Tuesday, September 16, 2008


TALIKING to a school principal is never easy, especially when some have threatening eyes and an uninviting look that make you just want to crawl under the nearest table.

But 57-year old Unaisi Talolo Sitaba Lekenaua is a something quite different altogether. Entering her office at Laucala Bay Secondary one can almost feel the warmth and friendliness radiating from this very vocal woman.

Some people think it is easy to get a Masters degree in Commerce but for Unaisi the event was a double celebration as her graduation last Friday also fell on her birthday.

Born and bred in Keteira Village on Moala in Lau, Unaisi grew up an only child to Mosese Saula Sitaba and Alumita Lomoci. She comes from a family of teachers. Many of her cousins have joined the same profession.

"My uncle Joni Ledua was a headmaster and when I was five years old, I always wanted to be like him, a teacher," she said. "My uncle discouraged me frombeing a teacher because of how badly paid teachers were. "Nearly all of my cousins are teachers and it sort of runs in the family.
"I attended primary school at Uciwai District from Class One to Six and finished my primary education at Draiba Fijian.

"Another uncle was a policeman at Nasova and he brought me to live with him in Suva. "I continued my secondary school at DAV Girls College but when I was in Form Four, I failed Fiji Junior Certificate. "My father came from Moala to take me back to the village but I wanted to continue my education."

In 1968, the University of the South Pacific opened and her father's last wish before he died that year was for her to study teaching at USP. Her father's words remained with her throughout and although she seemed like a lost child after his death, Unaisi was determined to make the most of life.

Given a second chance, Unaisi passed FJC at Ballantine Memorial in 1969 and was one of the first students to sit the New Zealand School Certificate at the school. "When my father died, I lost hope in school and I didn't believe in God. My father was good friends with the principal for Ballantine and when she saw what I was like she told me to work hard.

"I always wanted to be a teacher and I had to work hard to live my dream and fulfill my father's wishes.
"I then went to Ratu Sukuna Memorial to complete Form Six. I failed my University Entrance Exam and repeated Form Six in 1971 and passed." She was a prefect then and during assembly USP representatives came looking for trained teachers.

This was the opportunity she sought and was accepted at USP that same year to study Home Economics. Being carefree and young, Unaisi passed all her units except for Home Economics and decided to look for a school to teach.

"In 1972, I was a licensed teacher at Suva Sangam but I still wanted to complete my education at USP. "I changed my majors to English and Social Science and graduated with a diploma in Education in 1975. "My first posting was to Dreketi High in Macuata and it was there I met my husband Kavaia Lekenaua. "I spent 10 years in Dreketi before I came to Suva in 1986 to complete my degree."

The mother of six was principal at Savusavu Secondary and in 1999, she was the senior education officer for secondary schools in the northern Cakaudrove, Bua and Macuata districts.
She became principal of the Laucala Bay in 2007.

After showing interest in continuing her education, she was awarded a Fijian Affairs Board scholarship under which she completed her postgraduate certificate in public administration in 2006.

In 2007, she went on to complete a postgraduate diploma in the same field. On Friday, she graduated with a Masters degree in Commerce majoring in public administration and management.

"I want to set a standard for my children - that anything is possible. I want to challenge my children to reach this level or higher. "My achievement is for my parents and since Sunday was father's Sunday, this is for mother and husband too.

"Teaching is rewarding and I thank to God - my anchor and strength." Unaisi is also a lay preacher and believes that hard work and determination have carried her through the obstacles of life.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, September 15, 2008


LIVING to give is an act inspired by many people. Love and patience is portrayed in the life of Jacqueline Wright (pictured), a compassionate woman who has devoted her time and talents to the children of Hilton hostel.

Jacque, as she is commonly known by the children and visitors to the hostel is a caregiver and has been with the hostel for six years. Mrs Wright built her skills at a very young age while assisting her mother, Marion Sorby and George Wright at the Early Intervention and Hilton Special School.

Her mother is a secretary for the Early Intervention School. She is a mother to six children and a grandmother to three beautiful grandchildren who she loves and adores. The 44-year old grew up in the suburb of Raiwaqa and spent most of her life in Suva.

Jacque is caregiver, doctor and saint to the children at the hostel. This is observable in the work she carries out daily including bathing, feeding, cleaning, training the children to do things for themselves, tidying beds, preparing meals, storytelling, singing and the list goes on.

Jacque believes it is important to talk to children in a calm voice and this has become a school policy where children do not get spanked for doing wrong. Instead, they are corrected in a calm and loving tone. "I was trained at a very young age to have love and patience for disabled children, and it has helped me a lot," she said.

"I was brought up by a single parent and it was not easy. I grew up with a lot of challenges.
"I was the youngest of six and I learnt to live with limited resources. My mum would work hard and although finance was tight, mother did not give up and she worked very hard to educate us."
Jacqueline attended primary school at Vatuwaqa and continued her secondary education at DAV College.

She was not keen on arithmetic and furthered her skills at LDS Technical School where she leant shorthand and typing. She married Harry Bentley and after he died in a car accident, she took on the responsibility of looking after their three children. At times, going through the same experience her mother faced became unbearable.

Despite the circumstances, Jacque continued to work hard and was determined to prolong the work her mother had taught her. "My experience growing up with a single mother helped me overcome my own challenges of being a single parent."

"This did not discourage me from achieving my goals in life. I started work at the Early Intervention Centre six years ago and I have never regretted the decision." Jacque received training through Australian Spastic Centre team who conducted a caregiver workshop at the Early Intervention for teachers.

Jacque received a lot of practical experience with children with different disabilities. Apart from caring for children with disabilities; Jacque cares for old people at the hospital on private arrangements and as a house maid.

"Sometimes the challenges of being a caregiver include sleepless nights, but this does not happen often, only when children fall sick. Because I love and enjoy my work, I don't feel the pinch." Her work has opened up employment opportunities overseas and helped express her God given talents.

"Nursing and loving children with disabilities and who have been abandoned by their biological parents is a blessing for me. "I know God will bless me in his own time, for His words say, 'For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future', Jeremiah 29:11. This profession has taught me a lot; especially having being cared for by a single parent and going through the same experience.

"It has enabled me understand that there are more challenges in life that cannot be solved over night. "Life is full of expectation and challenges and this can only be handled with determination.
"I would like to encourage all single mothers that life is not only filled with sorrows, it has joyful ones only if you're determined to experience them.
Most importantly trust in the Lord for strength and wisdom."
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Thursday, September 11, 2008


AN opportunity that came Isimeli Qaranivalu's way back in high school was one he has not regretted taking on. He said in his final year at Lelean Memorial School in Davuilevu, there was an advertisement in The Fiji Times for apprentices.

But at the same time Mr Qaranivalu had also gotten his acceptance letter from the Fiji School Medicine. He hails from Koro, Lomaiviti and is married with four sons.

"I guess as fate had it I went with Qantas," the 58-year old said.
"I was still at school when I was picked by Qantas to attend their aircraft engineering training school.

"I started with Qantas from 1968 where I did my training in Sydney in 1971. Over the years I became the first local engineering supervisor with Qantas. "That was to look after aircraft maintenance at Nadi airport."

From there Mr Qaranivalu said after Qantas had left he stayed on with Air Terminal Services back in 1981. He was then promoted to Quality Assurance Manager in 1988 before taking on his current position as technical services manager.

He said with senior positions came responsibilities where he and his crew would look after the technical aspects of ATS especially maintenance on aircraft, infrastructure and all procurement supplies for ATS except food supplies.

"I was also the first licensed local for boeing 747," he said. "I am very happy to be with ATS since its inception in 1981 till now. "As time draws near for me to finish my career I am very thankful to ATS and Qantas for giving me a very good opportunity to make use of my life.

Mr Qaranivalu said the aviation industry has come a long way where everything has become hi-tech. He said during the days of the propeller planes, they would change cables and wires.

"From the propeller engine aircraft when I first started they have now gone to hi technology airplanes," he said. "The world of aviation is changing. We are preparing our people and have prepared our people.

"I am glad that I have been able to play a role in the aviation industry through ATS. "I have a good team that I work with and the support from the local people."

Besides being involved in his work, Mr Qaranivalu also works closely with the church and the Lelean Old Scholars Association.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Being a referee for any sports match is not easy especially when trying to ensure a game is played fairly and rules are followed. For Nardeo Mishra, having a courageous heart is what makes a good referee.

Born and bred in Sabeto, Nadi, Nardeo grew up in a farming family. His parents were Vishnu Datt Mishra and Phul Kumari. Nardeo wanted to be a pilot when he was younger but a plane accident in Bua sometime in the 1970's discouraged him from flying again.

"I grew up with my extended family and we had a sugarcane farm. Most of the time we did vegetable farming but I enjoyed helping my father and cousins in the farm.

"It was a hard life but my parents made sure we had food on the table and a roof over our heads," he said. "I am the eldest of five and when we started school we didn't have the luxuries many have today. "Back then, we had to walk two kilometers to school everyday on the dusty roads. We didn't have shoes and our school bag was the sack for flour. "I got my first pair of shoes when I was in Form Three. Even the houses then were bure type and there was hardly any concrete house around."

He attended primary school at Sabeto Indian before continuing his secondary education at Shri Vivekananda High.

Soccer career

His soccer career started when he was still in school representing his primary and secondary school at various soccer competitions. After high school and still managing his time well in between school and soccer practice, Nardeo continued his tertiary education at the University of the South Pacific.

He completed a Diploma in Science and began his teaching career at Labasa Sangam College, All Saints and Bhawani Dayal in Nasinu. "At the same time, I continued to play soccer even when I was teaching in Labasa. I was transferred there in 1974 and I started playing in the Bulileka team and was selected in the Labasa team.

"I played with Jimmy Zoing, Gordon Leewai, Hussain Saheb and Brian Simmons. I also represented Tailevu Naitasiri team in 1977 and took up refereeing in 1978. "My first major break as a referee was in 1979 when I refereed at the South Pacific Games in Suva.

"For me, that was my first international exposure as a referee. I like playing soccer and I find that it is a good way to relieve stress, tension and worry." Being a referee never came easy for Nardeo and he started off as a linesman for soccer matches.

Spending three years as an assistant referee as linesmen are called now, Nardeo started his training as a referee from class three level and slowly but surely made his way up to attain a class one level referee status.


Nardeo was considered one of the top local soccer referees at the time. The experience over the years was the kind of exposure he needed to reach the top.

"I had the opportunity to visit countries like Australia, New Zealand, America, Tahiti and other Pacific Island countries. "I managed the national team when they won gold at the 1991 SPG and the Melanesian Cup win in 2000 in Fiji. "I had some very good memories and some very nasty ones during my refereeing career. To be a referee, you must have a courageous heart and you must stand by your actions.

"If you are fit and know the laws of the game, then you should not have any problems. Never try to take sides and listen to the crowd, officials or players. "Be friendly but firm and respect everyone. Try to learn from your mistakes and don't think you know everything." He said using cards is not a good way to control a match.

While the former FIFA referee finds the job demanding, he has left a trail of successes to inspire and motivate those who want to take up this profession seriously.

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, September 1, 2008


HARD work and determination are two important ingredients to achieving success even in the banking industry, according to Olive Whippy.

The former national basketball rep is the human resources manager for Westpac Banking Corporation in Suva. Managing work, family and sports commitments simultaneously back then, Olive said nothing beats hard work and time management.

She was born Olive Henning at Waiyevo, Taveuni but raised by her aunt at Vunivalu Road off Brown Street, Suva with her other siblings. Very outgoing and independent, Olive had a normal upbringing like most kids who grew up at Brown Street.

"Growing up was fun and we did the usual things sliding down drains and climbing guava trees.
"I was very active and played a lot of sports such as hockey, athletics, netball and eventually basketball," she said. "I never really thought about what I wanted to do but I was mostly into sports."

She attended Stella Maris Primary School and went to the all-girls St Joseph's Secondary School at Waimanu Road. After high school, she decided to find a job to help out with financial constraints at home. She applied for a job with Westpac and was offered a position as a customer service representative.

"I felt good because I was able to get a job. "I never looked back from there. "We had a training centre at Waimanu Road so we had training there. "I started off from customer service then to savings, examiner, bank teller and later team leader in foreign exchange.

"I always had this leadership role even when I was young. "I moved on to become a foreign exchange dealer then a supervisor in cards to manager for electronic banking." Even though she reached Form Six, Olive worked her way up the banking ranks to become an example of what one can achieve through hard work.

She believes and has learned that to get somewhere in life, one should be steadfast and diligent.
Olive said most people generally thought banking was all about handling money but there were different areas of specialty including marketing, foreign exchange and information technology.
"There's a lot that people can do in the banking industry and it is not only confined to just dealing with money.

"It is a very challenging job being in a leadership role but I don't see these challenges as a hindrance to my job. "I have love for the people I work with and I see that when I can assist the human side of things, business will run well."

In 1992, she attended a managerial course in Italy sponsored by the International Labour Organisation. During that visit, Olive had the opportunity to travel to various countries including Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the Vatican in Rome.

Apart from her role as human resources manager, Olive represented Fiji in basketball from 1979 to 2003. She is married to Paul Whippy and they have seven children. Thanks to the help of her extended family, Olive managed to make her country proud and family happy, all this while climbing the success ladder at Westpac.

"I always tell my children hard work kills no man," she said.

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Friday, August 29, 2008


A healthy life is a happy life and 59-year old Raubane Kirimaua has a goal to help people understand the benefits that come from a healthy lifestyle. Raubane is the president of Pasifika Health Reform Ministry, a non-profit cooperation promoting better health amongst Pacific islanders.

Based in Honolulu, Hawaii, Raubane said the aim of the cooperation is based on scientific and biblical guidelines. While he may be a certified secondary school teacher with two Masters' degrees, Raubane did not live a life of riches and fame.

Born and bred on the island of Abemama, Kiribati, Raubane is sixth in a family of eight children. His father Raubane Tobinabina was a magistrate while his mother Tekua Kirimaua was a housewife. Growing up on the island, Raubane never really thought about what he wanted to be when he was younger.

He did not even think he would ever leave the island and this was because the opportunities were very limited.

"Life on the island was very rural. I remember collecting just enough coconuts and firewood for the family. "Basically, we used what we needed. My parents were very staunch Seventh Day Adventists," he said. "My father was advanced in his education and he pushed us to get a good education but to move on to the next level was up to us.

"I did not think about what I wanted to do in life. I was like any other kid, just floating around, going with the wind." He attended SDA kindergarten before completing his primary education at Kauma SDA School.

There were no SDA secondary schools at the time so he came to Fiji to complete his secondary school at Fulton College in Tailevu. His first time to Fiji and away from Abemama Island, Raubane was very excited about the experience especially the fact it was away from home.

Raubane completed the Fiji Junior Certificate exam and went on to finish the New Zealand School Certificate exam. At the same time, he managed to graduate from Fulton College with a diploma in secondary school teaching majoring in mathematics and science.

"Boarding life at Fulton was an eye-opener especially when life was away from home. I was very excited but at the same time I learned a lot about being independent. "I had to wash my own clothes because my mother was not there but then again it taught me how to be responsible.
"After Fulton College, I continued my studies at the University of the South Pacific majoring in geography and demography from 1973 to 1976.

"I later taught at SDA mission secondary schools in Fiji including Navesau in Wainibuka and Beulah College in Tonga." He applied to join the East West Centre in Hawaii and worked for the government teaching at an all-boys high school. Things turned out for the better and he was sponsored by the centre to complete a Masters degree at the University of Hawaii.

Raubane first majored in Geography and later switched to public health after a physician relative persuaded him to help the public health department in Kiribati. "I worked for a while with the Kiribati Health Ministry and was later posted to Sopas hospital in the interior of Papua New Guinea.

"This is where I picked up and realised the needs of the people. Some people are illiterate and not well educated about chronic diseases. "It is important for people to understand the kind of food they are eating and the health benefits."

After attaining his doctorate in public health from Loma Linda University in California, Raubane headed a health van clinic moving around the city of San Francisco to do cholesterol checks and other medical checkups. Apart from that, Raubane does regular exercise and as best he can tries to encourage people to stick to local and organic foods.

"It is important for people to maintain natural remedy. Taking up this profession in promoting good health is very satisfying because you will not run out of patients."

To be able to help people live a healthier, happy life is something Raubane finds fulfilling about his profession in public health.
Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It was August 8 and her eyes sparkled like the blue ocean in the distance.
The Marama Na Buli Raviravi was happy and it was not because the Olympic Games had opened in its brilliant splendour half across the globe in China.

I met up with Adi Salote Ramatai, 96, (pictured) as she sat in her wheelchair atop a hillside having an eagle's eye view of the Integrated Port Development at Wairiki in Bua. The day was special indeed for Adi Salote for the $15million pine chip mill was being commissioned ushering in a new era of development for her province.

"I have waited a long time for this day, to see something big happening for my province, my people at Wairiki and it is emotional indeed for me today," her voice trembled with emotion.

"From the time I was a little girl to now, this is the first time I have seen something big happening for Bua. The only other big thing was when they made the road from Labasa to Nabouwalu. I remember I used to stand by the roadside and watch and wonder where that road would take me.

"Today I wonder about the future and can see a change for the better for my province. Many of the younger generation have left in search of jobs in towns and cities, and some have just left because it is so hard living in Bua because the infrastructure is not that good.

"Many want a better standard of living, they want electricity and proper water supply and that's why they have left their vanua. I really can't blame them." Her voice was a mere a whisper as she struggled to speak while the thick red cardigan she wore seemed out of place in the brilliant midday sun.

"I don't have much longer; while my life declines it thrills me that my province is finally getting developed. It used to hurt me that so much development used to go to the other two provinces Macuata and Cakaudrove but maybe the winds of change are now blowing through Bua," she added.

The machines from the pine chip mill and the port that stretched out to sea gleamed in the sunlight almost an indication of the bright future ahead. With the commissioning of the pine chip mill, logging is set to begin in earnest with landowners participating fully in logging pine, receiving stumpage and lease money all to the value of not less then $10m annually.

Infrastructural changes to road, water supply and electricity are some of the flow on effects of the integrated port development. Adi Salote is the traditional ruler of the area where the Wairiki port is located. Growing up at Nabouwalu Village back in the 1920's was one largely dedicated to service.

"As a young girl growing up in a chiefly family I had my obligations to meet. I never went to school until I was 17. That's the age when I started learning the alphabet and counting and I remember I was so excited when I could say the ABC right through to Z," she recounted.

"Life was also different then. Girls never went out anywhere, but stayed home a lot learning household chores, cooking and sewing. Those are the things that I love to do when I can. "But girls are different nowadays. They are out there competing with men in the workplace and they are tougher in a way. But I don't want to focus on that."

Adi Salote said the best change she wants to remember and live for is the development changes that will happen in Bua. "It's been so long but I'm glad it has begun. It's time for the new Bua."
Adapted from Fijitimes Online