Monday, October 29, 2007


EIGHTY-FOUR-year-old Lakshman Goundar (pictured) wishes nothing more than for his children to come and visit him at the Samabula Old People's Home which has been his home for the past seven years.
Mr Goundar who is originally from Simla in Lautoka said he has five children two sons and three daughters who have graduated from various tertiary institutions in the country and have good jobs.
Mr Goundar appears as a jovial looking elderly man who is always ready with a smile for the person who talks to him. But once he begins his story, it becomes clear how sad and lonely he really is.
"I used to work for the Mobil Oil Company in Vuda, Lautoka and I worked there for 35 years before retiring," Mr Goundar said.
He said he saved money to build a double storey house for his wife and children but then things changed when his children completed their education and began to neglect him and finally he had to find his place at the Home.
"I never denied my children anything and I would always get them whatever they wanted," he said.
"I remember buying things during different festivals and how we would celebrate in happiness with all our family members."
Mr Goundar had tears in his eyes when he talked about his family and the time they spent together.
"My children never had to cry for anything and I always fulfilled their needs and demands but may be I didn't do enough for them," he said.
"It is really hurtful to see that the children who learnt how to walk holding my own fingers would one day feel that I was a burden on them," said Mr Goundar.
He said he had been a resident of the Samabula Old People's Home for the past seven years but his family had never visited him.
"I do not have any grudges but it would have been nice to see them once in a while but maybe they are busy with their own lives and see no need to visit their old father," he said.
Mr Goundar's only friends at the home are fellow residents and staff who take care of them at the Home.
He spends his time talking and sharing memories with his fellow residents and he loves to listen to the radio and bhajans.
His memories of his days spent with his family were brought up during the visit by staff of the New Zealand Pacific Training Centre which had made an effort to bring some light and cheer into the lives of the residents at the Home.
"I remember my Diwali with my children when they were little and how we used to light up candles and diya and arrange flicking lights around the house," he said.
Mr Goundar said he would light up the fireworks with his children and watch them laugh with glee at the different colours of the fireworks.
But today he has no one but his memories of his family to help him live his days at the Samabula Old People's Home with his only wish that maybe, just maybe, one day his children would think of him and come and visit him.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, October 22, 2007


A proverb says "God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers".
Just ask Flying Fijians coach Ilivasi Tabua who has been his pillar of strength and without hesitation he say it is his mother.
At age 75, Paulina Tamanivalu has been the rock foundation for the life of Ilivasi Tabua better known as Ilie'.
She has been his tower of strength, when all was just not going well for the national 15s coach and he draws his strength from the woman he simply calls mum.
She is the one who cared and brought up a rugby player and now coach whom the world of rugby baptised the Human skewer' in his playing days.
Meeting this grand woman fills one with warmth as her smiles lit up the room as she introduced herself as Bubu Pau.
Her smile was more than welcoming to the village of Naivicula, in the Tikina of Naloto, as they prepared to honour her son who had done Fiji proud during the recent Rugby World Cup in France.
And, of course, there was no other who could have been more proud of Ilivasi than his mother.
Bubu Pau, as she is commonly referred to by the children of the village of Naivicula, hails from Dakuinuku Village, in the district of Sawakasa, Tailevu.
Her secret to bringing up a son who went on to become a Wallaby, a Flying Fijian and the country's most successful national coach is simple lotu. "This was one thing that I made sure all my children were brought up with, they had to be strong with the faith in the Lord," Bubu Pau said.
"Ever since the day he was appointed as the coach of the Fiji team, I have been telling him that all eyes in Fiji are watching him and although it might be a pressure on him, I always tell him to leave all his worries with the Lord," she said.
"I was so happy and proud when he was named earlier this year to be the coach for the Fiji team.
"As a mother, I knew I had a very important role to play in making sure that he gets all the support he has from his family, especially when most of our family members are now overseas.
"For me, as a mother, I always talk to him and he listens to all that I tell him. At times at our Kinoya home I will see him staring outside and I know that there are things on his mind that he needs to share.
"So I always ask him and try to encourage him, I always tell him that when it is hard to move forward just pray and surely He will answer," she said.
She said there were times when Ilie would be naughty to his mother and she would scold him, but he would always reply with a smile.
Bubu Pau admits things were not at all that rosy a few months after her son's new appointment.
"There were a lot of things being said over the air and in the newspapers about him," she said
"It affected him and yes, I was downhearted about these things, but as a mother I knew I was the only one who could keep him positive and focused on the job at hand. When all this happened I called him and told him not to be discouraged by the stories that were going around about him.
"I knew that some did not agree with his appointment and there were rumours that sure did hurt the family.
"I told him, that Jesus the son of God, was ridiculed, spat upon and sworn at, but at the end he triumphed at Calvary," Bubu Pau said.
She said during the World Cup she would receive calls from her children, all talking about how the game went and telling her how proud they were of their brother.
"I made sure I watched all the games that Fiji played and, yes, I shouted, clapped and prayed whenever the Flying Fijians took the field," she said.
Bubu Pau said she would constantly say isa Turaga, every time the team was put under pressure.
"I know that everyone else in Fiji does the same," she said.
Bubu Pau said whenever Ilie was at home he loved to eat Fijian dishes.
"He just loves his kokoda, fish in miti and boiled vegetables," she said.
"Whenever he is in the village, he will not miss prawns and lalabe (wild ferns).
"This is a delicacy that the people in the greater in Wainibuka area are known for."
Bubu Pau acknowledged the support that was given to Ilie and his men during the Rugby World campaign.
"I thank Fiji for rallying behind Ilie and his boys during their trip to France.
"I believe it is through the support that we had all given them that made this year's World Cup a memorable one," she said.
Bubu Pau hopes to be part of a bigger and better celebrations come the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
"I would love to see Ilie again leading our team to the next World Cup and I pray that I will still be around to see cheer him on," she said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Having 95-year-old Miliana Qica around has been good for villagers of Nabavatu in Macuata. She guides villagers through difficult situations especially when it comes to differences among them.

The villagers have used her words of wisdom as a pillar of strength to maintain healthy and long lasting relationships. "I believe that whatever the situation we face in the village, we must always remember that at the end of the day, it is our relationship that matters especially when we are all related," Mrs. Qica said.

"It won't be a healthy environment to live in a village where there is a lot of hatred and no care for each other. As a family we should love one another and take good care for each other." Mrs. Qica who has eight children, is originally of Batiri Village in Cakaudrove and married Orisi Sokonivatu who hails from Nabavatu which is an hours drive south-west of Labasa.

Although she does not remember the year she got married and settled at the village, there is one thing she clearly remembers and that is not regretting marrying a man from Nabavatu because as she puts it: "They are the best kind of men in Fiji." With a smile on her face, Mrs. Qica added: "That's why I am still alive and healthy at the age of 95, because my husband and children have looked after me well, even though my husband has gone first from this world."

Mrs. Qica is known for being independent. She washes her own clothes, bathes herself, cooks family meals and cleans the house. "I am fit and can still walk around and do things on my own so every time I just do my own things like wash my own clothes and cook food. "I scrape the coconuts, clean the fish, pick bele leaves from the nearby plantation and peel cassava and I enjoy it because it's healthy and helps keep me fit," Mrs. Qica said.

And when her children and grandchildren take her clothes first to the laundry to have it washed, Mrs. Qica will go to the laundry and collect her clothes. "They use the washing machine which I don't like because it doesn't wash the clothes properly but just spins around all the time so I wash my own clothes. "After I wash my clothes then I hang it out in the sun and I enjoy doing it but I will never allow for my clothes to be washed by anyone else or in the machine," Mrs. Qica said.

She has 45 grandchildren and 50 great grandchildren and as part of her leisure time, she makes sure that she spends an hour or two of a day with them. "Seeing my great grandchildren is indeed a blessing and I have been blessed by God to be alive at the age of 95 and still fit and healthy to do work around the house," Mrs. Qica said.

Weaving mats is another favourite activity she does at home. "I only weave mats for my children, grandchildren and relatives who have functions to attend or for special occasions. "I don't weave mats for people who order because it's not easy to weave so many mats especially at this age so that is why I just weave for my family," Mrs. Qica said.
Adaptedm from the 18the October 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Pastor Apakuki Uluirewa draws strength from the Bible verse in Proverbs 17:22: A happy heart is a good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries the bone.

He is one of the pioneers of the Assemblies Of God Church in Fiji.
Now based in Australia, Mr Uluirewa still calls Fiji home and has not lost touch with members of the church.
His story is one filled with personal triumph in winning many to what now makes up the Assemblies of God, as well as other churches that have branched from the AOG.

Born in 1937, Mr Uluirewa hails from Nabouwalu Village in the district of Ono in Kadavu. Now 70, he can still remember when he was invited by a 10-year-old boy to attend a Sunday school class in Lautoka in 1957, for the first time. "That day is still fresh in mind as it was the day I officially attended a Sunday school class," he said.
Three years later, Mr Uluirewa was ordained as an AOG minister in Lautoka.

He was later one of the ministers who formed and opened what is now the Full Gospel Tabernacle church in Lautoka. A highlight in Mr Uluirewa's ministerial career was when he and a few other ministers had to compile an AOG hymn book.

"This was one of the greatest tasks but because it was God's work, there was nothing impossible in doing it," he said. Mr Uluirewa said they had to seek permission from the Methodist Church to use some of its songs. "At that time the general secretary of the Methodist Church was Reverend Andrew and he gave the approval to print and use some of the songs for the glory of God.

"Today it is still very much evident in much of the AOG hymns the Methodist influence, all for his glory."

There were also times when the churches were at loggerheads. "I remember when the Methodist Church gave a ruling that all children attending the Methodist Church schools and were members of the AOG were reprimanded from attending their schools.

"This saw the establishment of the AOG school in Kinoya and the first two buildings were bought from military barracks at Nasese."

Mr Uluirewa said it was also during trips to Samoa and Tonga that they were able to establish the church in the two neighbouring countries.

"We were the first ever to have an open session of singing and sharing God's Word in the market place at Nuku'alofa and the reception we got was what that led to the establishment of the church there," he said. Mr Uluirewa said a Gospel singing group was also formed by him and others to visit the growing number of church members and at the same time encourage pastors that were posted to rural areas.

"It was also at this time when opposition was great and because of our visits, most people were being baptised and converted to AOG. "To my surprise because of the increasing number of converts, murmurings from within the church started. "Through these murmurings, disagreement grew and it was decided that we would have our own church known as Apostles (Full Gospel Fellowship International AGOFI), but we did not severe any ties with AOG," he said.

Mr Uluirewa said AGOFI still had a very healthy relationship with the AOG church.
"Every time I visit Fiji, I make sure I visit both churches and gladly share the Word of God.
"Today we are happy for the achievements that the church has made over the years and the souls won back to the Lord and we hope that we would continue to do so for as long as the church lives."

Mr Uluirewa said he owed a lot to AGOFI president, Reverend Poate Mata. "It takes someone like him who can carry the light to shine in this world," Mr Uluirewa said. He said it was about time the church cared for another and walked in the right path for the glory of God.
Adapted from the Fijitimes

Living WIth Mental Illness

She is a mother, she has a family which loves her so much and she was a psychiatric patient. Although her mental state is much better now, Ana Ulamila still lives with a stigma of being a psychiatric patient.

It must not be easy for somebody who has been affected with a mental illness to talk about it because of the stigma society attaches to the disease. And while this was initially the case with Ms Ulamila, a 55-year-old mother of seven, she has slowly begun to share her thoughts on the greatest ordeal in her life.

She even said she does not usually share her story with just anybody because the fear of being victimised by the public. "I am afraid to tell my story to anybody because people may take it wrongly and view me differently," Ms Ulamila said.

However, she realised she needed to speak out to break the misconception about the illness and how people view patients with psychiatric problems.

"I was just a normal person like anybody else, I love my children and care for them so much as they care about me," Ms Ulamila said. "Even though I did not have a proper job, I love to sew and that was how I was able to look after them.

"I have been separated from my husband for a very long time from even before I got sick.
"However, it was in 2001 when things just went wrong, suddenly becoming different.
"I was often pushed left, right and centre by those who once were called my relatives.
"I was told to leave the place I was living in but the great thing about it was that my children became closer to me when this happened.

"They realised I was talking and dressing differently. I was not the aunt, the cousin, the mother that they knew I used to be." With tears welling in her eyes, Ms Ulamila said it was the hardest time of her life. "I was looked down upon and I could just tell that some of my relatives just did not like me because of the sickness I had," she said tearfully.

She was taken to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital by her children and later referred to St Giles Pyschiatric Hospital. "I believe being taken to St Giles was what my relatives and those that knew me were ashamed of," she said.

"I was even ashamed of myself at one stage but I knew this was where I could be treated and be normal again. I was admitted as a patient in 2001 for over a week and was released."
Ms Ulamila said she was different because she was allergic to all the medicine that was given to her. "I was given the medicine and I felt that it was making me worse so I just quit, until now," she said. "I feel much better now without medication, whereas for others without their medication they would become worse."

She said she had been admitted twice since 2001 and could feel she was getting better each day.
However, one thing that still remains and hurts her so much is the stigma that comes with mental problems.

"Although I am well and am participating in all the activities organised by the Psychiatric Survivors Association in promoting public awareness on the issue people, still look at me differently."

Now Ms Ulamila is looking at rebuilding her life after she was given a new sewing machine to continue doing what she loves.

"I can't wait to continue sewing clothes and earning some money to help my family," she said.
However, she pleads with the public to try to understand sufferers and survivors of mental illnesses and view them as productive members of society.
"We also have a family, and we need your love and protection. We need you to look at us as brothers and sisters and if everybody had this kind of perspective of mental patients then we can break the stigma that is attached to it"

Acting medical superintendent of St Giles Psychiatric Hospital Doctor Peni Biukoto said part of the problem could stem from the fact that mental health had never been a priority for governments in Fiji as well as the rest of the world.

"May be the answer lies in the observation that mental health requires us to confront our personal and group fears, stereotypes and inadequacies," Dr Biukoto said. "Mental health in Fiji is struggling to free itself from the prevalent stigma and discrimination that bind it in today's society.

"Its workers continue to struggle daily with resource constraints coupled with bureaucracy."
What is the source of this stigma and discrimination? "Human kind's global history and Fiji's national history for that matter illustrates our innate suspicion and dislike of other human individuals, and human groups who are different from us in appearance, speech, habits and behaviour," Dr Biukoto said. He said we fear unpredictability and we see mental disorders as examples of unpredictability. "We fear that we can not comprehend, mental disorders appear often incomprehensible to most of us, we reject what we can not assimilate into our world viewpoint.

"It can be a challenge for us to integrate the perceptions of a depressed psychotic or highly anxious individual into our world experience," he said.

Dr Biukoto said to those we can not communicate with or fail to understand or who cause discomfort, we tend to avoid and reject unless there is benefit from perseverance in establishing meaningful contact. "I find that we the helpers, are often the biggest barrier to mental health, not only in the community at large but also within the health profession," he said.
"We carry within ourselves our own misconceptions, the stereotypes and fears associated with mental disorders.

"It is important that we confront these within ourselves first before we advocate or promote mental health in the community." Dr Biukoto said there was a need for active and proactive participation of other stakeholders and interested organisations and individuals in these Mental Health areas.

"The future for mental health in Fiji will appear brighter with wider involvement from you the community. "A future with improved mental health is a better future for Fiji," Dr Biukoto said.

Adpted from the Fijitimes: 14th October, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007


Being the turaga-ni-koro or headman carries great responsibility in a Fijian village.
One does not need a university degree to be a headman, just dedication in a traditional setting.
Simeli Ratulevu is just that.
Mr Ratulevu is the headman of Korotogo Village in Sigatoka, Nadroga.
But his role is a bit different from other turaga-ni-koro in the country in that he is the guardian of a mangrove project along the village's shoreline.
Korotogo's people owe this elderly man a lot for being the front runner in replenishing their qoliqoli, or traditional fishing ground.
One cannot miss the mangrove strip as one travels down the Queens Highway.
Mr Ratulevu, 72, is the man protecting those trees.
He has lived most of his life in the village, which has undergone many changes.
"As the turaga-ni-koro of the village, it is my duty to look after the well-being of the village," he said.
"And I have been asked to maintain this mangrove plantation.
"To some it may sound funny that I have to look after trees that grow wildly along most shorelines in the country," he said.
Mr Ratulevu said since being charged with the mangrove duty he had learnt it was these trees that brought fish and all other marine delicacies back to the village's shores.
"When I learnt that through these trees fish and other edible sea creatures like kaikoso (mussels) and qari (crabs) are coming on shore, I realised how important it is to us," he said.
He said it was one reason why he vowed to lead the mangrove campaign.
Mr Ratulevu said looking after the mangroves meant walking down daily to the beach with a stick, clearing plastic bags and rubbish that got stuck on to the trees with the tide.
"I usually come down to the beach when it is low tide, and with the help of a stick and scissors, I take away all rubbish that threatens the lives of the trees," he said.
That is not all, Mr Ratulevu organises village clean up and planting campaigns.
"It is usually during the school holidays that students and youth in the village engage in cleaning and replanting mangroves," Mr Ratulevu said.
"People might think it is an easy job, it is not but I enjoy doing it because we know the advantages of this project."
He said the people of Korotogo were already reaping benefits from the mangrove project.
"Before people from the village would go beyond the reef to fish, but that is slowly changing now.
"We can now stand a few metres from the shoreline, throw our fishing lines and get fish that was once disappearing from the area.
"We have seen large-sized crabs coming back," he said.
He said at one time the mouth of the river that runs beside the village was full of kanace (mullet).
"For some years we have not seen a single kanace in the river but they are now coming in numbers to lay their eggs," he said.
Mr Ratulevu said it was all made possible through the help of the Japanese Government and its Organisation for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement (OISCA).
He said as long as he lived he would ensure the mangroves in and near the village continued to spread.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online