Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Elenoa Marama Luvenitoga defines life as a great challenge. She should know, having early in life decided it was her duty to take care of her siblings.
She was a fourth former at Sila Central High School when her mother died and her father was a casual worker with the Public Works Department.
That was when she made up her mind to look after her brothers and sisters.
My youngest sister was only 18 months when my mother died, she said.
She was 13 at the time faced difficulties most people never face in their life.
Four years after my mothers death, the situation got worse when my father decided to remarry, she said.
She said she ill-treated by her step-mother and decided to find a job to support her siblings.
She worked as the house girl for the then expatriate manager of the Fiji Museum.
After working for four years she married Watisoni Qalubau and they had five children Amelia, Loloma, Sailosi, Makereta and Vilisi.
Her husband was a police officer and after retiring the family moved to his village in Vatoa, Bau. He then worked with the General Security Service for three years. But not long after disaster struck when her husband died from a heart attack.
It was a hard time for me. My youngest daughter was 15 months old when her father died, she said.
Trying to look after the family and plant food for us was really a hard thing, she said. We were fortunate that we had my husbands FNPF to live on, she said.
She applied for a house with the Public Rental Board and was given a double-storey barrack flat in Raiwai housing.
She then began searching for jobs and finally got an interview.
I was employed by the Eagle Cleaning Company, she said.
When I started work I was paid $74 a week but now I receive about $91-$100 a week, she said.
With the little money I was earning I was able to send all my children to school, she said.
She personifies the hard life, waking up at 4am every day to cook their breakfast and do household chores before going to work at 7am and putting in 11 hours daily.
She works at Fiji Times Ltd for five hours daily and then goes to the Dolphins food court and puts in another six hours there.
Working as a cleaner was nothing new to Elenoa as she had been doing that all her life.
Now aged 59, she lives with her son on Mead Road, in Nabua, Suva.
My daughters are all married but I live with my son who works in the maintenance department of the University of the South Pacific, she said.
I usually pay for the rent and my son pays for our bills and we both contribute in the buying of food and groceries, she said.
She recalls all the hardship she faced in the bringing up her siblings, saying it was slowly paying off today because they now helped her financially when she needs.
Elenoa admits her greatest mentor was her father.
She recalls that when their mother died, how their father would wake up early in the morning to do some house chores, before leaving for work.
She admits learning how to clean and do other household chores at a very young age.
The only thing that has kept me going throughout the years is what my mother taught me.
Every time I feel discouraged I recall what my mother usually told me, saying that the running and the functioning of a family is the wifes responsibility, she said.
That , she believes, is what has been giving her the courage to overcome the obstacles she faces.
She always reminds her children to be thankful for what they have.
Her advice to widows or women who have separated from their husbands is simple: Just invest in your children for they are the only hope youve got for the future.
She said bringing up a family as a single parent is not an easy thing. One should always believe in them and sacrifice is the key to success, she said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online