Saturday, May 31, 2008


WHEN a person has been blessed with special talents, enabling them to do wonders with their hands, they should not neglect that, says masi maker Mere Sagaitu.
She believes if anyone was blessed with special talents they should put it to good use otherwise that talent will be taken away from them.
"Everyone has been blessed with a talent and they should put it to good use and not sit idle if they do not have any form of employment to either support themselves or their families," she said.
In Mere's case, masi making has always been in her family genes and her one passion in life.
The mother of three hails from Ekubu, Vatulele, while her husband Petero Sagaitu, hails from Sawaieke, on Gau.
Mere, as she prefers to be called, recalled her days as a young girl on Vatulele when she used to help her grandmothers prepare the inner bark of the mulberry tree for the masi.
She said as she got older she went on to complete her secondary education at Dudley in Suva after completing her primary years on the island of Vatulele.
"After I finished high school I stayed at home with my parents in Sigatoka before deciding what I was going to do with my life," she said. I learnt masi making through my grandmothers when I was growing up in Vatulele.
"This skill or talent as one may call it has remained with me because any free time I had, I used to try it out."
Mere said she loved masi making and would not swap it for anything else.
She said the inspiration for her to start her own business came about after she got married.
She said at the time she decided to start her own business, her husband who was a miner with the Emperor Gold Mines in Vatukoula, was one of the few who had opted to take the package back in 1991.
"Looking back, I can say the journey has been a long one," she said.
"My husband and I had decided to start our own masi making business for ceremonies like weddings or house decoration."
Mere said since starting out the business, orders have been coming in from major tourist shopping outlets.
She said she has also employed other women in the area to help beat the mulberry bark to prepare the masi.
She said although it was a tiring job the returns were worthwhile.
She said the pieces range from wedding suits, to birthday outfits with prices to match.
"It's going to be an even longer one now that I have actually gone into selling my masi," she said.
Mere said the other positive thing to have come about from starting her own business was that she now teaches masi making to students who visit her requesting to learn.
She said by entering the masi making business she has been able to also meet up with her business contacts.
"Last year during the Christmas art display in Suva I was approached by the Pacific Cultural Centre in Hawaii to do some masi work for them," she said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Friday, May 30, 2008


Imagine living in a one bedroom house with 18 relatives to look after. Life would definitely be one of hardship and difficulty especially when there is only one breadwinner in the family.
For 32 year-old Lidia Raibevu (pictured), having a home of her own had been a figment of her imagination for the past four years.
Lidia and her husband, Waisake are part of Project 30/30 headed by non-profit Christian organisation Habitat for Humanity. The home build project involves building 30 homes in 30 weeks for 30 low income earning families.
Originally from Nabukavesi in Namosi, Lidia is third in a family of seven children.
Her late father, Avenai Waqilau worked as a clerk for Carpenters Shipping while her mother Mere was a housewife.
Lidia had always wanted to join the police force. For her, being a policewoman was inspiring, especially the fact that the duty of the police force was to help and protect people.
"We had a simple upbringing but even life then was not an easy one. We lived in Lami and life there wasn't easy especially living in town. There were a lot of expenses but my parents worked hard to provide us with a good education. We lived close to the sea and I remember my mother used to catch and sell fish for a living.
"I had a strict upbringing but it helped build my character. I had first wanted to be a policewoman because I loved the uniform they wore. I think the feeling of wanting to help others was inspiring enough and besides I grew up next to a police station."
She attended primary school at Marist Convent in Lami. From 1990 to 1994, she continued her secondary education at Cathedral. After high school, she decided to find a part time job as a waitress.
She then moved on to join Carrodocs Investment as a sales agent. Although being involved in sales and advertising, Lidia always maintained her desire to don the police uniform.
"I worked as a part time waitress for two years. I moved on to work as a sales agent for Carrodocs Investment. We sold all types of goods to different wholesale and retail companies.
The business went into bankruptcy so I joined Private Seas hotel and the Travel Inn. I worked there as a maid and receptionist.
"I still had that feeling inside to join the police force. I wanted to help people. In 2000, I was asked to be a volunteer teacher at Marist Convent Primary School. I was very happy working as a volunteer teacher for Class One students. I love children. I had a daughter when I was 19 years old and she lives with my parents. I never thought I would teach even as a volunteer. The experience was very educational and motivational."
She was also part of the Catholic Women's League, a non-government organisation which is part of the National Council for Women.
Her membership in the organisation allowed her to participate in workshops on various issues in Fiji. In 2001, she joined the police force.
She completed the required training and after months of dedication and commitment, she finally achieved her dream.
"The minute I put on the uniform, I felt my dreams had come true. I was a special constable in the force. The following year in 2002, I married my husband who is a policeman. I left the force and joined Dauniyau ni Yasana women's group as their treasurer. I resigned from that position last year and stayed home to look after my four year old son. My husband is the sole breadwinner in the family and even though times are hard, I always have faith and trust in the Lord.
"I believe I have achieved my dreams. I am happy that with the help of Habitat for Humanity, my family will have a house to call our own. The secret to achieving one's dream is to have a good education and to work hard. That is the only way up the success ladder," she said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, May 26, 2008


When growing up in Nalotu, Yawe in Kadavu, Semi Koroilavesau never dreamt that one day he would be a naval officer, forget being a director of a prominent cruise company.
Being the boss of the Captain Cook Cruises and travelling to nearly all the countries in the world was a far cry from his life at Nalotu.
He had made a name for himself in not only the cruise shipping sector, but also in the naval division of the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces where he finished of with the rank of a Commander.
He is also a chairman of the Fiji Ports Corporation and is a qualified sea captain.
He said he was now enjoying the fruit of the sacrifice and the teachings of his parents, some of his teachers and the determination he had earlier in his younger days.
But the way to get there was not smooth sailing for Mr Koroilavesau who is commonly known as Commander Semi.
Life definitely did not come on a silver platter for him.
With seven siblings, his younger days were full of struggles, having to share whatever little they had.
But he said it was the strict upbringing from his parents that directed him to a good path in life.
"My father was a disciplinarian and my mother was caring and loving," he said.
And they were devoted Methodists who always ensured our faith was intact.
He said even though life in the village was the happiest thing he could think of, money was hard to obtain.
"My father had to struggle to support the family especially when there were eight of us," he said.
His father was a handy man at Richmond High School, who emphasised on education for all his children.
Commander Semi said since his father was a handy man, he and his siblings were able to get free education at Richmond.
Since they were staying at the Richmond School compound, he had to walk for about two hours to get to get to his primary school - Yawe District.
It was a two hour walk in the morning and another two hours back.
That went for six years from 1963 to 1968 until he passed his Fiji Intermediate Examination
That was a big relief for him as he would no longer walk long distances, because he lived in the school compound.
At Richmond, he used to help his mother sell food to the other students to get additional income for the family.
"My late mother used to make roti parcels and I helped sell it to the teachers and students," he said.
Commander Semi said his grandmother, a skillful handicraft maker, also contributed towards the family upkeep.
And every Saturday, he had no choice but to help his father at the plantation.
"We used to go in the morning and come back late in the afternoon," he said.
"That was something I dreaded and my father often reminded me that was what life in the village was all about.
"He told me that if I do not want to live that kind of life, I must study hard and try to get a good job after school," he said.
With determination and a strict upbringing Commander Semi was able to pass his Fiji Junior Examination in 1972 and secured a place at Lelean Memorial School.
"I boarded in Lelean from 1973 to 1975," he said.
Although life at boarding school was not easy, it was fun, he said.
Knowing very well the difficulties faced back at home, Commander Semi told his father to only give him his school fees and he would work for his pocket money.
"Me and the other students from the islands used to go to Indian families in Davuilevu and neighbouring areas and work for them on Saturdays after our chores from the hostel," he said.
"That's what you call kam-karo," he said.
He used to earn about $2 to $2.50 for cleaning their gardens and raking their compounds.
Commander Semi said that time there were a lot wild jackfruit at Davuilevu.
"We used to get that and sell them to the Indian families that we went to for 75 cents," he said.
"That was extra money for us."
He said the money was enough for their movies at the Regent in Nausori plus half a loaf of bread and butter.
"That time, we always ate kadrala (hard cassava), so the money we got, we bought our bread," he said.
He said one of the teachers then, Autiko Daunakamakama really moulded him well during those days.
"He is someone I always look up to," he said.
After passing Form Six, Commander Semi had a choice of whether to go to the University of the South Pacific or joined the military.
"Since I was not so disciplined that time with big hair and no care at all of how I looked, I thought the military would be the best place to get the discipline that I lacked," he said.
So he went for the officer cadet course in January 4, 1976.
He went to the naval division the same year and he stayed there for 18 years.
He was one of the two officers who started Captain Cook Cruises in 1988 while he was still in the military, but had to resign in 2003 to pursue his business dreams.
Commander Semi is married to Joanne, who is now his operations manager.
He has five children - his eldest son Alifereti is a naval officer and he is away training in Malaysia.
His second son Lars, a former navy personnel, is an engineer for Captain Cook Cruises.
His only daughter Ballina is in the US Air Force and two of his younger sons are also in America.
His youngest son is at home in Nakurakura and attending Nadi Airport School.
He has two grandchildren - Ballina and Josaia.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


Her husband, Sireli, may be one of Fiji's top athletes but Elina Naikelekelevesi (pictured) has a reason to shine on her own.
The 31 year-old physiotherapist is the coordinator for the CAL program which focuses on competency based training, assessment, consultancy and community solutions. It is basically an early intervention training program for teachers, parents and caregivers of children with special needs.
Elina grew up with a medical background. Her father, Semesa Matanaicake, was a doctor. The eldest of seven children, her life has been one of many travels. Her father's profession as a plastic surgeon meant travelling to New Zealand and the United States of America.
Her mother, Ilisapeci Qelemumumu, is from Vanuabalavu and her father is from Vanua Levu. Elina said her cooking skills kicked in when she started Form One at Suva Grammar School after attending primary school at Veiuto. She continued part of her primary education at Cornwall Park District in Auckland.
"I had a very happy and blissful upbringing. My father was a doctor so we grew up in the staff quarters. My mother used to work at Morris Hedstrom before she married and afterwards she stayed home to look after us. In fact, my mother is my mentor in cooking. She was the one who taught me how to cook.
"I used to hear my friends say they could cook this and that so I decided to learn how to cook. Even in secondary school, I took home economics so I learned to better my cooking skills there. Sometimes, I would help my mother around the kitchen. This particular watercress and tuna salad is one I usually make at home. It is a healthy salad either for lunch or as a side dish."
Another option Elina usually goes for is whisking lemon juice, a drop of soya bean oil, salt, sugar and pepper with vegetable from the fridge. She says fresh tomatoes would also add flavour and taste to the salad mix.
Toast on the side is an added bonus to the salad although this would be a proficient way of making use of left over bread. Like most medical professionals, Elina believes good food whether vegetables or bread should not go to waste.
"I make a lot of things from left overs like this salad for instance. A combination of bean sprouts, lettuce, watercress, cucumber, carrots and even apples. The toasted bread with butter is an option for many otherwise on its own it is also healthy.
"I spent Form Five and Six at Adi Cakobau before doing part time foundation studies at the University of the South Pacific. I wanted to study what my father studied but I was not as smart as my dad. So I opted for other fields like pharmacy but at the time the Fiji School of Medicine was not accepting new intakes. The next option was physiotherapy. My mother was a very strong person. She was the one who pushed me to take on physiotherapy," she said.
She then continued her education at FSM before working three years at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital as a physiotherapist. Elina was then transferred to Rewa subdivision hospital in Wainibokasi.
In 2002, she married Sireli Naikelekelevesi who she met during one of his occasional training routines past her home on Suva's Extension Street. For Elina, physiotherapy is not only massaging people as most people would think. It is more of a hands-on job, interacting with patients and finding ways to help them or ease their pain. She said physiotherapy also deals with exercising as part of a treatment technique.
The mother of four believes anyone can achieve their dreams if they work hard, persevere and pray. One of her highlights was being a member of the medical team for the national basketball side during the South Pacific Games in 2003.
She was also the physio for the Tailevu rugby team and the Rewa soccer team. In 2005, Elina was the physio for the national netball team to the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand in 2005.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


IF you are a career woman, it can be hard managing your work and family, especially when you have 12 children.
But as the saying goes behind every successful man is a strong woman in Sulita Dugu's case, she had the support of her husband who made life a whole lot easier.
Sulita is the deputy headteacher at Holy Family Primary School in Labasa, Vanua Levu.
Her story about growing up in the interior of Macuata province, her journey into boarding school until she became a teacher reads like a bestselling biography.
Second in a family of four children, Sulita often played the role of eldest because her older brother was brought up by an aunt.
Her parents were simple villagers and farmers but her father worked hard for their future.
Her father Aisake Matayau went to Navuso Agricultural School to learn about tilling and planting the land.
He returned to the village after Navuso and started a dairy farm.
"We stayed on a farm near Nacaurokovi Village but the village had to relocate so the people could be near the main road.
"The actual village was called Naroqali and it was in the interior between Savusavu and Labasa.
"The new village site was near the main road for convenience.
"My father received limited education but he was able to apply the knowledge of agriculture he learnt at Navuso to start a farm.
"The cattle farm did not work out though because some people in the village said our cattle were polluting the water so my father stopped it and started a chicken farm.
"That too did not turn out well so he switched to yaqona and dalo farming.
"I remember watching my father waking up early in the morning to take dalo and grog to sell at the market.
"He used to walk in the dark with his kerosene lamp.
"The main road was far from where we lived and my father did all that to support us."
With her father's daily routine to the market, Sulita said they and their mother spent most of the time living alone until he came home.
She said her father would come back late at night from the market but they would eagerly be waiting for him and whatever goodies he brought home.
She said her father was a disciplined man and always stressed to them to go to school and work hard to get a better life.
"He did not want us to struggle in life as he did.
"The place we lived in was called Senitebe and our home was a Fijian bure.
"Everything in the village was very traditional but my father made sure we went to school.
"When I was six, my mother thought I was too young to go to school but my father would no accept it.
"I had always wanted to be a teacher. We went to primary school at Nabala Catholic Mission near Naduri. It was near the sea and a boarding school. "I started boarding from Class One and it was very hard.
"We had to do everything on our own but lucky for us we were looked after by nuns from the order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Nazareth (SOLN).
"From Nabala, I passed to Loreto High School at Tokou on Ovalau.
It was an all-girls Catholic school run by the nuns which later merged with the all-boys St John's College at Cawaci to be co-educational.
"I was one of the first senior students at the co-ed St John's College.
"I am among the fortunate students to be taught, inspired and motivated by the teachings of the Marist priests and nuns. For me, I have come to realise that you can only achieve great things if you work hard and are confident in what you do."
The tough boarding life groomed Sulita to be independent later in life.
In 1974, she enrolled at Corpus Christi Teachers Training College in Suva and graduated two years later as a teacher.
Her first posting was to St Peter Chanel School at Korolevu on the Coral Coast.
Like most first-timers, Sulita was nervous but excited at the prospect of going out into the professional world.
She says being a teacher is one the greatest privileges in life because she teaches and listens to children in primary school and it is always overwhelming for her.
"Being a teacher has always been my dream ever since I started school.
"As teachers, we have to be understanding and compassionate about the work we do.
"We listen to children and help them understand more about life.
"I was part of the excellence in education program organised by the Training and Productivity Authority of Fiji.
"It was an eye-opener for me as a teacher.
"I had always wanted to join a training program such as the one I attended to broaden my knowledge and scope on time management and how to develop students holistically to become better citizens.
"Managing my time as a teacher and looking after 12 children of my own is not easy but I am fortunate to have a husband who is hardworking and very understanding.
"I had four children when I was teaching in Lautoka and Ba.
"My other eight children were born when we moved to Seaqaqa.
"My husband was very good and considerate.
"When I had our children, he stayed home to look after them, cooking and doing the work at home.
"After our children grew up, he started working again."
In 2004, Sulita was appointed chaperon of the junior ambassadors of Fiji to Fukuoka in Japan.
Her parents bought a cane farm at Seaqaqa and she helped support her younger brother with his education. Her brother Romanu Turaganiwai is a doctor.
She said an important advice young people should follow is listen to your parents.
She said peer pressure made it hard for some people to listen to their parents. Sulita is a proud mother and grandmother.
One thing she is proud of is her 107-year-old grandmother who is still alive to see five generations of her clan.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Saturday, May 17, 2008


THERE is always a smile on Rosie Baleiwai's face when she talks about how she loves to take care and help children at the Early Intervention Centre at Hilton House in Suva.
The 37-year-old woman has been teaching at the centre for 13 years and does not regret the path she has chosen in life.
Rosie is an executive teacher for mainstream education at the centre.
Basically, she prepares children with special needs for the mainstream curriculum, hence her work is classed as special.
Born and bred in Suva, Rosie is originally from Vanuadina in Tokatoka, Tailevu.
Her father Jale Vatubua was a soldier while her mother Margaret Bucknell, of part-European decent, worked as a machinist at the Central Manufacturing Company which is now the British American Tobacco (Fiji) Limited at Nabua.
The youngest of two siblings, Rosie always had a soft spot for children.
"I was brought up in Suva, at Rewa Street, to be precise, and when I was young, I had always wanted to be a teacher in primary school," says Rosie.
"I love working with children and I was interested in reading and helping children.
"My parents were not that rich but we had the basics.
"They were in the low-income earners bracket which meant that life for us was a struggle.
"Fortunately, through my parents hard work, we were able to get a good education.
"They worked very hard to provide us with a good life.
"The thing that really inspired me to become a teacher was the fact that as a teacher we saw the children come to school with no skills and when they leave school, they had acquired skills which would help them be independent.
"That feeling is indescribable and it makes me feel happy to know that I helped make a difference in someone's life."
Rosie attended primary school at Veiuto before continuing at Suva Grammar School.
However in 1990, her father died and her mother was left to look after Rosie and her sister.
The following year, Rosie was able to further her education at West Lake College in New Zealand.
She returned to Fiji in 1992 and applied to the Fiji College of Advanced Education at Nasinu to become a teacher.
She had earlier applied to study at the Lautoka Teachers College but had to turn down the offer because her father was sick at that time.
"My dad didn't want me to live far so I turned down the offer to go to Lautoka. During my interview at FCAE, I told them that I had been accepted at LTC but had to turn down the offer.
Somehow, after that, my application went to LTC where I graduated in 1993. I was boarding at that time and it was a new experience for me.
"My first posting was to Navatusila District School at Nokonoko up the Sigatoka Valley in Navosa.
"It was a whole new experience for me especially when I had never been away from the city.
"I had to learn to cook my food using firewood and wash clothes outside.
"It was a learning experience for me but it was an enjoyable one as well."
From the salad bowl, Rosie returned to the city and spent one week at the Suva Special School in Namadi.
During that time, the headteacher of the centre, the late Adi Talatoka Kotobalavu, was looking for a young teacher and Rosie happened to fit the profile of a caring teacher.
She joined the centre in 1995 and has never regretted the path she took.
For her, teaching children with special needs at the centre has been challenging but she admits the patience involved in caring and teaching the children has been overwhelming.
"We are trained at teacher's college to teach the mainstream curriculum basically on the blackboard but when we are put in an environment such as the centre, it is a whole new world and a very different environment.
"However, when children from different backgrounds come together we help mould them and prepare them for the mainstream education to prepare them for the future.
"These children should be given the opportunity to learn. At the centre there are different expectations and different teaching methods involved.
"Children are very special and each of them learn differently.
"I usually have a class of nine children but the number of students varies through the week.
"However, I am very happy and I feel satisfied knowing that I can help these children."
The mother-of-four is an inspiration not only is the work she does a sign of her endless commitment and care for children but you can see the passion in her eyes when she expresses how passionate she is about the special children.
That, alone, is enough to make someone appreciate the role of special teachers in our society.
And in most cases, people such as Rosie happen to be the unsung heroes of our society.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


There is always a time in a person's life where medicine is needed to cure an illness or a sickness. The one person everyone usually goes to for this apart from the doctors and nurses are the pharmacists.
Like any pharmacist, Joshila Lal knows what it takes to make sure people get the right medication for their illness.
She is the pharmacist in charge at Pharmacy Plus in Suva.
Born and bred in the heart of Suva, Joshila is the youngest of two children.
Life was never easy for the young pharmacist especially when her father, Raman Lal was the only breadwinner in the family.
Growing up in Amy Street, Toorak, Joshila knew from an early age she wanted to help people.
Her father was a sales assistant and her mother, Bhanumati Lal was a housewife.
She said despite her father's low income, they still managed to live a happy life.
Joshila said her mother used to do odd jobs to help out with family finances.
"I was brought up in a poor family. We lived opposite the Suva Private Hospital which was not there before. We had a small home, one bedroom and my father was the only breadwinner at the time. It was a difficult life back then but we managed to get by," she said.
"My mother was a housewife but she also did odd jobs like tailoring and this helped with the finances of our family.
"It was my mother who wanted me to become a pharmacist because that time there was a pharmacy and a doctor living opposite us. She wanted my brother to be a doctor and me the pharmacist. However, I turned out to be the pharmacist and my brother turned out to be a teacher."
In 1981, she attended primary school at Nehru Memorial and later continued her secondary education at Dudley High completing Form Seven.
Fortunately for her, hard work and perseverance paid off when she was awarded the John Crawford scholarship which is now known to many as the AusAID scholarship.
"I attended Victorian College of Pharmacy in Melbourne, Australia. It was my first time away from home and I stayed at a boarding house and it was something I enjoyed despite missing my family. I found the experience an eye opener especially since it was a whole new experience for me. There were a lot of differences in Australia like the way things were taught at university as well as the different cultures.
"I wasn't the only one homesick. There were other students from Singapore and Malaysia who felt the same way I did when I first arrived. Missing home and finding everything new. It was something we had in common and this is what made us get along with life.
"I graduated in 1998 with a degree in Pharmacy. This was after I did my training and internship. I also completed a Diploma of Health Science in Herbal Medicine."
Apart from university life, Joshila also worked for a little extra pocket money.
She was employed as a sales assistant at a pharmacy in Australia where she was able to save up for casual holidays overseas including Europe and Thailand.
Joshila worked in Australia for five years before returning to Fiji in 2002. She was then employed at Medicine Pharmacy at Cumming Street, Suva for three years.
"I then went to Lautoka to work at Thakor Lal's Pharmacy. Eventually, I came back to Suva and I only just recently started work here at Pharmacy Plus.
"My job requires me to be on the move all the time. Being a pharmacist is not easy. You have to make sure people get the right dosage, the right medication for the right person.
"It is a job that needs constant concentration because you are dealing with people. You need to double check everything you do to make sure the right person gets the right medicine.
"To be a pharmacist, one needs to study hard, persevere and show dedication.
"The most important thing is to have the passion to want to help people. If you don't have that then it is no use being a pharmacist. I enjoy the work I do because I know I am helping people," said the young pharmacist.
Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


CARE giving is not an easy job because it takes a lot of willingness, love and care to look after the elderly.
To be able to share her knowledge on nursing and care giving is fulfilling for Sofaia Buli Katia.
Sofaia, 62, is the operations manager for Care Giver Services International (Fiji).
She was born with the passion and heart for helping others in Suva. The eldest of five children, Sofaia is from Qalikarua Village, Matuku in Lau.
Her parents were Temo and Senimili Bola. Her father was an accountant with the Ministry of Health and her mother a nurse at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.
Following in her parent's footsteps by working for the betterment of the nation, Sofaia was always interested in teaching Home Science.
"I grew up in Charles Street, Toorak before we moved to the Draiba government quarters in Nasese." she says.
"I wanted to be a teacher but as I grew up, I wanted to be a nurse. I found nursing good and I enjoy helping other people, especially the elderly and sick.
"I remember looking after my young siblings and sometimes I looked after my maternal grandparents at Nabudrau in Noco.
"I learned a lot of things such as how to allocate chores to my siblings and look after my grandparents."
Sofaia attended Annesley which is now Suva Methodist Primary then to Ballantine Memorial at Delainavesi and Dudley High in Toorak where she completed Form Five. In 1965, she entered nursing school. I was one of the few students chosen to study New Zealand nursing courses at Central Nursing School which is FSN now. I was happy about the opportunity and was very interested in nursing. However, our tutor was learning how to teach and I was interested in teaching too.
"I inquired about being a nurse educator. At that time, top nursing people thought I was going to leave nursing to join Nasinu Teachers College.
"When it was time for the tutors to go back to New Zealand, someone had to continue the program in Fiji and I was chosen to be an understudy to the tutor.
"It was hard because you have to teach student nurses and learn how to deal with people."
In 1968, she graduated as a New Zealand-trained nurse and did her internship at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.
In 1969, when she was in her early 20s, she became a tutor at nursing school. It was difficult at first especially having to speak English all the time but she managed.
"I was transferred to Lautoka where I spent 18 months before returning to Suva.
"When I returned, I was asked to run the New Zealand nursing program with Rigieta Nadakuitavuki.
"In 1975, I completed a vocational teacher's certificate course at the University of the South Pacific.
"I also helped with lectures in anatomy for paramedics at nursing school in Suva and also helped teach in the same field at the Fiji School of Medicine. I got married in 1971 and in 1979 my husband obtained a scholarship to for his post-graduate studies in dentistry at Otago University in New Zealand.
"We left for NZ and came back in 1980 and moved to Lautoka where my husband was transferred and I went back to teaching at Lautoka Nursing School.
"When the school closed in 1987, I came back to FSN in Tamavua."
Through her hard work and perseverance, Sofaia became the matron in service at Lautoka Hospital in 1992.
In 1997, she completed her nursing degree at Sydney University. She retired from nursing in 2001 but did part-time work as a supervisor at CWM Hospital.
Sofaia was later asked to take charge of the Diploma in Children Services program at the Australia Pacific Tertiary Institute.
She later joined CSI in 2007 sharing her knowledge and experience in the field of care giving.
"There are a lot of things I want to share about care giving," she said.
"The word care giving is another word for nursing.
"Here at CSI, we teach about the ageing process and communication is very important.
"We teach people how to care for old people. Care giving is a stepping stone for other things in life.
"The important thing about care giving is showing love and care for people of all ages.
"It is about good personal care and is something I am happy and proud of doing," the mother-of-four said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, May 5, 2008


While many 18-year-olds are still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up, Luke Shannon already enjoys the work he does.
Originally from Stirling, in Scotland, Luke is a volunteer physical education teacher at the Nasikawa Vision College, in Sigatoka.
The lanky teen has dedicated his time to share his knowledge and sports skills with athletes from the college.
Since arriving in February, Luke has only one thing on his mind and that is to help teach students ways to develop their natural athletic talents.
His parents are Rosie and Robin Shannon.
His father works as a management consultant while his mother is a teacher.
Although Luke seems to follow in his mother's footsteps by being a volunteer teacher, he definitely has a passion for something else sport.
"This is my first time to come to Fiji and I am very excited and happy being here," he said.
"I am here as a volunteer PE teacher for the Gap Activity Project.
"It is a charitable organisation and we offer our services for the betterment of the people we work with.
"As for me, I have been actively involved in sports back home so I volunteered my services to help in the area of sports.
"My sister went to Malaysia as a volunteer so I became interested in being a volunteer too.
"It is very challenging but I am looking forward to the rest of my stay here." He said this was not the first time for volunteers from the charitable organisation to work in Fiji. Luke said in 2002 a group of volunteers came to Fiji specialising in different fields and helping out whenever they could.
Like most volunteers, Luke does not mind his unpaid services.
His satisfaction comes from helping an athlete improve his or her skills in sports.
He was part of the Coca-Cola Light Games, officiating as an arena marshal.
Being part of the secondary schools athletics meet was another memorable experience for him.
"Seeing the talent in local athletes is fantastic," he said.
"There is a lot of natural talent among the students and it is good to have these kinds of competitions where they can develop their talent.
"I mostly help them with training, so for me too this is a learning process too.
"I want to learn the different cultures here and I have made many friends.
"Fiji is a fantastic place and the people are really friendly.
"I had to sign up with the charity organisation and I had to pay for my travel and accommodation.
"However, the experience here is great," he said.
Luke is not the only volunteer at the Nasikawa Vision College.
Another volunteer, Michael Perry, from England, is sports teacher as well.
They both are in the country for seven months and will leave in August.
However, despite coming half way across the world to help develop the talents of students at the college, the two volunteers will take with them fond memories of their time in Fiji.

Adapted from fijitimes Online

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Newly-weds Christine and Warren Pickering chanced upon the idea for a new business while preparing for their December nuptials last year.
The couple, who had a sunset theme for their wedding and reception, were having trouble finding the right coloured flowers for their special day.
Taking the matter into their own hands, they experimented with pigment treating dendrobium orchids.
The response from wedding guests was such that the Pickerings knew they were on to something.
After a couple of months of perfecting their pigment treating technique, they launched Fusion Orchids on February 13, the day before Valentine's, at the Mid City Plaza in Suva.
At first, people walked by the brightly-coloured orchids assuming they were fake, says Christine.
But once they realised they weren't plastic or spray painted, they fell in love with them, she says.
"Our orchids being very different and unique have surprised a lot of people making them appreciate orchids even more."
The couple says the tropical orchids are naturally treated to bring out the spectacular colours that make a Fusion Orchid.
The process does not affect the life span of the flowers, which last between one to two weeks, they say.
In all, the company has 10 types with evocative names like sunset, aqua and cinnabar.
For Valentine's Day, their best seller was the cinnabar, which has a bright pinkish red hue.
The couple sells a strand or spray with 10 to 20 orchids on it for $8. Fusion Orchids sells bouquets and floral arrangements and carries out decorations for events on request.
Since its February debut, the fledgling business has been targeting special occasions like birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, conferences and functions.
"One of our specialties is being able to satisfy the floral needs of every bride-to-be, by giving them a choice of orchids to match their wedding theme," says Christine.
Now catering to other people's weddings, the couple has come full circle with their new business.
"We never really thought of entering the floral industry but since we're both business minded we saw an opportunity and took advantage of it," says Warren.
The couple sees themselves as "floral revolutionists", "offering something new and innovative into the floral industry". "Introducing a new concept to an established market has been exhilarating for us," he says.
However, it hasn't all been smooth sailing.
"Starting a new business that is introducing a new concept into an established market is very challenging," he says.
"The market needs time to grasp and accept the concept being introduced. However we don't see this as being a drawback, but being part of the growing process."
Christine adds: "Creating awareness and changing customer perceptions towards our unique orchids has seen the business gradually grow."
The Pickerings know they have their work cut out given the country's current economic situation and consequent downturn in consumer spending with flowers being considered a luxury. "The odds of survival have been stacked up against us," she says.
To keep costs down, the young couple (who are in their mid-20s) operate from home.
To other young people thinking of venturing out on their own, they say: "Starting a business is not easy. Be sure to put in 110 per cent into it because you're working for your own benefit."
Fusion Orchids has a stand in the Mid City Plaza from 10.30 am to 2pm every Saturday.
Rajan Sami is a freelance writer and photographer based in Suva.


Adapted from Fijitimes Online


FOR the older generations who frequently enter the gates of the Maximum Security Unit at Naboro, from the 70s and 80s and even until today, no one rose above Mataiasi Curusese, alias Make It.
But the Make It of that time which everyone knew, now takes a new road toward nation building by the plans that founded his knowledge of the sport of boxing in between his religious and lifetime testimonies of helping the young generation, in particular those who may be following his footsteps and still chasing their dream.
But his lifetime testimonies started way back in 1978 at the age of 18 where his life had only one goal to achieve and one vision to fulfil — to become a world champion in the only trade he knew, boxing.
His success throughout his amateur days and even his short professional career was inspired by the visions and dreams of being the first Fijian to don a world boxing title in his weight level.
Today, the mind that built his unfinished career and dreams has gone and he stands alone, reminiscing on a past chapter of his life he wants to bring back to life.
His story really starts at the setting of the sun in the Soul Man era with high-heeled shoes and bell bottoms, peace signs on Lee jackets with matching overall and pointed steel-toed boots, rock and roll music giving way to hip hop tunes, mini skirts with punk haircuts and weird bands like Kiss and others into heavy metal rock.
In the streets of Suva, the Green Army's dominant voice and reputation took quite a beating by the authorities on a clean-up campaign embarking on new concepts of development.
For the Ministry of Youth and Development, new sporting events and coaches like the late Harry Charman and Henry Gibson with martial arts, acrobat training and boxing with its overseas connections started cleaning the streets of Suva of homeless youths and a couple of Green Army people included joined the rollercoaster ride in the government's newly introduced "fight against crime".
Later in the same decade, the Police Mobile Unit now known as the Tactical Response Team had taken another approach as they patrolled the streets of Suva after 1am where a curfew was initiated for drunkards to stay clear of the streets.
If found on any corner in Suva or surrounding areas, you were placed under arrest and charged the next morning.
It was during this era that a lad of 17 and a bony expression and built reaching a little over five feet, eight inches, walked into the gym at the Union Club.
He picked a boxing glove, put it on and was called into the ring minutes later for a fight.
It was the beginning of what would rewrite the course of young Make It's life in his new path to the life he always wished for — to be an ambassador of his country to any games overseas.
With every opponent, he approached with the concept of becoming the best and later on a world champion.
It made him different from all the others.
It was during his training sessions that he developed another program to watch the other boxers.
His timing in the art of interception, as it was later introduced to the silver screen by the legendary Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do fighting techniques — where he could make two moves to every move you made.
For Make It, he developed a two-way counter that led with a decoy movement of the head showing his opponents his approach and then attacking the other parts of the body.
His eyes would clearly signify his targets whether it was the body, rib cage or the face.
Like the once undisputed world boxing champion Mike Tyson, his fall from grace hit him like a thunderstorm that never gave him a second chance in life but a
bottomless hole he is still falling through today.
It was a woman and a jail sentence that dethroned Tyson.
For Make It, it was a wrong turn that he still winces about today even though it was done in accordance of the gang law book.
Entering prison, being just a week away from the second phase of his world championship route, a Commonwealth tour, his first plans were to do his time, get out and get back with his life.
"It was the first thing I saw in there that made me what I became through those years.
"People were being forced to lick the concrete walkways clean with their bare tongue. Some were forced to eat cockroaches and the beatings, they said, were government orders to rehabilitate us, calling us animals," Make It said.
That changed every concept of his approach to prison.
He looked to the ministry as a fatherly figure which would develop him further in his dreams with their guiding hands but he saw the opposite.
His talent took to another bout in prison as he clashed with the guards throughout his sentence.
Unlike the others who gave in to the concrete-cleaning process when forced, he refused and every refusal called for another unofficial bout in the jungle where no holds were barred.
Meeting up with Iliaseri Saqasaqa (General), they organised what was to be the first strike in prison in 1980.
It was Make It who appointed General to be their spokesman, being the oldest in prison, while he became their hitman when all other methods failed.
It was Make It who torched every building during the riots.
The officers knew the prisoners hierarchy system that led to him and General being placed in dark cells after the takeover. As for Make It, he was confined to solitary dark cell punishment for six months without a blanket or mattress.
"Whether it was night or day, you could never tell but the number of meals," he said.
"If three came one after another, than it was daytime.
"The cold was unbearable and the dark cell is a terrifying experience.
"For us who spent more than a month in that place, we now suffer from arthritis."
Make It was released in the mid 80s and the two of them (him and General) had numerous cases of armed robbery across the country. His dreams of reaching the top had long been forgotten but what remained was rage.
"At times, all I could think of was killing. I came out with so much anger that I just wanted to raise an army and just drive by shooting and killing people."
His colleagues from Maximum, now free, picked up a new identity in crime violent robbers.
"The crimes that followed were always done in violence. Without it, we sort of missed out on our trademark and it wasn't us."
What took away his pride and love of his dream tainted his life forever that even his expression and his newly reformed concepts of nation building was a total contrast.
"I only want to get back to the ring as an assistant to any developing program that might see my ideas and the ways I developed my speed techniques.
"That is what I want to give back to the youths of today because along the line, there could be one more hungry than what I was but in the rhythm of the wrong company."
He said things could be smooth by the way they look but one thing he learned through experience is that some of the problems we face in this world, we did not chose them.
They chose us through our unseen fate and destiny.
"We cannot say one is better than the other or this one I prefer from the other one.
"They all have their gift to our understanding and experience building if we were to take a closer look at them and learn from them. In my own way and experience, I have learned to understand that every sad thing I encountered at the Maximum Security Unit, the insults and everything I call degrading was my preparation for the tonnes of experiences I want to share with the youths of today in the course of nation building."

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


EVERYONE is blessed with a talent or gift to do something special.
While some can sing or draw, Mele Chambers is a creative woman.
Her handicraft include mat and tapa-design baskets, handbags, shell beads and necklaces and other assorted handicraft for the home.
The 62-year-old woman of Samoan and Tokelauan descent was born and bred in Suva but as a child, she travelled to and fro from Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji.
Third in a family of five children, Mele started learning handicraft from a young age.
Her parents were Simeona Peni and Lise Esera.
Her father was a doctor
and that is why they travelled a lot to various Pacific islands.
"My maternal grandparents were missionaries from the London Missionary Society who went to Tuvalu.
"They were from Tokelau.
"My paternal grandparents were also missionaries but from Samoa.
"They too went to Tuvalu for their mission.
"That is where my parents met.
"That time, my mother used to help teach at missionary schools and then became a teacher.
"My parents got married in Tuvalu.
"Being a doctor was very hard and in those days, my father was the doctor for Gilbert and Ellis Islands (now Kiribati and Tuvalu).
"So we used to travel here and there a lot.
"After my maternal grandparents finished their missionary work in Tuvalu, they came back to Fiji.
"Unfortunately, my parents divorced and my mother was left to look after us."
Mele attended primary school at different levels in Samoa, and Tuvalu.
She continued her secondary school at Elaine Bernacchi Girls School in the late 1950s.
Mele is one of the pioneers of the school at Tarawa, Kiribati.
She came to Fiji in 1961 and rented at the Suva Hotel.
Mele's passion for creativity came from her grandmother.
"When I was young, my grandmother used to teach the craft in Tuvalu.
"She taught handicraft particular to Samoa and Tokelau.
"I used to watch her teach and eventually I was able to teach myself how to weave baskets.
"We moved to Waikerekere settlement at Veisari and our family house has been there since 1961.
"I continued my education at a commercial school studying typing. I got my Certificate in Typing but I decided to stay home and help my mother so my younger siblings could attend school.
"There were times when we used to spend the night outside the market to sell our handicraft to tourists who came in cruise liners that came.
"We sold a lot of things and it was good then because a lot of liners called."
Mele worked as a machinist at Kiwi United factory. She met Arthur Chambers from Nadroga and married in 1968.
She said apart from her Samoan, Kiribati and Tokelau baskets, she can also weave and design Tongan bags and baskets.
"After I married I stayed home and looked after my six children.
"I used to make roti parcels for my husband to sell at work just to help out especially when he was the only breadwinner.
"That time we had our own place but we moved back to Veisari 10 years ago, that is when I started to make mat and tapa baskets and bags.
"There were a lot of women in the area who knew how to make them but they did not really think of it.
"We formed the Veisari Women's Handicraft Association and held workshops to teach other women in our area the art of making handicraft.
"I used to have a stall at the Suva handicraft centre and gave it to the other women to sell their wares.
"I took it back last year and started selling my handicraft.
"The creativity and imagination is endless when it comes to designing your own baskets and mats.
"You can come up with all sorts of fancy designs.
"I love making them and it makes me happy."
Mele said handicraft was not only about making baskets, bags or fancy necklaces.
It is about having the passion to do something creative and unique.
For Mele, her handicraft work shows the hard work and dedication she put in to earn a decent living.
It is something she has never regretted.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


THE backbone of the Red Cross movement the world over is its volunteers - close to 100 million men and women in 191 countries working for 186 national societies.
They're engaged in a labour of love to make sure fellow citizens who need their help receive it.
The Fiji Red Cross is no different. It has 15 branches nationwide with about 300 active volunteers.
The volunteers are driven only by their desire to make the lives of those they serve, a little better with each visit.
They're paid travelling expenses and a small allowance for their effort.
Each volunteer is trained in a chosen area.
In the West, 62-year-old retired Lautoka Hospital ward assistant, Hazra Khan, decided that staying home to watch the grass grow was not for her.
So in February this year, she signed on as a volunteer with the Lautoka branch,
Hazra not only ensures the day starts off on a clean note, but she's also taken on community visits with trained health and welfare volunteers as an observer.
"She's like a mother to the volunteers and whenever there is a need, she is always available - and when she's asked to do something, she does it with a warm smile," says branch president, Ganpati. In Levuka, 42 year-old Daya Wati is the heart and soul of the Levuka branch.
The former Suva resident moved to the old capital after she married a resident on the island.
Her boat trip to Levuka just so happened to coincide with the day of the 1987 coup, a point that is not lost on her as she recounts how she has over the years grown to love her adopted home.
Daya has been a volunteer with Levuka branch since the late 1990's but before she became a volunteer, she was a beneficiary - well, not her directly but her children.
Her two sons - Rajeev and Rajesh - were born with cataracts.
Cataracts form when the protein in the lens clump together, - this produces a 'clouding' or frosted affect.
"My oldest son Rajeev went to school when it was time but when he went into Class Two, the teachers told me to put him into Nora Frasier's school because he wasn't coping," Daya said.
People from Levuka will remember the late Nora Frasier, a Canadian woman who set up a school on the island for children with special needs.
Nora was also a vibrant and tireless Health and Welfare volunteer with Red Cross Levuka branch. Her contact with the community saw her help hundreds of children with differing needs.
"When I took him to Mrs. Frasier, she assessed him and my younger son Rajesh who also had cataracts," Daya said.
"Mrs. Frasier made arrangements for Rajeev to have his cataracts operated on. Three months later Rajesh also had an operation and since then I have committed myself as a volunteer for Red Cross."
Rajeev is now an active 17 year-old back in mainstream school working towards completing his secondary education. Rajesh is 14 years-old and still attending the Nora Frasier School.
"My children would not have had the benefit of sight if it wasn't for Nora Frasier and the Red Cross," Daya said.
"I dedicate all my free time helping out where ever I can at the branch because I feel I have to give something back."
Hazra and Daya are but two of many Red Cross volunteers who work to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable.Become a volunteer with Red Cross, download a volunteer form at> or contact your nearest Red Cross

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


THERE is no other way to reach the top than through hard work. That is one of the most important lessons Avikali Bete has learned.
Being a senior supervisor at Eagle Cleaning Services Limited in Suva, is a position Avikali never thought she would attain.
In fact, she never thought a cleaning lady's lot would mean much of a life.
Born and bred in the old capital, Avikali was adopted by an Indian father and part-Solomon Islands mother. Her adopted parents were David and Siteri Bechu and she grew up on a farm at Nukutocia Village on Ovalau.
"I was adopted when I was four days old but I did not know until I was 18.
"I did not really think about it until I was in primary school when I started to question why I was different because my father was Indian and my mother part-Solomon," Avikali said.
Her brothers and sister were much older than her when she started school. Out of school, there was farm work.
"I used to fetch water from the well before school. There were times when I was responsible for taking the cows out for grazing or milking. It was a hard life."
Her father was a bus driver and only breadwinner while her mother was a housewife but while times were tough, food was never a problem.
Avikali said her parents worked hard to provide them with an education. She attended Marist Convent Primary School in Levuka with lawyer Imrana Jalal.
"During our time in primary school, we had to be neat and much disciplined. I used to go to school with flip flops.
"Sometimes I had one exercise book for three subjects. I wanted to be a lawyer because I found their work very interesting and challenging.
"I was called Ivy Bechu in primary school. I continued my education at St John's College in Cawaci. At that time there was no Form Six so we had to sit Form Five twice.
"There was upper and lower Fifth, unfortunately, I was not able to complete my studies because my parents could not afford my fees. I really wanted to continue with my education but it was very unfortunate."
She said it was on her 18th birthday party that she was introduced to her biological parents who she called aunty and uncle. Avikali then came to Suva to live with her sister before getting married.
Unfortunately, she divorced and with three children to support, Avikali knew she had to do something to support them.
Her first job was as a cashier at the Lilac Theatre before moving to the Phoenix. She then worked at Desai Bookshop and as a stock officer at Tiko's Floating Restaurant.
"It was all new for me and I took every opportunity I got because I had three children to support. It was a big challenge being a single mother but I knew I could do it.
"I then worked at the Golden Dragon for eight years as a cleaner and cashier. Then I left for a job at the Central Queensland University as a cleaner for 32 toilets. It was hard. I didn't think I would last but I ended up cleaning there for about nine years.
"It was a hard life but I was used to it because I was brought up on a farm.
"I was never embarrassed of what I was doing because at the end of the day I was helping my children with their education.
"From there, I was reassigned to clean at the University of the South Pacific. This time, I was cleaning offices and labs at USP.
"After that, I spent eight months working as a waitress at Downtown Boulevard. For me, being a waitress was a step up from a cleaner and I was very happy."
Not long after, she was promoted to senior supervisor of the cleaning company on Rewa Street. Avikali said her job involves making sure the cleaners have the right cleaning chemicals and are efficient and hard working. She said despite the troubles in her life, she never quits. She said she was proud of where she reached today because she knows her hard work has been recognised.
"My advice to people is that no matter what job you do, if you work hard, you will reap the benefits. I started as a cleaner for a long time and never complained about my job even though I used to earn $32 a week.
"I was always grateful for what I had and what I was given. It is something people should remember.
"In the cleaning industry, working wholeheartedly, being trustworthy and punctual are the keys to success," she said.
Adapted from Fijitimes Online