Monday, May 26, 2008


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