A DORSET-based couple who oversee the Children of Fiji charity are laying the foundations for the construction of a new bridge.

Peter and Margaret Long, from Cattistock, wish to help build a bridge over the Korotari River on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji.

At present, children have to wade through water up to chest high on their way to and from school.

Margaret said: “Over 100 children risk their lives every day. Building this bridge will ensure the safety of these children.”

Much of the couple’s time on their latest trip to Fiji was spent in meetings attempting to secure the support of various government agencies and the sugar industry.

Peter said: “We are in negotiations with the government of Fiji and have had personal messages from the Prime Minister pledging his support.

“We have also been pledged support from sugar companies both in Fiji and the UK.

On their most recent trip to Fiji, rugby equipment donated by Dorchester Rugby Club was given to the John Wesley College Sports Academy near Suva.

Money raised by the rugby club has also gone towards weight training equipment at the academy.

The couple distributed basic educational and medical materials, as well as solar lanterns to villages with no electricity.

Whilst in Fiji, the couple came across a 7-year-old boy called Samson with a ‘hole in the heart’ condition, which caused him to tire easily. Doctors in Fiji were unable to do anything but by chance the couple found a team of medical specialists from India who were visiting Fiji at the same time.

The couple organised passports, visas and plane tickets for Samson to fly to India for treatment after a paediatric cardio-surgeon agreed to operate.

The operation was a success and Samson’s heart rate is now normal.

Margaret said: “Samson’s prospects were very bleak.

“He had little energy and was struggling.

“His life expectancy was not good. How thrilling to know that he can now lead a normal life.”

The couple are organising a virtual balloon release to raise money for their projects.

People can buy a balloon for £1.50.

Through a series of public draws, names will be matched with places along an agreed route.

The winner will be the person whose balloon has travelled the furthest along that route, with a prize of a hot air balloon ride for two people up for grabs.

For more information on how to buy a virtual balloon, please email the couple at longs@dynamicduo.co.uk