Everyone loves a good news story, especially if about a family being reunited and all the more so as Christmas approaches.
For Lance Corporal Kelevi Dainiteri – based at Fort George, Inverness, with 3 SCOTS (The Black Watch), Royal Regiment of Scotland – and his wife Bale, it is going to be an extra-special time of year because SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, has helped reunite their family.
LCpl Dainiteri, from Fiji, joined the British Army in March 2023. He and Bale, a care worker, live in married quarters in Inverness. The couple had been saving as much as they could to try and get their three children – Oni, Joshua, and Cema – permission and visas to join them in UK so that they can be a family again.
The three youngsters have been staying with their grandparents, who are not in the best of health, in Fiji.
LCpl Dainiteri explained that there is currently no assistance rendered to Commonwealth persons in UK Armed Forces to enable their immediate family to come to UK to join them, so he had to find a way to finance this himself.
He took out a loan out in order for him to pay for Bale’s flights and visa – she had to live and work here for a year ahead of the couple’s children being allowed to come – to the UK, putting a strain on the family’s finances.
SSAFA Inverness-Shire and Western Isles, and in particular volunteer Anna Masson, became involved and in partnership with Poppyscotland and the Army Families Federation, facilitated the funding for immigration and visa costs, and flights to bring his children from Fiji to Scotland.
While Bale had not seen her children for a year, dad Kelevi had not – because of his training and service – seen them for nearly four years before flying to Fiji to collect them and bring them to their mum and their new home after a near-10,000-mile flight.
Speaking to STV, LCpl Dainiteri said of the emotional reunion:
“It was like a movie, when you see in the movie and everything just comes true, the dream comes true.”
Overwhelmed, Bale said:
“It’s really hard being away from them, but I’m so happy that we’re reunited… I was especially worried about them going to school and not being there for them and been missing all their bringing up,” before the family added they: “… can’t thank SSAFA enough.”
SSAFA works across Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the rest of the world, and although not every case SSAFA works on involves such complexity and reuniting families thousands of miles apart, each one – for serving or retired UK Armed Forces personnel, and their families – requires the same level of skill, compassion, and dedication.
For more information on accessing support, volunteering, or fundraising, visit ssafa.org.uk.