Saturday, April 26, 2008


SHE started her business with only one jewellery shop but now she is one of the main suppliers of crystals in the country.
Berth Zau, 42, who is known for her crystal jewellery, sells her wares from a cart at the capital's largest mall, Morris Hedstrom City Centre.
Ms Zau, who is originally from the Philippines, came to Fiji in 1994 and opened a wine and dine restaurant named the Great Wok of China in Flagstaff.
She said the thought of venturing into the jewellery business eventuated as fashion started to pick up the pace in Fiji.
"I wanted to do something which will attract teenagers and people of all ages. This was the best option," Ms Zau said.
She opened her first crystal jewellery shop in the capital in 2006 at the Victoria Parade Arcade opposite MacDonald's.
"When we first started marketing it was a challenge.
"It was hard to explain to people what real crystal jewellery was all about," she said.
"I had to go door to door, office to office, explaining to people about crystal jewellery.
Her shop, named Kristal Filipina, has a variety of designs and a unique collection of jewellery including 10-carat gold bracelets and earrings.
She said she also distributed jewellery to shops in Lautoka, Sigatoka, Ba and Labasa.
Ms Zau imports crystal jewellery from the Philippines.
She said crystals in the Philippines were imported from Austria.
Ms Zau plans to have a big shop selling only crystal jewellery.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


WHILE facing a lot of difficulties coping with the increases in the price of basic food items, Mere Zinck has not lost any hope at all.
The 28-year-old housewife and mother started in the catering business this year because her husband was not employed.
Mrs Zinck, from Wailekutu in Lami, operates her small food catering operation from their home.
She said she looked forward to major sporting events which provided her and other food vendors the chance to earn a few bucks from the people going to watch the games.
Yesterday, she was selling by the roadside near the National Stadium where the two-day Coca-Cola Light Games was being held.
Mrs Zinck said she started by selling door to door in offices when she started getting contracts from corporate houses for catering orders.
"I do catering for small businesses."
Her sells lovo, fried chicken.
Yesterday she was selling fried chicken with dalo and sandwiches.
She started her catering business when her husband had to leave his work at the bank job because of sickness.
"This is the daily source of income for my family."
Mrs Zinck, who has two children, said returns from food selling were enough for the survival of the family.
She said when she started it was difficult as she had never worked before.
But now, she said she was used to it and could maintain the working and family life.
Mrs Zinck said her future plan was to expand the business.
She said she had to do it and has found the knack of doing business.
She finds it challenging but then, it's life, and she looks at it that way.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Friday, April 25, 2008


Kenesi Mua (pictured) has grabbed every opportunity that has come her way to live a better life despite starting off as a concession worker for the Fiji Sports Council. The 40-year-old ticketing and purchasing officer for the council's Finance Department is an inspiration. Growing up in Tovata, Kalabu, Kenesi is an only child of a single mother. It is never easy being a single parent but for Kenesi, the hard work and perseverance of her mother Sereseini Roko gave her the strength to make the most of life.
Originally from Namara, Sanima in Kadavu, Kenesi has a lot of childhood memories about following her mother to work and wanting to be a policewoman because of her passion for helping others. Her mother worked as a house girl for a Mr Whiteside and later was employed in a garment factory.
"I was born and bred in Suva. My single mother did odd jobs to support the family. Being an only child was a bit easy. Life growing up was fairly simple and normal. We did not face any difficulties because it was just my mother and I. She worked very hard to provide me with a decent life and even to provide me with a good education.
"When I was younger, I wanted to be a policewoman. I was inspired by my mother's hard work that I wanted to help others in need. Being in the police force was something I wanted to become right up until high school. The thought of being able to make a difference in some-one else's life was something I found rewarding and enjoyable. I also wanted to see justice served to those treated unfairly." She attended primary school at Kalabu Fijian before continuing her secondary education at Sila Central in Nausori in 1983. Like many other teens her age back then, Kenesi was always full of life. She reached Form Five before leaving for Dean's Computer school. Shortly after, she became a single parent herself. Through her experience growing up, Kenesi took on the challenge of being a young single parent.
"I became a single mother at a young age. I had the support of my mother though because she went through the same thing I did. I never regretted it because I saw my son as a blessing and a gift from God. From then on I set my sights on providing him with a good life. I had to do something to support my family and I was never embarrassed about anything I did.
"I went to the Ministry of Youth and Sports to ask for help in finding employment. Fortunately for me, I was given the opportunity to attend typing and computer training at Parliament House. After I finished my training there, I was able to work as a receptionist at the Outrigger Hotel along Waimanu Road in Suva. I was happy with the job I had because I knew I was doing something productive and I was earning a living to support my son and my family."
Kenesi worked as a receptionist for two years before securing the position of a cashier with FoodWorks Fiji in Nadi. She said her job in Nadi was exciting because the company she worked for travelled to outer islands for business. Kenesi then returned to Suva and in 2001 she was employed as a concession worker for the Fiji Sports Council.
"In 1999, I got married and I had two more children, a daughter and another son. Two years later I worked as a teller at the gate of the National Stadium. In 2005, I started working in the canteen and the next year I worked at the Vodafone Arena during the South Pacific Games. As a casual worker, you only get called for work whenever there was an event or something happening.
"I was then asked to help with ticketing and purchasing in 2007. I started learning how things were done. I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to broaden my horizon and to learn how to do something I never thought I would end up doing. Office work was something I never had in mind but it is something I am grateful for."
Kenesi said she never lost hope as a young teenage mother because she knew hard work and determination would pay off eventually. She said if it was not for the opportunity given by the new management of the sports council, she would still be working as a concession worker.
"I am very grateful to the new management for giving me the opportunity to learn the job. I did not think I would end up here but I did. I am also very grateful to Selwyn Williams, Jaswant Kumar, Ranil Kumar and Vasemaca Drova for having faith and confidence in my abilities. The only advice I have is that life does not end when you have a baby at a young age. In fact, it is only the beginning of a life time of opportunities. Hard work and faith in oneself are the key to living a happy life. You can only achieve success if you work hard and have the passion to make something better out of life," she said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


SECONDARY school athletes are gearing up for the Coca-Cola Light Games at the National Stadium.
Some have tasted success while others are still working their way to fame.
Jane Ratu has athletics is in her blood. She is the administration officer for the Fiji Amateur Athletics Association.
Born on September 9, 1959, Jane is from Nanukuloa in the province of Ra.
The eldest of six children, her parents were Luke Snow and Asena Bakani.
Her late father was a policeman and her mother is a retired nurse.
Like many others, Jane was brought up by her maternal grandparents. Her recollection of her childhood memories is full of sports and athletics.
"I used to play netball in primary school and it was only when I attended Form Four in Tonga that I concentrated on athletics," Jane said.
"When I was young, I wanted to become an athlete. I had the passion for it and it was something I liked doing.
"I had a fairly simple upbringing. My parents worked hard to provide us with a good life.
"I was brought up by my grandparents at Nausori. I was always interested in sports, especially athletics.
"It was something I wanted to do when I was young. I was so attached to my grandparents that everytime I went home to my parents I would miss them. I would always want to go back to them. I love them very much."
Jane attended Nausori District School before heading to the West to attend Lautoka Muslim Secondary School. Her father was stationed in Lautoka. In 1976, she left for school in Tonga.
"We were Latter-Day Saints and at that time there were no LDS school in Fiji. So children of LDS members were sent to Tonga for secondary school.
"I attended Liahona High School in Nuku'alofa from 1976 to 1979. I did not have a lot of difficulties growing up but I did learn a lot about being independent.
"When I went to boarding school, I got used to it and being raised by my grandparents, I was used to living without my parents. I was taught to live on my own and to be independent.
"My grandparents taught me a lot. I used to take part in sports when I was in primary school, mostly netball."
She used to run in the 100m, hurdles, 200m and relays.
Jane said her ability earned her the respect of her fellow athletes especially when she was always a step ahead of the rest.
"I was in Form Four and used to outrun the rest of the girls.
"It was something I felt good about because I knew I couldn't have accomplished that if I didn't train hard or commit myself.
"My personal coach that time was Mosese Neata, a Tongan and school teacher. There was another trainer who used to help out whenever Mosese was out.
"His name was Clarence Uyema from Japan. At that time, I was one of the best in athletics.
"For me personally, the feeling of knowing that I was able to outrun the Tongan girls was fulfilling, not only because I knew I was good in the sport but also because I was Fijian.
"I still keep in touch with friends from high school and they tell me my picture is still in the school library.
"My friends said that the principal said no one has ever beaten Fijian athletes in the school."
After completing high school, Jane was given the opportunity to further her education in the United States of America.
She took up dental studies and participated in an indoor dental training and her commitment to athletics dropped and it is something she regrets.
Jane returned to Fiji at the end of 1981 and worked at the Western Regional Library for a year and a half before deciding to look after her ailing grandmother.
"I looked after my grandmother until she died.
"It was a sad time in my life. I am now married and my husband is in the army.
"We have four children and they have my athletics genes. I used to be trainer for Sila Central and organise their inter-house competition. I regret not continuing with athletics when I went to the US but glad I was able to share my knowledge of athletics to upcoming runners.
"There is a lot of talent and potential in Fiji especially the athletes preparing for the Coca-Cola Games. The passion for athletics was always in me.
"It is something I live for and I share the passion with my children. I used to officiate at the Games."
In 2003, she was assistant manager to Joe Rodan for athletes to the South Pacific Games in Suva.
She was then asked to work for the association but prefers to be in the field working with athletes and helping them improve and achieve their dreams.
She said not being able to continue with athletics professionally did not stop her from helping others excel in athletics.
Bound by her passion and dedication to the sport, Jane's advice to students participating in the Coca-Cola Games this year is: "Don't let it end after the Coke Games. Continue to persevere in the sport.
"There is no limit to your achievement and nothing is impossible.
"If you want to explore the world, work hard."

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


SINCE the Tribe Wanted group started on Vorovoro Island two years ago, Vasiti Matanawa has been the woman behind the preparation of the tasty and delicious food — as the members put it.
Starting off as a volunteer at the group's camp has paid off as Vasiti now earns good money.
"I started off as a volunteer when I came to the island for a holiday with my grandchildren as my daughter's husband is from Vorovoro Village," she said.
"And during that time, my daughter and her in-laws had to go to Labasa for a church gathering and they asked me to come and look after the members of Tribe Wanted and cook their food," Mrs Matanawa said.
Without hesitation, she joined the group and started as their chef.
"I was a volunteer then and cooked for the group starting off with basic Fijian dishes which most of them enjoyed and loved.
"I enjoyed my job so much because I had to tell them what every root crop was and the different kinds of vegetables that I cook for them and amazingly, their favourite vegetable was rourou," Mrs Matanawa said.
She said the visitors who travelled from all parts of the world enjoyed fish miti.
"Almost every time they will ask me to cook fish miti and dalo or cassava and they will finish it because it is their favourite.
"For breakfast, I had to make buns and topoi and babakau and pancake as it was their favourite breakfast meals," Mrs Matanawa said.
Being a retired school teacher, mingling with the young members has not been a difficult task to achieve.
"They are nice people and very easy to get on with and to teach our Fijian culture.
"Iam happy that I have been part of their lives since they arrived on the island," Mrs Matanawa said.
A retired primary school headteacher, Mrs Matanawa has not regretted taking up the post as a volunteer.
"I started off as a volunteer chef and they paid me later.
"I have enjoyed my job since then and I like explaining to them the different kinds of Fijian food.
"I plan to stay here with them for as long as they want me to because I have enjoyed every minute with them," Mrs Matanawa said.
The Tribe Wanted project started in September 2006 after a group of visiting students from England approached villagers to lease part of their island so they could live the rustic life while learning the Fijian culture and language.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Sunday, April 20, 2008


PEOPLE who go to Caines Jannif to have their film developed or picture framed will place their orders with Bhanmati Govind.
They will think she is just a customer service staff while many know her as the woman with the nice personality at the popular photoshop on Victoria Parade.
But, Bhan, as she is known to her colleagues, is more than that. She has been working at Caines for 48 years and is the company's longest serving employee.
Born and bred in Flagstaff, Suva, Bhan has lived a life of struggle and knows how it feels to bear the fruits of one's labour.
Her parents, Latchman and Etwari Singh struggled to provide them a decent upbringing.
Growing up in Flagstaff was tough. Her father was a waiter at the Grand Pacific Hotel but her mother was a housewife.
Third in the family, Bhan never thought of what she wanted to be.
In fact, she took life a step at a time. Coming from a big family, Bhan always wanted to help the family. She was lucky to go to school on her father's small income.
"I have four sisters and a brother. Life was hard for us because my father was the only breadwinner but our parents made sure we had a roof over our heads and food on the table. Back then, things were cheap and my parents were able to support us.
"We helped each other a lot with whatever difficulties we faced. I never thought I would be working here at Caines Jannif."
Bhan went to Vatuwaqa Government Girls School, now Vatuwaqa Primary School, up to Class Eight but had to leave school to look for work.
She was only 13 when she started work and under the guidance of the late Ben Jannif, she learnt more than what she expected.
"I never found another job. I started working in sales and enjoyed it.
"I was taught a lot of things like how to be a cashier and how to work with clients and customers. It was something I never thought I would do but I am glad I was given the opportunity.
"In those days, Indian women were not allowed to work. They were responsible for looking after the family and do the work in the house but it did not apply to me because I wanted to help my family and I always thank Mr Jannif for giving me the opportunity to broaden my horizon."
Bhan's normal working day starts with taking orders from customers who want their pictures framed.
Working in sales helped her improve her personal and professional life. She became a more confident and persevering mother, wife and sales representative.
"I have made a lot of friends and am fortunate I have been working here for more than 40 years. I am married to Bal Govind and we live in Nasinu.
"I have two sons and we live a good life. I am glad my sons don't have to go through the hardship I went through when I was young.
"I don't regret finding employment at a young age but at that time I couldn't help it.
"If I had to give an advice, I would say education is very important in life."

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


IMAGINE closing your eyes for an hour while doing your work. It is not that easy but for the past 43 years, Akuila Rewatabua has lived a life where the sense of sight is not a privilege.
Born in 1963, Akuila has been blind since birth. Originally from Rukuruku Village on Ovalau, his parents were subsistence farmers. His parents are Petero and Lavenia Rewatabua. He is also the first cousin of rugby star Marika Vunibaka.
Being an only child and only blind boy in the village, Akuila found life hard at first especially having to depend on others around him to get through life. However, Akuila has always felt he would have to live his own life in the future. The interesting thing about Akuila is that his blindness is something he draws strength from and he strives to continue to excel in life no matter the obstacles he faces.
"I'm quite fortunate though, being an only child, my parents were never embarrassed about me. They were not frightened or ashamed to expose my disability. Instead, they tried to give me a normal upbringing like any other able bodied person.
"Not being able to see is different. There were times when I felt insecure about doing things and I had to depend on others to help me get through the day. It was hard at first but I realised that with confidence I am able to live my own life and achieve whatever I want."
Akuila said not being able to see did not stop him from wanting to achieve his dream of being a teacher. He started Class One at the Fiji School for the Blind when he was nine years old. He said Frank Hilton who founded Hilton Special School, went to Ovalau for a visit to identify children with disabilities. He was brought to Suva and stayed at the Tamavua Rehabilitation Unit.
"The first time I entered the classroom, I heard the superior voice of the teacher. I knew then I wanted to be a teacher. When I first came from the island, I didn't know how to speak the Bauan dialect. I didn't know how to speak English well.
"Going to school with other children was all new for me and I felt like I was in a different world altogether.
"I stayed at the Tamavua rehabilitation unit for two years until the Society for the Blind rented a house. I remember the head teacher at the time was Mr Khalil.
"When we were at school, we were not exposed to mainstream education. We were sort of isolated. I continued with the school curriculum and eventually I managed to complete up to Form Four level. I didn't want to waste time. I wanted to move on and face life."
His life was always full of challenges. Akuila said listening to his classmates speak in English and Hindi made him want to learn more about the world and people around him. He completed Form Four in 1978 and joined the Peace Corps as an interpreter for an evaluation project on old people. A multi-talented individual, Akuila was able to interpret Hindi and Fijian into English.
"The experience was an eye-opener and there were a lot of challenges but I took each challenge as it came and carried on with life despite being blind. I then worked as a switchboard operator for Stinson Pearce Limited from 1982 to 1985. I enjoyed what I did and learnt a lot there.
"I was then given the opportunity to further my education at the University of the South Pacific. I studied for a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Language. The owner of Stinson Pearce Limited, Peter Stinson, sponsored me. I have three more units until I graduate."
In 1988, Akuila achieved his dream of becoming a teacher. He defied all odds and taught Fijian and music at Naitasiri Secondary School. He then moved to Saint Thomas and Sigatoka Methodist.
He said being a teacher was difficult at first. It took time for the students to regard him as one of the able bodied teachers and he felt happy and glad that despite being blind he was able to achieve his goal. In 2003, he was in charge of fundraising for the United Blind Persons of Fiji where he later became the project officer three weeks ago. He is now the president for the Fiji Disabled People's Association.
"Life begins with you and ends with you. How you want your life to turn out depends on you. Having a disability is not the end of the world and it is not something to be ashamed of.
"Being blind made me grow into a more confident and responsible person. I earned the respect of many people and even in my village, they treat me as someone who has achieved a lot and I am proud of the things I accomplished in life," he said.



The road to success was never easy for Anare Jale. Fishing, farming and collecting coconuts on the island of Ono-i-Lau were the push factors that made him even more determined to make something better of his life.
Not only did he survive village life, he was blessed to excel academically despite the hardships his family faced.
As far as he can remember, his father was always proud of him when it came to his education.
In 1956, he attended Onolevu District School. Naturally intelligent, where Anare was always placed first or second in class.
"In Ono-i-Lau, there are four villages and the primary school was located in our village. During that time, school children from the other villages on the other outer islands had to travel to school by boat," he said.
"At times their boats would get caught in the bad weather. It was very dangerous so another school was built in another village.
"The struggles I faced in life made me want to be successful. I was determined to be successful. I always excelled at school right from primary school. It was either I came first or second in class. Whatever my position, my father was always proud"
In his final year at primary school, his class performed a drama.
He said they were all given roles to play and coincidentally his teacher picked him to be the turaga ni koro.
It was this special title in the drama that made him want to help develop his village. He said despite having that pretend title, he somewhat felt it was his responsibility to help his people and the village.
He then moved to Viti Levu for the first time to attend Ratu Kadavulevu School as a boarder.
Like all boarding schools, life is never easy. Luckily for Anare, his nurtured survival skills from the village came in handy. However, when he started school at RKS, he was only able to speak Ono.
"I spoke fluent Ono and I was given the name 'vakavanua'. The things my father taught me back in the village got me through boarding school.
"Life was tough though especially in an all-boys school. The older big boys used to bully a lot. My father taught me to stand up and fight. So that's what I did. I fought and stood up for those who were bullied at school.
"One thing I dislike is seeing people being mistreated. So at school, I used to be the protector because I used to stand and fight the bullies.
"On a particular occasion, I almost lost the opportunity to succeed when I wanted to run away from school after a severe beating from a teacher."
He and his best friend, who was his best man at his wedding to Emele Duituturaga last week, were fooling around without realising their teacher was watching them.
His teacher then got a four-by-two piece of wood lying near the school's wooden boiler and used it to as a discipline tool.
"After that beating, I couldn't walk. Early in the morning, I was in pain and I decided to run away from school. I thought to myself that if my parents did not do this to me, then I might as well go home to them.
"I was in Form Four at the time. I started planning what to do. That night I slept with my shirt and khaki shorts.
"At three o' clock in the morning, I left school with a cane knife. The roads that time were very bad and I had to walk from there to Korovou. It was still dark that morning.
"I saw the Lodoni bus and I knew the trend with paying bus fare. People trusted each other and some would enter the bus and pay when they got off.
"So I walked in the bus trying very hard to pretend to have money to go to Suva.
"When I reached Nausori, I got off and hid in the washroom. I then walked to Tovata, in Laqere, where my father was."
Surprised to see him, his father knew instantly something was wrong.
After massaging his back to ease the pain, his father then encouraged him to go back to school.
His other option was to go back to the village and cut copra. He weighed his options and decided to give his education another go.
Completing Form Three to Five at RKS, he then moved on to complete Form Six at Suva Grammar School. "Apart from my academic performance, I excelled at sports especially rugby. I was a member of the Fiji Secondary Schools rugby team in 1969. We played in Tonga and I was a winger," he said.
He went on to graduate from Victoria University, in Wellington, New Zealand with a Diploma in Industrial Relations. He obtained a Certificate in Industrial Relations and Manpower Panning from the External Division of Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
Since then, he has slowly climbed up the ladder to success, starting as a labour inspector with the Ministry of Labour in 1970 and in 1991, he was promoted to chief labour officer where he was ultimately second in charge of the ministry.
He was responsible for the day to day operations of the ministry.
Anare was responsible for providing technical advice to the Permanent Secretary and the minister on issues relating to labour laws, trade disputes, trade unions and International Labour Organisation conventions and articles.
He held that rank until 1995.
"I was appointed Registrar of Trade Unions, he said.
"I was responsible for the administration of the Trade Union Act and Industrial Association Act.
"I was instrumental in the drafting and enactment of the Health and Safety Act. From 1995 to 1996, I was then the deputy secretary for regional development.
"I was responsible to the Permanent Secretary for the day to day operation of the ministry.
"Divisional commissioners reported on the operations of the divisional offices.
"There were times when I would preside over monthly meetings held with senior ministry officials and divisional commissioners."
His thesis for his Diploma in Industrial Relations from Victoria University titled Third Party Interventions in Trade Disputes in Fiji formed the basis of the Trade Disputes Act.
In 1997, he moved up a notch to become Permanent Secretary for Labour and Industrial Relations.
During that time, he was Fiji's director for the Asian Productivity Organisation responsible for the promotion and productivity in the Pacific and Asian countries.
"From 1999 to November 2000, I was the Secretary for the Public Service.
"I was the secretary for the commission.
"That meant I was responsible for all staff matters for the department.
"Being the chief accounting officer as well, I was responsible to the Ministry of Finance on the department's budget.
"In November 2001 to February 2004, I was appointed Fiji's ambassador to the United States of America and Mexico.
"I represented Fiji in meetings with other countries in the world to discuss diplomatic relationship, bilateral and multilateral relationships as well.
"I was even fortunate to meet one of the most powerful men in the world, the President of the US George Bush.
"He is a very polite and lovely person. My brief encounter with him was when I presented credentials. "He is very gentle and very down to earth."
He played an important role in the reintroduction of the US Peace Corps in Fiji after its withdrawal.
As ambassador, he was expected to explore trade and tourism opportunities for Fiji, including meeting with interested investors.
He even organised the first-ever joint Fiji Day celebration for Fiji nationals living in the US and Hawaii.
In 2004, he was chairman of the Fiji National Provident Fund and was responsible for implementing investment and risk policies.
Under his chairmanship, a community service fund donating funds and providing help to charity organisations was set up.
From March 2004 to January 2007, he was chief executive officer of the Public Service Commission.
Now retired, he has continued his involvement in community work.
He is advisor to the Ono-i-Lau Tikina Women's Group, director of Yatulau Company Limited as well as chairman of the Ono-i-Lau Development Committee.
"I feel I have an obligation to my people.
"I was born on the island and I have experienced the kind of hardship the people face.
"I want to help get them out of poverty and this is something I like doing.
"I have never regretted anything in life.
"I work with women's group because women play a vitally important role in development.
"They are the best managers. So far we have installed a solar pump and a saw mill," said Mr Jale.
Development plans are under way to rejuvenate the sandalwood industry, with marketing potential on the islands in Ono.

10 Things about Anare Jale:

Loves soup;
- favourite drink is bu;
- likes gardening and cricket;
- an ardent reader;
- a prompt person — strict on timing;
- a man of few words, prefers to work than talk;
- Lkes soothing island music, dislikes English songs;
- used to be a preacher;
- former member of the Fiji Medical School;
- former chairman and member of Fiji National Training Council (TPAF)

Adapted from Fijitimes Online 20/04/2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Working with communities is something Sereana Cokanasiga has a heart for. She is originally from Naduri Village in Macuata province. Sereana is also the Program Support Manager for the Foundation of the People of the South Pacific.
Her late parents were Ratu Emosi and Adi Mele Vuakatagane. Born in Suva, Sereana grew up with her maternal grandparents in Lomaloma, Lau, until she was five years old. Her father was an administrator while her mother worked for Home Finance in the late 1960s.
Like most Pacific Islanders, Sereana grew up in an extended family. Third in a family of five children, she was always passionate about helping different communities especially her own Macuata community.
For Sereana, growing up was a mix of urban and rural life. Experiencing all the hustle and bustle of city life, her family owned a poultry farm in Waila.
"I grew up with my maternal grandparents until I was five-years-old and came to Suva after that to start primary school. I grew up in an extended family and my father was an administrator. He was into community development. He was responsible for the construction of the Macuata House during his time as chairman of the Macuata Provincial Council.
"I think I have continued part of what he has started and that is helping in community development especially for our province. My parents bought a poultry farm in Waila and we lived there. Life was fairly simple for us and the one thing my parents made sure of was that we never starved. They always worked at providing us with the best possible upbringing"
She attended Nabua Fijian Primary School and completed her primary education at Suva Primary school. She then went on to continue her secondary education at Suva Grammar School. She said her childhood memories of life on the poultry farm were unforgettable. She used to help out with the collection of eggs to sell at the market. This was something she was never embarrassed about.
"I remember when we used to sell eggs at the market just to earn a little more extra cash. I remember collecting eggs, grading them and then delivering them to different supermarkets or shops. I did not mind. This was something I did with my other siblings when we were younger and this helped a lot with our family.
"After secondary school, I went straight into the work field. I started working for different companies. I was employed as a receptionist and I worked hard at whatever I did. I was later involved in different company projects and administration."
In between working life, Sereana decided to further her studies. Despite the pressure from work and school, she graduated from Central Queensland University in 2000 with an MBA in Human Resource Management. From 1995 to 2006, she was employed as the Human Resources and Administration Manager for World Wildlife Fund. She joined the FSPI in 2006 and has never looked back. She said her role has been challenging but with determination, commitment and dedication she has overcome all obstacles.
"My role as program support manager is very challenging. I am responsible for development management and monitoring of structures, policies and protocols that help FSPI work efficiently and effectively. Basically, our regional non-government organisation focuses on community development where we try to foster self-reliance and sustainable community development.
"The passion for working with communities was already there. However, working with NGOs somehow reaffirmed the need to work in communities although I do more support and administration work. Working with communities is very fulfilling and satisfying. I feel very happy and proud do be able to contribute to the development of my own community and other communities that I have worked with through FSPI."
Sereana said she wanted to be an administrator when she was younger. Although she did not initially plan to follow in her father's footsteps, the thought alone of knowing she contributed to something positive has made her proud of the work her father did. She is married to Filipe Cokanasiga from Deuba and has three children.
Apart from her administrative and management position, Sereana is also part of the Macuata Soqosoqo ni Marama. She said her volunteer work with the women's group has been rewarding. Despite juggling her time with family, work and volunteer commitments, Sereana said the secret to her success is hard work and a good education. "Education is very important," she says.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, April 14, 2008


Many people would not remember an article on Abby Hvitfelt three years ago. The 89-year-old from York, Pennsylvania in the United States of America has been in Fiji for over 22 years. During that time she spent 20 years stuffing toy animals and dolls for children at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital's Children's Ward.
Her passion for putting smiles on the faces of tiny tots is somewhat inspirational.
She has been a role model for many volunteers in the country because she has spent endless days and nights shaping the animals and dolls, sewing, stuffing and finally adding colour and facial expressions to the toys.
All this for the sake of a child's happiness.
Her story about her journey to Fiji is quite pleasant and enjoyable.
Listening to her reminisce about how she got the idea to make stuffed toys for children at CWM makes one appreciate the value and contribution of volunteers in Fiji.
Her commitment and volunteer work was recognised in 1995 when she received the Order of Fiji for Service to the Community.
Abby as she is commonly called was born on March 12, 1919.
The youngest of three girls, her father was an electrician while her mother was a trade presbyterian deaconess.
From an early age, Abby wanted to be an explorer.
She wanted to explore Africa but when she found out her classmate had wanted to do the same thing, she discarded the idea almost instantly.
"I knew there simply was not enough room in Africa for the both of us. I didn't want to be a teacher so I opted for nursing. It was sort of my love affair with nursing.
"Growing up was middle-class. We lived through the depression and basically I had a very nice and happy upbringing.
"I never thought I would come to Fiji. In fact, the only time I ever heard about Fiji was when my mother used to say to us in the morning 'Your hair is like the bush in Fiji'.
"The school I attended was right across the street. It was McKinley Primary School and we had only grades
"One to Six. I later went on to attend Hannah Penn Junior High School and right opposite that I attended William Penn Senior High School.
"However, I lost my father when I was 16 years old."
After graduating from high school, Abby was not able to attend nursing school because she was not 18 years old. She was told that she was not 'emotionally mature' to enter. She then decided to do something while waiting to turn 18.
She worked as a cost accountant at an auto supply store where she worked a total of 48 hours a week.
Her second day job was dishing out ice-cream. Although exhausted at the end of the day, Abby did not mind.
"I then attended Union Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Baltimore, Maryland for three years.
"I kept telling myself 'you're here to serve'. I have never regretted becoming a nurse. The fact that someone needed you and you're able to help is very fulfilling and definitely satisfying.
"In 1940, I married Richard Fogle.
"He was a navy officer and a year after we married he was sent to Honolulu, Hawaii where he served there until the war was over.
"I had wanted to join the service but they did not take married women. I was frustrated.
"In 1942, my son Richard Romany Fogle was born.
"Afterwards, I continued with nursing but life then was very difficult and I had to hire someone to sleep in my flat to look after my son while I was at work.
"You do these things if you have to. Later, when my son was 10 years old, I divorced my husband and remarried Axel Hvifelt.
"He was a professor in Economics."
Having four children later on, Abby then stayed home for almost five years playing mother and wife.
But knowing Abby, she was always doing something if not with a church group, she would be with friends decorating or making all sorts of craftswork.
She then worked part-time and continued to pursue her education.
At the age of 53, she graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY Delhi in New York (State University of New York). She then taught nursing at the university for 11 years.
"Teaching scared me to death.
"I got my Masters when I was 65-years-old and I retired when I was 66. I needed to make a clean slate. My husband had gone back to Finland and our marriage was on the rocks so I divorced him and joined the Peace Corps.
"They sent me here and I had never been to Fiji, let alone left my country. I knew this was a whole new adventure for me and I was excited about coming here.
"On July 1, 1986, I arrived in Fiji as a Peace Corps volunteer.
"I served as Sister Tutor at the Fiji School of Nursing teaching medical, surgical and pediatric nursing. My term expired on October 1, 1988, but I was asked to stay on by the US Embassy.
"I used to visit children at the CWM Children's Ward and it was distressing for me to find that none of the children had toys.
"Some of the children are scared to death about being in hospitals so I thought if they had something they could hug then maybe they would feel a bit better."
Since then, Abby has been making stuffed toys with the help of friends and volunteers from Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The mother of five has made almost 24,000 stuffed toys and each toy is given to every child at the hospital.
Leaving in nine days time because of her health, Abby said she will always have a special place in her heart for Fiji and especially the children she's met at the hospital.
The secret to her living long is staying happy.


Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Tubuka Raikaci, who has been working at the Fiji Museum for 18 years believes success cannot be achieved without perseverence.
Mr Raikaci, 47, is originally from Burebasaga, Rewa and was brought up in his mother's village of Ravitaki in Kadavu. He attended Adi Maopa Government School for his primary school education before moving on to Lami High School.
He is married with five children. As a young boy he dreamt of either becoming an engineer or a sailor when he grew up, something he wasn't able to do.
Mr Raikaci started working at the museum when he was 30-years-old in 1990 where he worked as a cleaner and groundsman.
In 1997 he was given the opportunity to work as the conservator for artifacts at the museum. He said he coped with the added responsibility.
His responsibility was to look after the artifacts and objects preserved within the museum and he also looked after the laboratory where he does all his paper work and makes sure all objects are in good condition.
He said being a conservator was a really challenging job for him.
"My work is to make sure that all the artifacts that are preserved whether in storage or displayed are in good condition. I have to make sure that I handle them with care."
He also monitors and records other historical pieces that are brought to the museum. He said objects that are brought in to the museum are taken through certain tests and observation before approval is given for them to be displayed or kept there.
"I'm proud that I an doing something I wasn't taught at school. I feel experience has helped me in my work," he said.
"The main challenge in this line of work is to be creative in what you do. It is that creativity which keeps the tourists and people visiting the museum. It's all about how you preserve the artifacts well and how you are able to keep them in the same condition over a long period of time without any damage."
Through his years of working at the museum, he said there were times when he went through difficulties in life but he persevered.
"I have my ups and downs. What drives me every day is my family and the work that I'm doing," he said.
"No one is perfect. I believe all of us have problems that we go through in life. Everyone must go through struggles and difficult times to succeed in life." He said he enjoyed his work and that keeps him going every day. Travelling abroad, he says, helps him discover new ideas.
He makes sure to check the articrafts every day and fixes the ones that need to be fixed but this has to be recorded.
"This is like my home where I spend most of my time." Mr Raikaci believes if people have the heart to make an effort they will achieve what they want.
"We will also succeed in our work if we have patience and are faithful to what we do, because God is watching us.
"I feel blessed about what God has done for me in my work and for my family. I acknowledge Him in everything he has given me especially with the opportunity to have this job and I have to work hard for what he has provided me with."


Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Saturday, April 12, 2008


GINA Jit believes you can do anything no matter what qualification you have if you have faith in yourself.
Many think that a good education and qualifications will get you a good job but Gina believes that it is not a matter of fact but how you can earn money from something you love doing.
The 30-year-old mother of +two children runs her jewellery business and caters for food.
Gina studied law for two years at the University of the South Pacific but could not continue her studies because her parents could not afford it.
"My dad is a retired mechanist and is a sickly person and my mom is just a normal housewife," Gina said.
"They don't get enough money to support our education."
Her dream of becoming a lawyer had to be shelved.
Gina said she understood her parents and came up with the idea of to start a business that would support her parents and family.
She started her business two years ago with $32 in her pocket.
Gina said from that small amount of money, her business was able to survive and she made a profit.
She followed the example of her grandfather who is a role model to her he started a business with three shillings and that, she said, was something which encouraged her to move on and pursue her business.
"I used to laugh and make fun when my grandfather used to tell me the story of how he started his business.
"But then I came to realise that if he could start his business with that small amount of money, I could do the same too.
"What made me start this business is that I believe not everyone can afford to buy expensive gold and pearl jewellery.
"At least, they can afford to buy the ones I make which have low prizes."
Gina said it was not a matter of being educated but what you could afford and how you could earn an income from what you love or enjoy doing.
She runs a food catering business and bakes cakes for birthdays, weddings and Christmas parties.
Along with the food business, Gina sells jewellery at cheap prices for the average people.
She earns $600 to $700 a week and the money goes toward supporting her parents, her family and helps her two younger sisters with their education.
She is also able to pay freight costs and duty for stuff which are imported from overseas for her business.
"I am going out of my way to provide a good education for my sisters.
"I want them to fulfil their dream with what career path they pursue.
"My advice to people is what talent you have, try and make something out of it in order for you to gain success.
"Just give it a try, you never know what you'll get.
"If you have your mind set on it then nothing is impossible for you to achieve."
Gina shows that a little faith can move mountains.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


A FORMER Fiji teacher, now living in Canada, has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to the teaching profession in Canada.
Tavua-born Kalyan Chandra was among three other retired teachers who received the award this year from the Canadian Government.
He received his teacher training at Nasinu Teachers College and served in Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki.
He was also the principal of All Saints Secondary School in Labasa before he moved to Canada.


Adapted from Fijitimes Online


Zuber Ali Azimullah (pictured) believes nothing is impossible if people obey their parents and believe in God.
Zuber, 21, who is the eldest in his family, has two sisters and one brother. He attended Suva Muslim Primary School before moving on to Suva Muslim College where he reached Form Three. He later spent one year doing vocational studies, before moving on to help his father in their family business.
Zuber said he left school because his father fell ill. He had to stay home and look after their cable business Maqs Cables.
"It was very hard for me to leave school at an early age especially when I saw my friends going to school but I had to do it for my dad and for the family," he said.
Zuber said his father didn't give him a choice to pursue another career because he wanted him to be part of the family business.
"When I was small, my dad used to tell me that I would have to work in our cable business which he started in 1991," he said.
He said even though he didn't like it at first, listening to his father's advice and respecting his instructions, he was able to see himself succeeding.
He never went through proper tertiary education but stayed home and learnt from his father and now he is running their family business, specialised in manufacturing, designing and repairing cables.
"I learnt from him. When I was in school, sometimes I couldn't do my homework. It was different in the workshop where I helped my father out. That's how I learnt this job."
He said the most important people in his business were his customers and he would try to meet their needs everyday.
"I make sure I provide them with what they want. I can do any kind of cable even if it's difficult, I would try and do it for my customers."
He believes God was always there for those who tried and would always be available for guidance and provision.
"All we have to do is to trust God and never give up hope," he said.
"As it happened to my dad and me, I'm sure good things can happen to anyone who believes in Him."
Zuber said he was able to overcome difficulties in life which allowed him to learn new things. He said he has never regretted following his father's advice and would continue to hold up the name of their family business.
Zuber advises young people to listen to their parents and serve God.
"There are only two things I would recommend for young people nowadays. Obey and listen to your parents and serve the Lord with a good heart. Without God we won't be successful and He is the only ally we can count on."

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, April 7, 2008


Ana Tuiwai is defying the odds by becoming a certified diver. The 27-year-old was born and bred in Lomati, Kabara, in Lau.
Third in a family of four children, Ana had wanted to become a deaconess.
Her parents Filimone Tuiwai and Joana Vakaturituiwai were farmers who worked hard to give their children an education.
For Ana, doing household chores and fishing every Saturday was the life. She never thought she would do something like scuba diving. Ana said unlike urban areas, money, or the lack of it, was hardly ever a problem in the village.
She said the village was full of life and providing food for the family never a problem.
"In the village, only the boys did diving. I used to help my mother out with chores," she admits.
"I even used to weave mats and help cook. I remember every Saturday I used to go fishing and I really enjoyed it.
"In the city if you don't have money, you can't buy food but in the village if there is no money, food is readily available either from the sea or from our plantations.
"I never thought of diving professionally because only the boys did that. For us girls, we were supposed to do normal things that girls did. I was a very spiritual person and I wanted to become a deaconess."
She attended Kabara District School and came to Suva for her secondary education, attending Form Three at Suva Sangam High School.
In 1995, she left school and went back to the village.
"I left school because I was not interested anymore. I stayed with my aunt when I was in Suva and went back to the village after Form Three. I feel life in the village is very easy.
"In 2004, Frances Areki from the World Wildlife Fund came to Kabara to do something on the vesi.
"That's when I first heard about WWF. The following year, Monifa Fiu from WWF came to the Kabara and wanted to me help with surveys on the reef and sea grass. She stayed with my family. So I agreed to help her.
"I learned a lot like the English names for different kinds of fish. I only knew the Fijian names. I learned how to do coral reef and seagrass surveys."
Later that year, she took part in a WWF-sponsored dive training at Dravuni, Kadavu.
She said her father was not too enthusiastic about it because he felt diving was too dangerous for her.
"Even my brother in England was not enthusiastic about it too. They told me diving was dangerous but I wanted to try it and I wanted to do something interesting. Later they supported me.
"The dive training at Dravuni was for a week and I was the only girl learning how to dive and conduct reef and seagrass surveys.
"After the training, I became a certified diver and I felt very happy because this was something done only by boys in the village.
"In 2006, I was the only WWF diver from Kabara. I later joined the Wildlife Conservation Society and worked on projects including dive training in Macuata, Kia and Macuata-i-wai."
Ana has become a WWF volunteer and helps in dive training for island youths.
She said she had always believed in her strengths and talents, something she will always be thankful for.
"I feel so proud and happy to be a dive volunteer with WWF because I have shown that not only men can dive.
"The diving skills I have learned are useful for finding employment in tourism.
"Whenever I am helping with a dive training session, I feel like one of them. The boys, I believe I had the eagerness and enthusiasm to succeed," she said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Sunday, April 6, 2008


FOR Gavidi Turuva, giving children from broken homes another chance at life is a satisfaction she gets to go home with everyday.
In her view, all children are unique and precious gifts.
She feels today's community is missing out on many issues concerning children.
"We are missing out a lot on children's issues which we think is very small especially in the community," she said.
"It's every parent's duty to take care of their children."
The 50-year-old counsellor said sharing her experiences with children who come from such backgrounds "helps both sides find solutions that will work in the child's favour".
She started doing counselling by helping out in the community as a young girl growing up in Ba.
"I started in this career path because I love working with children," she said.
"I was brought up in a very big family. My interest in working with children goes back to when I was in school at Saint Theresa's, which at that time was run by the nuns in Ba. After completing primary education I went on to Xavier College before trying to find my footing in my career path.
"What really made me more determined to look after and care for these children is that I had been adopted myself. I am able to share my views and experiences with these children."
Gavidi hails from Tavuki, Kadavu, and has been married since 1979. She has three grown children whom she is very proud.
"I have been doing community work with the Soqosoqo Vakamarama for the past 10 years," she said.
She said the National Council of Women opened a counselling office but the military takeover of December 5, 2006, closed it.
In stepped the Soqosoqo Vakamarama Saunaka branch, which took over with the blessings of the Taukei Naua, Ratu Ponijese Lou.
"When I joined the National Council for Women, I underwent courses with the Fiji Nursing Association and with our counterparts from Australia known as Child-Wise from Victoria State in Australia.
"The course was from 2001 to 2005. The workshop focused on health issues and was one way we are trained to find out how we can combat crime, sexual abuse, HIV/AIDS and marriage breakdowns."
Gavidi said parents had to do their homework from the very beginning. She said it was an enormous task to educate children on what married life would be like and that she found the biggest abuse in the community was neglect.
"For many, it's as long as you can see a child walking we send them to the shop on errands.
"I believe if we all do our homework and pay more attention to our children, we will be crime-free, no diseases."

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


ULAMILA Bulamaibau believes success is all about taking the risk and wanting to experience life.
The former manager training for the Fiji Development Bank is the executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Originally from Vanuaso on Gau, Ulamila joined SPCA this year. Her late father Ratu Kulanikoro Qicatabua Bulamaibau was a civil servant.
She said her mother Sesarina Elina did the most important work of being a wonderful mum. Born in Suva, Ulamila went to primary school in Suva but went to secondary school in Lautoka.
Being an only child, she learnt to be independent especially having to keep busy with favourite pastimes. She said apart from normal everyday life, she was able to withstand hardship.
"The only child in the house meant having to occupy oneself or amuse oneself with pastimes that one could do independent of anyone else.
"These included activities such as reading, drawing, colouring, climbing trees in the yard and collecting stamps. There were moments with the neighbours children.
"It made me accept challenges as they come. I was taught to work hard, not to waste and also to appreciate what I am given.
"My father was a disciplinarian. When I was young, I wanted to be a number of things.
"This kept changing and now when I look back, I think it is really funny because I have obviously gone far away from those initial thoughts.
"Sometimes it has to do with the glamour of the job, pressure from family or the way society sees a type of job that influences the way young people think about what they should or should not do. But I never thought I would be where I am today."
She went to Gospel Primary School for less than a year before finishing off at Jasper Williams in 1981. She got her secondary education at Jasper Williams High School and on to the University of the South Pacific where she obtained her Bachelors degree. In 1990 she joined the FDB as a research officer and worked her up to be a top staff before her move to SPCA.
A thought on many people's mind is why the move from a well-paid job at FDB to join the animal care field.
"When the position became vacant I thought about it but not that seriously. On the other hand, I had also been seriously thinking about what I was doing and whether it continued to excite me or challenge me in an interesting way.
"I started to think of whether I could do something that was really meaningful to me and was real, something that would make an impact. I knew that it was time to move out of my comfort zone and make use of my experience.
"I wanted to learn and work in the field of animal welfare. All the while, I had the backing and encouragement of a close friend who believed I should take up the challenge.
"That encouragement and support helped me in making the final decision."
She said the interest in animals was always there. Ulamila said they had pet dogs who were her reliable friends.
"I like having them around. They were always there. Even now, I always feel that pets are always there, they are tough and they never give up on you, even when they are sick.
"They are always there to welcome you and follow you to the shop if they can. Some of the benefits of the job are working with animals who are God's creation, helping make a difference for animals though SPCA efforts and meeting people who share or contribute to the efforts of animal welfare.
"For me, it is comforting to know that one is not alone in the battle against cruelty to animals. The Creator is the biggest inspiration in my life because he works in mysterious ways and there are things that after it has happened I wonder, well how could that be possible?
"It makes the struggle worth the effort especially in the field of animal welfare, when one knows there is someone out there looking out for you."
Ulamila said there were a lot of opportunities for those wanting to join SPCA. Her advice to students is weigh the possibility of studying veterinary science.
She said this was particularly useful in a country such as Fiji where there are only a few veterinarians. She said SPCA needed people who share in its vision and goals and most important, those who are passionate about animal welfare in Fiji and can do something about it.
"In life, there are regrets and there are times when one tastes success. It is all about taking risks and wanting to experience life by taking and giving back something to this world and life.
"Joining SPCA, for me, was all about that," said the optimistic director.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


AS a young girl growing up in the village, Repeka Vereti dreamt of making a name for herself in the world of business when she grew up.
She was born and grew up in Tubou, Lakeba, in Lau, where her father comes from. Repeka has two brothers and four sisters.
Her father died when she was in Form Three and her mother still lives in the village.
Repeka attended Ratu Finau Primary School before entering Ratu Mara College.
The idea to become a business woman came from her father, she says. He was a businessman and had a village store in Tubou.
Repeka said she would spend most of her time helping her father run the family business.
When I was in secondary school, from Form 4 to Form 6, every time we had school break, I would go home and help out in our store after my father died and thats how the idea of becoming a businesswoman came up, she said.
When I finished Form 6 on the island, I decided to complete my education in Suva. I managed to get sponsorship for my school fees at Ballentine Memorial School.
She said she faced difficulties and struggled when she didnt have the support of relatives.
While doing my computer studies in 1993, I applied to work during my school break at the Marine Headquarters. When I completed computer studies, I still couldnt find a job and I knew I couldnt rely on my relatives.
It was the turning point for me . I made up my mind that I would stand up for myself and start a business on my own which was the dream I always had as a child.
Out of all the struggle and difficulties she went through, Repeka was able to overcome them and set her foot towards making her dreams come true.
Repeka now runs her own business at the Flea Market in Suva.
She sells Fijian artifacts like Fijian tapa, woven baskets, special garlands (sisi ni Lakeba), mats, Fijian fans and she also does flower arrangements and sews pillow cases.
When you have the heart and the desire to learn more, youll be able to discover new things as you go along, she says.
Before I didnt know how to weave a mat and to do some of the stuff I now sell, but it always interested me and I was willing to learn new things.
Now married with two children, she says, she now has the support of her husband which motivates her to make her business a success.
Im so fortunate to have a lovely husband who supports me in every decision I make. He is always there for me whenever I need him.
On good selling days, she can earn about $700 to $800 a day, which helps her family and her business.
Repeka believes in treating her customers well.
You will only achieve things if you have the heart and the desire that will motivate you to achieve such things, she says.
I always have faith in my business and I make sure that I provide a good service to my customers and I try to satisfy their needs. I believe when you treat them nicely, theyll enjoy your service for the day and maybe return.
My advice to people thinking of starting their own business, is always have a good heart with a smiling face. Dress up properly and present yourself nicely to customers.

Adapted fromFijitimes Online