Friday, March 28, 2008


ANY talk of power-lifting automatically draws out a picture of a muscular man. Although Eliesa Irava may seem like that man, his road to becoming one of Fiji's top power-lifting sportsman was not easy.
Despite being the president of the Fiji Power-lifting Association, Eliesa, 42, had a simple upbringing. Born and bred on the island of Rotuma, his parents Kepone and Kijiana Irava were farmers. Originally from Losa, Itu'ti'u, Eliesa always loved sports.
However, the thought of powerlifting was never on his mind. When his father left for Fiji in 1972, Eliesa said his family struggled to survive.
"I was born in Ahau, Rotuma and my parents were simple farmers. We lived a normal village life. My father left for Fiji to find employment. We struggled because our father was not there but we still managed to survive. I came to Suva in 1975 when I was in Class Five. I attended Upu Catholic Mission School in Rotuma then finished my primary education at Samabula Government Boys school (now Suva Primary school). I continued my education at Cathedral Secondary school. I was always interested in sports. But never thought I would eventually take up powerlifting seriously."
After completing secondary school in 1983, he did odd jobs just to help his family. And used to do weightlifting just as a hobby to shape up.
"In secondary school, I tried to be a high jumper but my built and weight did not make that successful. I also took up javelin and realized that I was actually good at it. In 1982 at the Juicy Games (now Coca-Cola Games), I held the record for the Intermediate Boys javelin. That memory and that achievement was one of the greatest because I did not realise that a simple boy from the island could succeed especially in high school.
"I joined Kelton Group in 1988. In 1994, I returned to Fiji from Papua New Guinea and the late Tifere Ravai introduced me to powerlifting. I was inspired by his dedication and commitment to form a powerlifting team for the South Pacific Games in Tahiti. The following year in 1995, I represented Fiji in powerlifting in Tahiti but I did not take it seriously. I just wanted to wear the suit but after the games, I realised I did not win anything and when I looked at all the other lifters who had medals, I wanted to train harder to win like them."
At the Mini SPG in 1997, he won his first gold medal and never looked back.
Eliesa then knew he could win if he set his mind to it. He said the fact that his first gold medal was the last gold medal for Fiji at the mini SPG, was something that has always pushed him to excel further in the sport.
"I have continued to improve my form at every game or competition. In 1998, I won a silver medal at the Oceania Games in Napier, New Zealand and the following year at the South Pacific Challenge and Australia Open powerlifting competition, I won the best overall trophy. It was this placing that I qualified for the World Open Bench Press in 1999 in Finland. Even though I was placed 12th at this competition, the mere fact that I reached a competition where I faced the world's best is amazing," he said.
"The sport has taken me to places I never thought I would go. For most islanders, our physical structure makes us good for sports like this.
"One of the best memories that I have is participating in the 2003 SPG in Fiji. I participated in front of my family and was ecstatic and proud to perform in front of them despite the competition being so intense.
"Winning a gold medal in the 100kg category in front of my family and the home crowd was another bonus."
The father of four said family support was his strength.
He draws inspiration from his father and believes that anyone with the right built and mind can succeed in the sport.
His advice to those thinking of making a name for themselves in powerlifting is there is no easy way to it, just work hard and stay committed.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, March 24, 2008


The mere mention of his name makes people think rugby sevens rugby to be exact.
While many only know him as the coach of the Digicel-sponsored Fiji sevens team, Josateki Savou has been around long enough to read the game better than most people.
However, as far as his personal life goes, it is a guessing game for all those fanatics who expect him to deliver victory after victory.
The eldest of three children, Josateki was born in April, 1969.
Originally from Tovu, Totoya, in Lau, his father was a prison warden and his mother a nurse.
Born and bred in Suva, Josateki spent most of life growing up in prisons quarters at Korovou, Naboro and Ba.
The surprising thing about this rugby coach is that he played soccer before rugby.
Believe it or not, when his family lived in soccer-crazed Ba, he spent most of his time playing soccer with friends.
He was so good at it he seriously considered taking his soccer skills to a professional level.
He attended Ba Mission Primary School. In 1983 he attended Lelean Memorial School after his family moved back to Suva.
He completed Form Six vocational at Ratu Kadavulevu School.
During his last years in primary school and all through his high school days, Josateki's interest in rugby kicked in.
He has fond memories of growing up with his Fijian and Indian friends, saying he was always surrounded with a sporting atmosphere that prompted him to excel in sports.
"I had a normal upbringing, nothing out of the ordinary. My father is a retired prisons officer and my mother a retired nurse," he said.
"I used to play soccer a lot with my friends in Ba. At one stage of my life I was thinking of becoming a soccer rep because I had picked up some soccer skills while playing the game for fun. However, when I was in Class Eight, I started playing rugby and from then on until secondary school, I continued to play rugby.
"When I went to Lelean, I continued to play rugby and that continued when I attended RKS.
"The rugby atmosphere in high school made me want to achieve in this sport but I have never forgotten that at one stage I wanted to be a soccer rep.
"It was not difficult switching from soccer to rugby.
"It almost came naturally for me but I was always determined to achieve high results in whatever I did whether in sports or in my own personal life."
In 1988, he was selected in the Fiji Secondary Schools Under-19 rugby team that toured Australia.
He said the feeling of being selected into the team was indescribable.
Josateki said after his debut in the U19 team, he was invited to play on contract for a year for the Gold Coast rugby club in Brisbane, Australia, in 1989.
The following year, in 1990, he again played his rugby overseas, this time in Napier, New Zealand.
He returned to Fiji in 1991 after he was called to play for the Prisons Nabua team.
"Playing rugby overseas felt good.
"I was confident that my rugby career was going in the right direction.
"I felt happy and excited going to these places and the experiences and memories are opportunities never forgotten.
"It was my first time overseas and even though I enjoyed my time there, I missed home a lot especially my parents.
"The weather was cold and the environment was new for me but I learned a lot while I was there.
"Being selected in the Under 19 team was a dream come true.
"I had always wanted to don the white jersey and I eventually did.
"One piece of advice I can give people is never give up no matter what the obstacles.
"Always stay focused and work hard to achieve your goals.
"With determination and the right focus, you can succeed in anything," he said.

Adapated from Fijitimes Online

Saturday, March 22, 2008


LIKE most kind people, Saras Kewal, pictured. has a passion for helping out the needy.
The regional president for Soroptimist International, Mrs Kewal was brought up at Lakena Village, Nausori. Not having the privilege to live a luxurious life, they lived a life of struggle.
Her father Ram Khelawan was a farmer and mother, Kalas Pati, a housewife.
Life in the village was quite hard especially when her father was the only breadwinner in the family. She said the financial burden of supporting seven children at school was quite hard for her parents who struggled to make ends meet. Fourth in the family, Mrs Kewal said despite the hardships her family faced, togetherness was what helped them overcome all difficulties.
"I was brought up in the village and my father was a farmer. He did not earn much and because there were seven of us in the family, life was very hard,'' she said.
"I came from a poor family background. We struggled a lot when we were in school but we were always there for each other.
"Whenever my parents went to the farm, I would help my other sisters with the house work and look after our younger brothers. When I was younger, I wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to join the medical field simply because I wanted to help people.
"This is something that has always been in my nature ... to help people especially the poor and needy.
"The medical field always inspired me because the feeling of helping some one in need is just overwhelming."
When her family moved to Viria, she attended Viria Public school and in 1974 she attended DAV Girls College.
Unfortunately, financial difficulties forced her to leave school after Form Six.
She then married Ram Kewal, a dentist from Labasa. She said her husband's occupation was very demanding and they were always on the move.
"My husband was a dentist and he travelled a lot. We went to Savusavu and Taveuni.
"In those places, I helped out at the pre-school. I wanted to keep myself occupied especially when the places we went to were mostly remote areas. I volunteered as a pre-school teacher because I wanted to do something with my life and be useful to others.
"It was unfortunate that I was not able to further my education after high school.
"However, I never lost hope and was determined to continue to excel in my life.
"Currently I work at Morris Hedstrom in Walu Bay as a variety buyer for the company.
"Basically, I do variety buying for the company which means I travel to places like New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and China and get products like home appliances, kitchenware and linen."
She has been working for the company for 15 years. She said she enjoyed her job and was thankful to her employer for believing in her.
Apart from her day job, Saras has continuously shown interest in helping the community.
Her role at Soroptimist International has prompted her to continue promoting the development and achievement of professional women.
"I learned about Soroptimist International when I was in Labasa in 1990.
"I joined the organisation because I knew it was about helping people. This was something I always longed to do. I joined without second thoughts and never regretted spending my time with this organisation.
"I always had a soft spot for poor people. Whenever I see them, I always think of my own upbringing and how I struggled just like them.
"This is the reason why I want to help the poor.
"Whenever I help others, I get satisfaction and happiness knowing that I played a part in making someone else happy.
"That is the best feeling in life. Even if I didn't turn out to be a nurse, I am happy with the way my life turned out," she said.
Saras believes in hard work and support of her family which she considers the thriving force behind her success.
The mother of two said it is only through hard work that a person can achieve anything or succeed in life. Her advice for those who have travelled down the same path is to never lose hope.
"If you have a goal in life and you don't reach that goal, that does not mean it is the end of the world. There is always another opportunity some-where. You just have to look harder,'' said Mrs Kewal.


Friday, March 21, 2008


FOR Howard Politini, after completing high school, sailing the high seas was the career path he had set his sights on.
The profession of ship navigator or crew on board large ships was nothing new as he was only following his father's footsteps of being involved in the shipping industry.
"My dad Louise Politini was involved in the shipping industry and it grew on me and I became interested in sailing the big ships," he said.
"The boats that I worked on were known as the bulk carriers."
After finishing school at Ratu Kadavulevu School in Tailevu, he went to the School of Maritime studying a diploma in nautical science majoring in ship navigation.
"I attended Holy Trinity for my primary education and then went on to Suva Grammar before finishing off at RKS," he said.
"I was sailing on container ships between Australia and New Zealand and it came to a point where it was not good for my marriage life.
"So my wife suggested that we try out eco-tours to the highlands as there was a market for it.
"I signed off the ship and totally finished off my sailing career from 2001-2004."
Howard said in getting his partnership business Highlands Scenic Eco-tours started with his wife, Paulini, has been good so far.
"Since getting into this business I have no regrets," he said.
"My wife has been involved in the tourism industry so she had checked around to see what was in demand."
Highland Scenic Eco-tours has been in operation for the last two years.
He said a normal day's tour would involve a trip to the highlands up to the Rewa Bridge visiting villages with tourists.
He said when tours were conducted to villages, tourists were encouraged to visit schools and learn more about the surroundings.
He said guests were touched by the hospitality of villagers.
"Looking at the struggles here as well makes the tourists appreciate what they all have back home."
Many tourists, he said, go back home and try and send books for needy students here.
"We also set up a scholarship trust fund to cater for the needs of students. Most students benefit from this, especially the ones who don't have relatives who work in towns and have good jobs and their parents are solely developed on the land
"The scholarship was initiated last year and is kept within the school. If he had not changed his career, he would have still been sailing the high seas.
"I know people would ask why go out of my way to get things done. But if every man has a heart he would go out of his way to help the needy."
Howard said young people should "seek the Lord with all their hearts and strength in everything they do''.
"And never fail from their calling to help the poor and needy in society."



WOMEN in Fiji should be inspired and motivated by the international recognition she has gained, says Fiji Women's Right's Movement executive director Virisila .
Ms Buadromo received the International Woman of Courage Award from United States Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice this month.
Ms Buadromo said she felt humbled when told she was one of eight recipients of the award.
She said she was quite shocked at first because she didn't think she would receive such an award or was worthy of it.
"The award is a recognition of exemplary courage in trying to promote democracy but, to me, I see it as a recognition of the struggles and determination of women in standing for human rights, democracy, etc," said Ms Buadromo.
"We have maintained our stand throughout the four coups that we have experienced and have not waivered. This award shows that if you stand for truth and justice, you will be recognised and this award should encourage and inspire women.
"I saw it as an opportunity to raise awareness about the political crises and what we have been going through."


Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


HE is a guitarist, a composer, a social worker and a school teacher but 55-year-old Qauia Villager Josefa Bilitaki, pictured, still manages to juggle all his roles with great ease.
Mr Bilitaki, who is originally from Naigani Island, has been a school teacher for the past 31 years and says he has loved every minute of his teaching career as well.
His love for teaching was inspired by his younger siblings who he used to teach when he was in school.
"I come from a big family of eight with six brothers and a sister and I remember teaching them to read the Bible and helped with their school work,'' he said.
"This is what inspired me to become a teacher and I have never regretted my decision," he said.
Mr Bilitaki is the assistant headteacher at the Dudley Intermediate School in Suva.
His love for teaching and his passion for playing the 12-string guitar encouraged him to compose songs on current issues of concern in the country.
His interest in music grew when his elder brothers used to play the guitar at home and from listening to songs on the radio.
"I have always been the crowd magnet ever since I was young and that has, I believe, also enabled me to write about things and to be able to interact with others.
"I have composed more than 11 original songs about issues we are facing in Fiji today and I am training a young student from Laucala Bay Secondary School who will be singing it for me,' he said.
Some of the issues which he has written about so far include the plight of Vatukoula gold miners and their families, Akesa Drotini, people living with HIV/AIDS in Fiji, a song about special people and how they are treated in Fiji and his recent one is about women and children who are victims of sexual crimes.
"Prior to this, I composed a song on reconciliation in Fiji after the 2000 coup and it has been recorded in three different languages here," he said.
Apart from devoting his time to music, Mr Bilitaki works with the youths in Qauia Village to help them earn a decent living.
"Most of the young boys in the village are unemployed and because we do not want them to fall into any bad group and start a life of crime, we have started a youth group called Muaniwavu Youth Group.
"These youths work together and plant vegetables and dalo in the field which is available behind the village.
"They work hard on the farm and are able to sell the produce and earn money.
"I am their adviser and I help them to get ideas on how to raise funds for the group.
"I also encourage them to improve their lives both morally and spiritually,' said Mr Bilitaki.
Mr Bilitaki believes that land is our greatest gift from God and we should make use of it to live an honest life.
"There are some young people who believe that following a life of crime would be their easy way to earn money but I want to tell them that it is not true.
"I have visited almost all the prisons in Fiji and, believe me, no young person would want to go there.
"My advice to young people is that the prison is the last place that they would want to be in," he said.
Mr Bilitaki says young people who are not able to get jobs should try to work on their land to earn their living.
He says hardwork, dedication and determination were the keys to succes in life.
He also believes in living a life for others and helping people.
"This is what life is all about. To make a difference in as many lives as possible.''
Adapted from Fijitimes Online