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