near St. Tabitha Home, and this was so that she could immerse herself fully in the daily life of the orphanage from day one. Her focus from the start was to be able to help the children as much as she could within the time she had.
Her own house has always had a welcome for her wider family and friends, as well as for her children’s friends. Their family celebrations are also famous for marking special occasions in style – great food and an open heart for everyone. This great mum has many other skills. She had a highly successful career for 36 years at the Ministry of Business, Immigration and Employment and its predecessor departments/ministries and then five years as an independent contractor across a number of organisations. She is bilingual, having been brought up in New Zealand in a Greek-speaking household. She is articulate and knowledgeable, all in all a well-rounded and highly educated individual.
Her strong empathy and her natural care for others first led her to consider the health of the children she met in the islands – in particular their nutrition. She is someone who observes situations and people carefully in order to know how to help or get the best out of them. To make a difference, she could see that there was a good opportunity to use her culinary skills to enhance the meals served at the home whilst still following the local diet and working within a budget. Karlotta enlisted the help of the local team. She asked Fijian employee Lydia to accompany her by bus to Lautoka and that Lydia guide her in the purchase of provisions. Enthusiastic kitchen activity ensued upon their return. Over the following days, it was clear that local staff were eager for new ideas, and with years of catering for her own family, and with a natural Greek ability to create meals for large numbers, Karlotta was well placed to help them out. She discovered among other things that roast potatoes were a big hit with the kids. True to her family’s style, she also created some special tasty treats for these children, thereby also making memorable moments.
Karlotta also assisted in developing easy- to- make home-coming snacks for the end of the school day. When the children poured in through the gates of the busy main road, she was there to greet them and moreover to help them out by providing motherly personal attention. Apart from the welcome snack, Karlotta would always sit and read with individual children, giving them time to enjoy for a moment being just one, rather than one of many.
Again, acting with a mother’s heart, and in full Christian love, she had a wish to brighten the routine of the children’s lives, so Karlotta organised, at her own expense, a trip to the cinema. For many children, it was the first time they had ever been to see a film outside the orphanage. It was special. It was memorable. It took a bit of organising, but it was well worth it.
What of her family back in New Zealand? Well – they missed her. But the location in Fiji is not so remote that you can’t keep in touch. Karlotta was able to communicate regularly with her family.
There was another aspect to her Fijian experience. Apart from motherly care for the children, the other thing Karlotta did daily, without exception, was to walk up the hill to the women’s monastery. There she would sit quietly in prayer every afternoon, readying herself spiritually for the next part of her day. Because surprisingly, despite Fiji’s noise and colour, it is also a place where you can find deep spiritual peace, both in its beautiful natural surroundings, in its people, and within the growing number of beautiful Orthodox churches They are special – built in love and in the Fijian style. It’s a place where you can spiritually recharge.
At the end of three weeks, the children and staff wanted to throw a big party to say thank you for all the love and care she had shown. They baked a cake and celebrated together, like one big family. They looked forward to her next visit, which did happen.
Karlotta’s first visit to Fiji was very much about her as a Mum – that is what she shared. She has revisited, and she will certainly come again; whichever of her gifts are needed, that is what she will share. It really is that simple. Whoever you are, whatever you do well in your own context, you will be able to do that in the beauty of the love of Christ in Fiji.