Saturday, June 28, 2008


UNIQUE, authentic and great tasting. They are three reasons that Dickson Lum (pictured) stuck with Japanese cuisine for 21 years.
He says the traditional diet is one of the healthiest in the world the emphasis on authenticity, practicality, health and simplicity.
Tofu. Miso. Sushi. Gree tea. Soba. These are terms that even locals are becoming familiar with.
Dickson's first brush with anything Japanese came about in 1987 while working at Sheraton Fiji on Denarau, Nadi.
It was there that he met the owner of Daikoku, a restaurant that specialises in Japanese food. The rest is history.
He is now a supervisor, looking after the sushi bar at the Daikoku restaurant in Martintar, Nadi.
Dickson attended Vatukoula Marist Convent Primary School and completed his secondary education at AD Patel in Ba.
"My intention was never to be a chef or be involved in the food industry," he said.
"After high school I moved on to FIT in Suva, aspiring to become a mechanic. During my second year at FIT I had come down to Nadi."
"That's when things started to change for me. I started working for this Japanese guy Ikeda and ran his business for him."
Dickson said after that stint he found employment with the Sheraton Fiji when it first opened its doors for business in 1987.
He said while at the Sheraton he met the owner of Daikoku Restaurant.
"I was asked whether or not I would like to work at their restaurant in New Guinea," he said. "I saw this as a challenge which I grabbed with both hands. I got to learn Japanese cooking."
"While I was out there in New Guinea I also got to do my cookery courses and other short courses to add to my qualifications."
He stayed in New Guinea for eight years
Dickson, who refused to divulge his age or delve in his personal life, said young people need to outgrow the mentality that being a chef was a third grade job.
He said there were great career opportunities and money that could be earned by people who mastered the craft.
"You are stars especially in the food business because it's you that prepare customers' meals."
In 1995 when Daikoku opened its doors for business in Nadi town, Dickson returned to Fiji.
"When Daikoku opened for business here in Nadi, I came back to work here and been here ever since," he said.
"It's been more than ten years that I have been based with Daikoku here in Nadi.
"Learning Japanese cooking is not very easy as you need a lot of skills to prepare meals.
"Even though I have been preparing Japanese meals for a while, I learn something new every day."



IT was 1979 the nation a mere nine years old when Faimanu Mua first started work at The Fiji Times.
She had taken a roundabout journey to get there first working within the civil service and then in tourism industry at what was then called The Fijian Hotel.
It was the days of stencils, telex machines and typewriters.
Fai who has been secretary to the chief accountant, financial controller and company secretary, and managing director says the 70s and early 80s were a comparatively labour-intensive time.
"We used to type up our material. If you wanted to send anything overseas you had to use a telex machine," she said.
"We used a big telex machine at the office on Gordon Street to send reports to headquarters. Then the first fax machines came in but only at FINTEL. So I used to go there to fax our weekly reports.
"Sometimes I used to stay until 8 pm because of the long line of people waiting. So the trick was to go to FINTEL early. It was a challenge."
On the eve of her retirement from The Fiji Times, Fai smiles as she recalls the days before technology made working life a whole lot easier.
"It was actually our newsroom that got the first fax machine and they kept it in the editor's secretary's office. Later they bought the first computer to use for accounts secretarial work. But it sat in the accountant's office for about six months because nobody knew what to do with it. So they got a trainer in for us," she laughs.
She says the same situation occurred when email was introduced but this time the training was faster and life was much easier all round. She says pre-email a lot more organisation was required to make sure everything ticked.
"Once we were stuck because our ink supplier who was supposed to hold three months' stock on-hand had run out. In fact, we only had enough to last a few days. For a newspaper that's a crisis. We had to organise a special delivery from New Zealand to get the weekend paper out.
"It really tested us. But that mistake never happened ever again".
Then there's the time when The Fiji Times helped out a newspaper in Samoa which ran out of newsprint.
"We had to arrange for them to get some of our newsprint from Fiji so they could get their paper out".
During her 29 years at The Fiji Times, Fai has seen many changes to the company and the nation.
She still has a copy of the letter sent by the managing director in 1987 advising staff they could come back to work (after the military had shut them down for six weeks).
Now Fai says she's ready for a "quiet life" running a little shop at Malhaha in Rotuma and looking after her 94-year-old mother.
"I'm going to take it slow from now on. Things have definitely evolved from when we cut a tape to send telex reports."


Thursday, June 26, 2008


NAVITALAI Gagalia sent his figure juggling skills to the backburner as soon his senses calculated he was a natural in the kitchen.
Decades later, he now considers himself a Jack of all Trades in tourism. He views all hardships and difficulties faced on the job as "just another challenge".
Growing up, Navi, as he is known to friends, always wanted to be a banker. He loved accounting and mathematics throughout his school days.
But his career path took a change in direction while waiting for a response from the first interview for his dream job. To kill time, Navi decided to take up a few classes with the catering school in Suva. There was no turning back once he fell in love with the concept of pleasing the senses with food. By the time the bank called with a job offer, he had made up his mind and turned down the position.
Navi calls it his fairy journey into the tourism industry where he has made a significant contribution during the 20 years of his working life.
While studying at catering school, Navi carried out his practical studies at The Fijian (before it carried the Shangri La name) and Musket Cove resorts.
Straight after completing his education at catering school, Navi secured a position as butcher hand at the Hyatt Regency Fiji (now known as the Warwick Resort).
The lad from Wailoku in Suva worked hard making his way up the ladder into the larder section then into the kitchen main line where he started preparing meals for guests of the five-star property. He was not about to settle with what he was doing as he continued his progress by moving into the pastry section.
Willing to try everything out in the diverse tourism industry, Navi even took a dab at waiting tables in the Food and Beverage Department.
In 1990, he accepted the challenge of manning the hotel switchboard. It was during this period that his "big break" ultimately came through his voice.
"One evening while I was on duty, the then general manager, Giovanni Roghi called for room service and I happened to take the call," he said.
"After we spoke, he asked for my name and said that he wished that I became a receptionist. I became the first male receptionist to work during day shifts, handling the PABX system which was new at the time."
Navi, adorned with his large white hibiscus tekiteki, eventually became the welcoming sight for guests arriving at the property along the Coral Coast.
Motivated to continue with his impressive career at the resort, he moved on to become a night auditor, reservations clerk, reservations manager, duty manager, front office manager and reservations/front officer manager.
During his employment, he was named Employee of the Month three times, Employee of the Year once and has also been the runner up for the Air New Zealand Young Achiever of the Year Award.
Navi was also the first secretary for the Fiji Men's Netball Association. While you may think he has completed his rise to the top of his well rounded career think again because in May last year, Mr Gagalia was promoted to sales manager.
And judging from his highly-motivated, outspoken and energised personality, Navi is bound to reach new heights in his career in the years to come.
He said even though he never thought of a career in tourism during his school days he has never had any regrets since joining the Hyatt Regency Fiji.
He said he could not imagine himself moving and working for another resort especially since he was present for most of the property's transformation including the name change from Hyatt Regency to Warwick Resort.
He said with the resort being only an hours drive away from his family home, his life revolved around the property. He has his sights on managing a property.
He said as his career progressed, there could come a point where he would consider taking up the challenge of managing a property, probably a smaller boutique resort in the country.
He said like him, others could find a whole new dream in the tourism industry especially since one becomes exposed to people of different backgrounds.
Navi said he was fortunate to have worked with people like Jamal Serhan, Jack Stark, Tammy Tam and Petero Manufolau, from whom he has and continues to draw inspiration from.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Whenever one hears the surname Musunamasi, rugby league pops up. However, being actively involved in the sport was something Peni Musunamasi never seriously considered. In fact, he initially wanted to become an aircraft engineer although his older brother and cousins donned the national jumper in rugby.
Born on June 17, 1963, Peni is the youngest of three children. His father was doctor Kemueli and his mother, a nurse, was Alanieta. Originally from Naioti, Yale in Kadavu, Peni had a fairly simple upbringing. His father's hectic work commitments meant a lot of travelling time for the family. Despite this, sport has been a family affair for the Musunamasis.
"The longest place I've lived in is Rakiraki but this was when I was a bit older. Growing up, I have seen how my dad helped people not only in the health aspect but also in sports. He was the rugby coach of the provinces we moved to," he said.
"When I was younger, I wanted to be an aircraft engineer because I thought the role and responsibilities of aircraft engineers were very important. That was my aim but somewhere down the line that did not happen."
Peni believes people should have an open mind when doing anything. He said with dedication and commitment to one's aims and goals in life, anything is possible.
With a vague memory of his initial days in primary school, Peni attended Intermediate school at Adi Maopa in 1974. He then went on to start Form One at Ratu Kadavulevu School.
However, two years later when he was in Form Three, Peni did not go to school. His parents were reluctant to buy him new uniforms after he kept losing them.
Eventually, he was put into boarding school where he spent two years at Queen Victoria.
Peni said life at boarding school was probably the first taste of being independent. He said from the start of Form One, they were expected to pick up after themselves. This meant washing their own clothes and helping out with plantation work.
"When I reached QVS in 1979, my older brother was there. Life at boarding school was a good experience. There were times when we got too independent but the hardships at boarding school made us work hard to live a better life.
"There are quite a number of people who have come out of QVS and have done well in life. In school, I belonged to Bau House and the catchphrase was unity never fails. This is one message I always try to instigate into the lives of our players."
He said education is very important and although he was not able to complete Form Six, he learned the value of hard work. He is glad to have gone through the difficulties of surviving on one's own.
Rugby league
Although he is the chairman for the Fiji National Rugby League, Peni seldom played rugby when he was in school. He was physically small and when he did play the game, he represented the second team.
Peni comes from a family of rugby players. His older brother Ilaitia Naqau is the Fiji Bati team manager as well as a former national rep. His first cousins have also represented Fiji on several occasions. Even his first cousin, the late Kemueli Musunamasi represented Fiji against the British Lions in 1977.
As timid and tiny back then, Peni always had an interest to represent the country in sports. He realised if he did not have the rugby flare and talent to play the sport, he could do something behind the scenes to help in the development of ruggers. "When I first saw the way rugby league was played, I knew this was a game for Fijians.
"At the time, I was the assistant manager for the Nadera Panthers team.
"Rugby league started in 1992 then. I have seen that through this sport, players have been able to get good lives.
"It has helped a few families now overseas. I owe a lot to rugby league. Being part of rugby league in Fiji is a give and take field.
"Since my involvement in the sport, rugby league has taught me a lot especially about responsibilities.
"I noticed not many people care about responsibilities, but being in a managerial position responsibilities are important especially the welfare of the players."
When he is not in the chairman's seat, Peni is the acting advisor technical for the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission.
He has been with the organisation for almost 20 years now.
Fast facts
Married to Ulamila who is from Vanuabalavu.
Has four children, three sons and one daughter
FNRL chairman in 2002, 2006-2008
Bati team manager on six occasions
Was club manager of the year in 1996
2005 FASANOC Volunteer of the Year
2007 FASANOC Administrator of the Year
10 things about him
His father is his mentor
Favourite drink - Water
Loves his wife's chopsuey
Loves to spend time with family
Prefers to listen to Dokidoki Gospel
Favourite movie is Gladiator
Considers Russell Crowe his favourite actor
Believes his cousin Ponipate Naqau is an inspiration for ruggers
His mother is from Mua, Batiki, Lomaiviti
Paternal grandmother is Tongan from Hapai in Hihifo. and his father was born there.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


People do not often get to hear about the lives and trials of people from the Old Capital. For 28-year-old Lydia Taylor feels been born and bred in Levuka is a blessing in disguise.
She is a senior ranger at the National Trust of Fiji Islands office based at the Levuka Community Centre. Life growing up was fairly normal although she spent her childhood days living with her grandparents.
Her father, George Taylor Thomas hails from Udukacu in Taveuni while her mother, Keresi Vai is from Nawaka Village in Nadi. The eldest in a family of four children, Lydia had an interest in art although she also wanted to follow in her mother's footsteps.
"My father was a dock worker and my mother was a staff nurse at the Levuka hospital. My parents worked very hard and made sure we had a good upbringing. Growing up with my grandparents and aunties is something I will appreciate forever.
"I count myself fortunate to be brought up in Levuka. Life was simple and pleasant till today. I remember going to school on foot, making friends with children of different races, playing in the park and not worrying about spending money or taking lunch to school."
Lydia said after moving to Nadi in 1991, life became challenging. She said being the eldest meant she was expected to help out a lot with family chores. The other challenges she faced then were beginning school in the village, learning more about the Fijian way of living, dress code, respect for elders and basically broadening her knowledge on Fijian culture and tradition.
"I attended primary school at Marist Convent from 1985 to 1990 from Class One to Six. The following year, we moved to Nadi because mum was transferred to Nadi. I completed Class Seven and eight at Nawaka District. I spent the first three years of secondary at Shri Vivekananda which is now SVC.
"I completed my secondary education at Nadi College from 1997 to 1999. While at high school, I had an interest in computing and I had very good typing skills. In 2001, I took part in the Nadi Bula Festival as one of the contestants. However, the experience was not only an eye opener but a challenge for me as well."
She was sponsored by Adams Investment and had to face her biggest fear of public speaking. Standing in public was something Lydia was not good at but it became something she was confident doing.
"In that same year until 2002, I completed my diploma in Information Technology at NZPTC in Nadi. In mid 2002, I went back to Levuka to teach certificate and advanced level computing studies at NZPTC branch there. Two years later, a vacancy was advertised for senior ranger at the National Trust of Fiji office at the community centre.
"I applied and was fortunate enough to be selected as a junior ranger. My work involved looking after the public library, school and village visits, typing, attending meetings and to customer needs both local and overseas. I love my job because I get to learn and know more about the history of Levuka and Fiji as a whole."
To her, everyday was a learning day. She said after leaving the shores of Levuka in 1991 and returning after 11 years, her hometown has not changed a bit. She said the old buildings still stand and the hospitality provided by the people is forever over-whelming.
"There is no need to think about what to feed the family tomorrow. Even though the pace is slow, we still manage to catch up with the latest developments and technologies. I am now happily married to Waqa Kabou Bower and have a beautiful three-year-old daughter.
"I am thankful and proud to be a kai loma or part European because our roots run deep into both the indigenous Fijian and European lines. Levuka Town with its fine legacy of old colonial buildings and visually dramatic settings is undoubtedly one of Fiji's finest cultural landscapes. To preserve the historical value of Levuka Town, there is a need for people to hold hands and work together to maintain the history of this town," she said.


Saturday, June 21, 2008


SATYA Naidu, 60, has lost a lot of things in life that he would love to have back but the 10-acre sugar cane farm he once lived off just outside Lautoka is not on his wish list.
He has grown into his "new job" and says driving a taxi is a dream job when compared to cane farming. He added that no amount of incentives would convince him to go back to planting cane.
Mr Naidu said people need to understand that farmers had made sure their children were well educated because they "do not want them to struggle the rest of their lives". He has five children, the youngest completing her final year at a university in Australia.
"Too much work, too much politics, too little money." That's how he puts it. Mr Naidu was raised on his father's farm and unlike his five siblings, chose to remain in the field years after he left school.
When the lease expired in 1989, he decided to venture into the taxi business after being told of an opening at the Lautoka hospital base.
"I had my PSV since 1969 but I was comfortable with cane farming. I wish I had left years ago. You have money in your pocket every day. With sugar, you wait until the next harvest season for the first payment. By then, you have debts to pay and end up with little in your pocket."


Wednesday, June 18, 2008


FORMER national rugby representative and Nayau villager Alfred Uluinayau (pictured) was always groomed for big things in rugby.
From the young age of primary school playing rugby league in New Zealand to the high school grades where he donned the national All Black jumper as a high school student Alfie was running straight for the goal posts literally a successful streak in rugby.
However, at the back of his mind he was always going to struggle with the glory of playing for his country of birth (Fiji) or his adopted country in New Zealand where rugby is a religion and all men wear or have worn rugby boots at one stage of their life.
The man who was following the footsteps of a number of Fijian All Black players has now become Fiji's first professional club rugby coach to have won a national championship even though it is in the Land of the Rising Sun where the spirit of a man (oto kono tamashi) is to honour your commitments and never retreat or surrender.
He guided the club to win the Japanese Microsoft Cup Top League Competition against Sanyo Wild Knights 14-10 in April this year.
And he has achieved this in only in his first year as coach of the Suntory rugby side that has boasted the likes of former St John Marist and Fiji national sevens and fifteens rep Max Olsson who later represented Japan's national side.
Alfie can proudly say that through those clouds his sun has risen and he has been a man by achieving the top honours in Japanese professional rugby where most international rugby players go to earn their Yen.
Alfie says he is completing his International Rugby Board Level 3 accreditation with the Blues Franchise in New Zealand.
Uluinayau played his last club game for the Ponsonby Rugby Club in 2004, becoming the 15th player in the clubs history to play 100 games. He played 104 games.
He started playing rugby league at 8 years of age in New Zealand untill the age of 12.
He started playing rugby at Mount Albert Grammar School at 13 where he immediately made his first Auckland representative team.
He played every Auckland representative age group team right through to the Auckland NPC and Super 10 team.
He made the Blues squad in 1996 with Waisake Sotutu, but missed the rest of the Super 12 season due to a knee injury.
He made his debut for Fiji against South Africa in 1996.
Uluinayau joined Suntory and Max Olsson after the 1996 Super 12 season.
After retiring from Suntory after the 2003 rugby season Uluinayau went back home to New Zealand and began work as the director of rugby at his old high school, Mount Albert Grammar School.
"The role involved developing player recruitment and retention at the school and also setting up a program to improve the skill levels and understanding of the gameof every rugby student at the school from 13 years to 18," he said.
"I was also the 1st XV coach.I also set up a scholarship program to invite Fijian students to come to MAGS to continue their education and develop their rugby skills.
"The first recipient of the scholarship was Ratu Ropate Rinakama who has now earned a academy contract with the North Harbour Rugby Union as a tight head prop.
"I am still involved in the scholarship program at MAGS.Alama Iermia resigned as backs coach from Suntory last season and notified me of the vacancy and the process of getting me to Suntory began.
"My previous association with the club made the process very easy and I signed as the assistant coach and was in Japan by mid-May.
"I am happy to be the first native Fijian to win a professional championship overseas winning the Japanese Microsoft Cup Top League Competition against Sanyo Wild Knights 14-10."
Alfie says coaching in Japan has many benefits including wages, bonuses, fully furnished housing, travelling allowance and other agreed incentives bonuses.



The work of an environmentalist can be difficult at times. Most people would often wonder what drives certain people to do the work they do in trying to save our environment.
For Daniel Loo, his passion for the environment has always been with him from a very young age.
He is a volunteer for Greenpeace and was onboard the M.Y Esperanza in peaceful protest against fishing vessels from Taiwan, Philippines, China and the US.
Originally from Kiribati, his father is from Arorae Island while his mother is from Onotoa.
Although he is of Chinese, German and Irish decent, Daniel was born in Suva but brought up in Levuka.
His family moved to Fiji after the Second World War when Japan invaded Kiribati.
His father was an electrician while he believes his mother is the best mother anyone could have.
Growing up in Levuka was a beautiful experience for Daniel. His parents worked very hard to provide him and his five siblings with a good life.
"I like to call Levuka my hometown as I grew up there before moving back to Suva in order to further my studies. I have four brothers and a sister. My brothers and I have all finished high school and we are now working. My sister attends Veiuto primary," he said.
"My parents worked hard and have given me so much. They have been very supportive of me while I've pursued things like voluntary community work and environmental activism. I always wanted to be a teacher but I was not quite sure what subject I wanted to teach."
After completing high school, he obtained a full scholarship to study education at university.
However, he decided to study accounting.
He was always a passionate environmentalist although he was never vocal about it.
He was quietly aware of pressing environmental issues that Greenpeace addressed.
"Being onboard the Esperanza has motivated me to take up linguistics. I am so interested in languages. It is so beautiful to learn to speak and write a different language. A friend on Esperanza taught me Mandarin. Hopefully, if I manage Mandarin, I will learn French as well.
"I remember my wonderful English teacher Mrs Salacakau and because of that experience I always thought of pursuing a career in teaching. I do not really enjoy working in an office. Teaching is something I may do later in life."
Daniel attended primary school at Yat Sen before going to Marist Convent in Levuka.
He then spent secondary school at Levuka Public School before attending USP.
Daniel was also working as a research officer for a media website. He later did community service with the Rotaract Club of Suva.
"I worked part time while studying. I was finance service director when I was with Rotaract Club of Suva and I later became the international director. This was a great experience. I had the opportunity to work with inspiring young people who wanted to make a difference in their communities.
"We organised fundraisers that benefited needy communities and individuals. We were all young and enthusiastic and we organised some really good fundraisers that attracted a lot of support from the community."
He was part of a 10 member Pacific group chosen for the Rotary Overseas Travel Award and the Rotary Youth Leadership Award in 2004. One of the highlights while on Esperanza was watching a Greenpeace activist free a turtle from a Taiwanese long line fishing boat. He said it was an overwhelming moment that would never be forgotten.
"Being on Esperanza has been fantastic. I work with a lot of talented people. We have qualified chemists, doctors and marine biologists working as deckhands. It is so inspiring to see different people from various walks of life working together on board. Everyone is appreciated.
"I have also seen dolphins and tuna swimming in groups near our ship. It was so beautiful. I felt they were showing their appreciation for our efforts to defend the oceans. I have dealt with many hardships but I have learnt we all must experience hardship in order to achieve what we want."
His advice for young and upcoming environmentalists is to be "yourself and follow your dreams".
Daniel has shown what it takes to fight for something one is most passionate about. His contribution to the establishment of marine reserves in the Pacific Ocean is one that calls for appreciation and gratitude.



The love for his fishing ground and a request from his dying mother prompted 23-year-old Okostino Apao to put his studies on hold and look after the village marine protected area.
Apao is originally from Rotuma but grew up in his mother's village of Waitabu on Taveuni.
As Apao grew up, he never really understood the importance of the work his late mother Sala did, which is to manage the village marine protected area, now known as the Waitabu Marine Park as it is frequently visited by tourists.
Sala was the force behind the setting up of the park with the help of Marine Ecology Fiji Consultant, Helen Sykes.
After completing Form Seven on Taveuni, Apao enrolled at the Fiji Institute of Technology, but had to return to help his sick mother with her work. Sadly, she died in 2006.
Since then, Apao said, he has continued to do the work his mother did and has never regretted leaving FIT because he loved every moment at sea.
"She used to tell us the benefits of the work that she was doing but we never really bothered. We were also angry with her for leaving us many times and going overseas because of her work," he said as tears welled up in his eyes.
"But she was passionate about what she was doing and even though she had high blood pressure and was sickly she still carried on with her work. I tried to find out why she was so enthusiastic about the project so I involved myself in monitoring the area with other youth and people in the village.
"Through my participation I realised what she was doing was really important but sadly for me, she died after only seven months of working with her.
"But I will never forget the many things the marine park would bring us. She always reminded me the result of the work that I am doing will be reaped by me and the future generation in this village. And that we will have more fish and other sea food in our fishing ground if we continue to protect the tabu area.
"Now I see that what she was trying to tell us was right that what she was doing was for was for me and my children and their children's children."
The people of Waitabu are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their marine park which is one of the healthiest in Fiji.
Okostino is one of the 18 youths who is always on hand to assist visitors who want to snorkel. His hobbies include swimming and snorkeling, reading, and playing volleyball or rugby.
However, his involvement in the marine park will not prevent him from pursuing his studies. He said he will just stay on for a while until he knows that the project is well on its way before he leaves for school.
Okostino is one of the best tour guides at the Waitabu Marine Park and he knows what the park means to his people.
"It takes a long time for a reef to recover if it is abused and even corals are very important because they have those little animals on them that are very small and if one steps on the corals or break them it will affect those little animals," he said.
"What is important to know is that we do not know what is in the sea so if we protect the sea we also protect ourselves from getting hurt."
Before visitors go snorkeling they would be asked if they had snorkeled before and if not are taught how to use the masks and snorkel.
One of the guides will brief the visitors first and the first thing he would do is thank them first before the guidelines are stressed.
He said the visitors had to be thanked because they brought in money which helped the villagers protect their marine park.
"We tell them that they stay an arm's length away from the corals, clams, shell fish or corals. They should always try to stay afloat and watch from up there" he said.
"We also tell them that they are there to watch but not touch or take anything away from where it is even if it is a dead coral. And also to be careful that their fins do not break any coral."
Apao said the past 10 years of protection brought in more fish and invertebrate animals such as giant clams or vasua, vivili or trochus shells and bech-de-mer or sea cucumbers.
They have also grown to breeding sizes. Large schools of fish have eaten the seaweeds away and created clean rocks for new corals to grow, providing more places for small fish and other animals to live.
I was fortunate to be escorted by Okostino at the marine park and most times he had to tow me with a floater. Even though he is small in stature he was able to pull me along whenever the current was a bit strong.
But to watch all those different fish species swimming amongst those different coloured corals and with such big clams and trochus shells was awesome. And the incredible thing about the fish is they are so tame they do not even know that you are an intruder.
Unless one experiences this beautiful reef and its marine life, he cannot fathom the beauty of this marine park.
Okostino said he and his peers were aware of the importance of their marine park and he cherishes it so much that he said he could get violent if he knows of anyone poaching in it. He stressed they did not want what they had worked hard for to be taken away by inconsiderate and greedy people.
"It means so much to me that I would hurt anyone I see taking anything from the marine park and I will fight for it," he admitted.
"Now after 10 years of protecting our marine park we are so thankful for those who assisted us and also to our people and we do not want that go to waste."
- Ms Nakeke is an ocean science reporter with SeaWeb. SeaWeb is a non government organisation that helps the media promote a healthy ocean.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Volunteers come from all walks of life. Local volunteers are contributing tremendously to the development of Fiji.
However, Ana Jitoko's contribution is a different kind. She was one of two local volunteers onboard Greenpeace's vessel Esperanza in the Pacific Ocean.
She joined another local volunteer Daniel Loo in peaceful action against fishing vessels from Taiwan, China, Philippines, US and Spain.
Born in Moala, Lau, Ana was brought up in Suva.

The second eldest in a family of four, Ana had a normal upbringing.
Her parents worked hard to provide them with a good life and even though there were hard times, they managed to get through the hardships.
This was what Ana thinks made her a better and stronger person.
Although she initially wanted to become an accountant, Ana always felt passionate about environmental issues.
She did not get the opportunity to act on this passion when she was younger.
Starting off her primary education in Moala, Ana attended Veiuto before finishing off at Suva Grammer School.
"Life at home was just like any other family. After Suva Grammer, I attended Nasinu Secondary for a year. I struggled there because the school had a totally different atmosphere to my previous schools. I then studied for my diploma in accounting at the Fiji Institute of Technology from 2000 to 2002.
"I stayed home after finishing my diploma in May 2003. I started working for Prices and Incomes Board and even though the job was good my passion was always somewhere else. At the time, I did not know what I was really interested in. I did not feel satisfied with what I was doing."
Ana lost interest in the job and hit rock bottom. Nevertheless, she felt God had something better for her in the future.
From this experience, Ana learnt that people have to accept that life will not always be smooth sailing.
She recently became a Greenpeace local group volunteer and when the opportunity came to join the crew onboard the Esperanza, she grabbed it with both hands.
"Doing something that I am passionate about is mind blowing and an exhausting experience. At the invitation of the ship's captain, I recently boarded the Kenken 888 which is a mother ship that receives fish from other fishing vessels. Mother ships take fish from legal and illegal fishing vessels. This allows them to continue fishing without having to go to port.
"I managed to overcome my fear of heights when we boarded and with encouragement from my patient team, I went down into the ship's giant cooler that contained tuna of all sizes. The smallest tuna were only the size of my palm. It was the saddest thing I had have ever seen."
She said it took a while for her to control her emotions after witnessing first hand the damage done to tuna stocks. Ana is proud that her contribution to the expedition resulted in the signing of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement by eight Pacific countries to ban foreign fishing vessels from two pockets of international waters.
"That was the highlight of this expedition for me. I think this made our campaign to stop fishing in two huge areas of international waters a success. The challenge we face now is convincing other Pacific Island countries including Fiji to defend our oceans. We will never give up or stop believing in what we have started.
"I have learnt that teamwork and communication is very important in this line of work.
"My advice for young environmentalists and youths is to always believe in yourself. If you do not like your job, find something you enjoy. You will benefit if you do."
Apart from her activist work, Ana was an assistant cook. This meant helping out with preparing meals for the crew in the galley. Regardless of this, one of Ana's experiences includes waking up early in the morning to get ready for action whenever a fishing boat was sighted.
"I was woken up one morning by a phone call from the bridge telling me they had spotted a fishing boat and that I should get ready because the boat was launching at 6am. Little did I know the real action would start at 11am so I went back to the galley to help prepare lunch. That's just the way it goes sometimes," she said.
Ana and Daniel have shown that even local volunteers can make a difference in society and one of the most significant contributions is their fight to sustain decreasing tuna stocks from over and illegal fishing.

adapted from fijtimes online

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Disabled athletes have come a long way over the years fighting different forms of stigma, discrimination and segregation in society.
While many of these athletes are making Fiji proud in their respective sporting events, others simply want to live a normal life like any other able bodied person.
For the Fiji Paralympics Association, promoting the inclusion of disabled people in able bodied regular school sports is one of the aims of the organisation.
Formerly the Fiji Sports Association for the Disabled, the organisation is looking at inclusive education through inclusive sports for people with disabilities.
One of the programs launched by the association this year is the inclusive sports program whose main funding agency is the Australian Sports Commission.
The program involves disabled sports ambassadors going out into different schools promoting the inclusion of disabled people in able bodied school sports.
The national organisation coordinates and implements local and overseas sporting activities for its affiliates.
This is also aimed at enhancing the quality of life of people with disabilities through exposure and international contacts enabling them to live as fully anticipating members of the society.
Sports development officer for the association Saimoni Nainoca believes there is a need for more disabled athletes to be involved in school sports events.
He said approval for awareness and advocacy in schools was given by the Ministry of Education.
Mr Nainoca said it was the first time for the program to be implemented at school level.
Mr Nainoca went to Levuka Public School last week with two disabled sports ambassadors to promote inclusive sports for the disabled.
"We have a number of programs and one of it is this inclusive sports program. We also have a separate program called Sports Ambassador. My role as the sports development officer is to provide sporting opportunities on a daily basis for over 1000 disabled people in the country. This inclusive sports program aims to promote inclusive education through inclusive sports for disabled people.
"We will be knocking at the doors of regular schools and some of them have opened their doors to include this into the mainstream sports and regular school activities. One of the main purposes is to break away from the different forms of segregation and discrimination. Instead, we are aiming for disabled students and adults to be included in sports events for able bodied people."
Mr Nainoca said the purpose of targeting schools was to get children and teachers to accept disabled people or athletes into the school curriculum.
He said part of their awareness and advocacy strategies was providing examples of how disabled athletes can participate in able bodied sports including track and field events.
This is where the sports ambassadors come in. Mr Nainoca said sports ambassadors for the association are disabled athletes who have represented Fiji at international competitions.
"During our visit to LPS, I was accompanied by two sports ambassadors, Iliesa Delana (who had his left leg amputated) and Necani Ravutu (who had his right arm amputated).
"The sports ambassadors showed students at LPS how disabled people could participate in sports events like athletics and high jump.
"In front of 600 students, teachers and parents, the two disabled athletes gave demonstrations.
"The most exciting performance was from Iliesa who competed in the high jump against one of the top athletes from LPS. He beat the student with a high jump of 1.70 meters.
"After the demonstrations, we asked the students, teachers and parents to vote on whether they think disabled people should be included in able bodied school sports.
"They all raised their hands in agreement. This was the reaction we wanted to achieve and we did. It was a very motivating atmosphere especially from the children. Their response was very positive." He said the next step would be to create more awareness and advocacy work on the program to different schools in the west in conjunction with special education schools nearby.
In the case of LPS, the association will also provide financial assistance if students from Norah Fraser Special Education School will participate in sports events organised by LPS.
Mr Nainoca was happy with the performance of the disabled sports ambassadors and believes the positive outcome of the program was something he anticipated.
He said the onus would be on the school's organising committee, management and children to accept the fact that people with disabilities can participate in sports events for able bodied people.
"This is the first time we are going out into the community with this program and with funding from our overseas counterpart, the Australian Sports Commission national representatives will be able to go out to special education schools, regular schools and communities and share their experiences and the impact of sports in their lives. The sports ambassadors are promoting sports for disabled people.
"Many disabled people are not good academically and some of them look at sports as a window of opportunities.
"With sports, disabled people and athletes are able to travel and find employment.
"Sports even builds a person's character. Sports has helped a lot of disabled athletes break away from discrimination and stigmatisation. There are 20 sports ambassadors."
Disabled sports ambassador Iliesa Delana has nine gold medals from different competitions he has participated in.
He has never lost a competition and believes his experience in Levuka was the best way to put talk into action.
Starting off his high jump skill in late 2000, Iliesa felt happy and confident that he was able to beat one of the athletes from LPS in the high jump.
For Iliesa, it is no use talking about the need to include disabled people in sports events.
He believes actions speak louder than words.
"I competed against an able bodied athlete from the school and even though I felt nervous, I was confident in my abilities and I was able to beat the other athlete in the high jump.
"The best way to show why disabled athletes should be included in school sports or able bodied sports is to show them what disabled athletes can do.
"The reaction from the spectators was a happy moment especially when it showed the support from these people.
"Some of them have come up to me in town just to shake my hand and I feel very proud and happy. I have a total of nine gold medals, no silver, no bronze. The secret to winning is there is no secret. It is using whatever God given talent one has to the best of their ability."
Some benefits of the inclusion of disabled athletes in sports as identified by the Australian Sports Commission include:
- Reduced need for extra or specialist coaches where in most sports there is a shortage of reliable and committed coaches. Inclusion helps to reduce the search for specialist coaches;
- Social benefits where inclusion can enable athletes with disabilities access to the same social benefits available to any other athlete from participating in sport. This includes the opportunity to mix and develop friendships within the athlete's local sporting environment. The inclusion with able bodied peers can also serve to reinforce or increase socially accepted behaviour;
n Peer group pressure where inclusion can allow athletes to train in larger groups which may also lead to greater motivation and increased self discipline as a result of peer group pressure;
- Increased self esteem for athletes with disabilities; and
- Access to established organisations where the disabled athletes will have greater access to better facilities and equipment.
Accordingly, the association is also concerned with the inclusion of athletes who are visually impaired, amputee athletes, intellectually disabled, hearing impaired, spinal injured athletes and les autres or other disabilities.
The association is also committed to developing sports for disabled athletes from the grassroot, national, regional and international level.


Sunday, June 8, 2008


A MOTHER and daughter team were all smiles yesterday after winning awards in the Save The Children Fiji 2007 photography competition.
Bernadette Goulding and her 10-year-old daughter Mikaela travelled from Nadi to Suva to collect their awards.
"We didn't expect to win but surprisingly we both have one each," the happy mother said.
They enterd various shots of their youngest family member, baby Keanu Goulding.
Class Six student Mikaela wants to be an artist one day.
Mum won the Mischievous Look Award in the 2007 SCF competition. and Mikaela the Peace and Hope Award.
Chief executive Chandra Shekhar said the entries were well presented.
Meanwhile the SCF Nargis Appeal has collected more than $3000. The appeal ends on July



Saturday, June 7, 2008


DESPITE her old age, Karalaini Sali (pictured) has continued to earn her living through handicraft work selling her products to companies and people who order from her.
At the age of 67, Karalaini spends most of her day at Votua Village in Bua in the Northern Division making flower vases, tea and food trays, hats, place mats and other items from pine leaves.
She learnt the art five years ago when her daughter taught her how to make such items from pine leaves.
She says ever since learning the art work, her financial earnings have not been so much of a problem compared to previous years when she depended on her children for support.
But since taking up the trade, Karalaini has been busy with the continuous growing number of orders for her art work from companies and individual customers.
And with an abundance of pine plantations in Bua, she has had no problem with her supply of raw material as she goes out into the pine forest in the morning to collect fallen leaves.
It is a duty she enjoys doing every day even in rainy weather.
Karalaini says one of her major customers is the Lautoka based company, Fiji Pine Limited that has contributed a lot towards her financial earnings.
She says her customers including the company contact her in the village, place their orders and when the money is sent to the Lekutu postal agency, Karalaini sends them their items.
So far, all her customers have been faithful and even though she has not met them, she says she has been blessed by having such customers.
The brown pine leaves are pleated into flower vases other items her customers order and once completed, she varnishes the product before sending it to her customers.
Karalaini, who is originally from Mamanuca, Tavua in the Western Division says when she visits her island, she takes her products with her to sell to the people in the West.
Business has also been good for her in the Western Division as most get to see for the first time, products made from pine leaves.
Karalaini says when companies order products, she can earn more then $400 a month and despite the difficulties in finding markets, Karalaini has grown to love her art work which she says has become a hobby.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008


FOR more than 10 years, Taufa Tukana has been a familiar face at the Nabouwalu market in Bua in the Northern Division. She is one of the longest serving vendors selling food there.
As people fill up benches at her tables to enjoy breakfast with meals that include boiled or fish in miti, boiled lamb neck and bele among other menus, Taufa keeps herself busy serving her customers food with a smile.
Her kerosene stove sits in a wooden box beside her table with a kettle on it and pots of food neatly arranged on the side.
As her customers settle to enjoy their food, Taufa who is 60-years-old, sits at one end of the table with a fan in her hand.
Apart from food served, Taufa also sells cakes, pies and puddings.
The cakes, pies and puddings are cut up into big pieces and placed on a saucer. Taufa neatly arranges a piece of each which are sold for $2 while her serves of food are worth $4.
Taufa cooks cassava or dalo or whatever root crop she has at home and brings it to the market in the morning.
She says the boiled fish, lamb neck, curry chicken, chopsuey and other dishes are cooked in the market so that they are served hot to her customers.
In the small market of Nabouwalu sits five long tables, about two metres long and the women at each table have their own kerosene stoves, pots, cooking and eating utensils.
For Taufa, business starts about 8am and ends at 3pm. It has helped her over the past 10 years to pay off bills, put food on the table for her family and helps with her contribution to the church and vanua.
While Taufa runs the small eatery business from the market, her husband looks after their farm at Nabouwalu Village.
Taufa's busiest time of the day is from 8am to about 2pm
when the people, especially dalo farmers converge on the Nabouwalu jetty area to load their farm produce on the Patterson boat Spirit of Harmony for the market in Viti Levu.
She said as soon as the boat returns to Viti Levu, the farmers return to their villages and business slows down for the day.
Taufa's daily earnings would range from $50 to $70 a day and she says most of her customers are farmers.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Women are fast making an impact in the world today. In Fiji, many women are defying the odds and have dedicated their lives to helping others in the community. One such woman is Adi Finau Tabakaucoro.
Better known for her role as the general secretary for the Soqosoqo Vakamarama i Taukei, Adi Finau is a woman of substance and flare. A former minister from 1987 to 1992, Adi Finau was brought up in Naqiqi, Savusavu.
Originally from Ra, her father Ratu Josefa Tabakaucoro had connections with people in Naqiqi. Her mother Eka, was a housewife. For Adi Finau, life growing up was like any other village type.
However, she believes village life anywhere formed the foundation for family life and one's character. Her place of birth is Savusavu, Cakaudrove.
Second in a family of four children, her childhood memories were happy and fun. Most of the things done in the village had a purpose and for her helping out with family chores was something that engraved values in her life. She said people depended on the natural resources available including gathering firewood for cooking.
"I grew up in the village of Naqiqi which is 14 miles from Savusavu Town. I had an interesting upbringing but a typical village life. My mother's name Eka means Hagar from the Bible. Both my parents were villagers and they brought us up with love and care. Back in the village, most of the things we did had a purpose. I used to help gather firewood and fetch water from the river.
"At the time there was no piped water so everyday we would go down to the river to fetch water for cooking. In those young days, we used to add salt water to our cooked food for taste. We did not have salt so we would have a container of salt water and whenever we cooked anything with lolo, we would add a little salt water. Every kitchen in the village had a container of salt water."
Her father was a very industrious man and sold copra to help with family finances.
Adi Finau said her father helped a lot with the copra estate and part of his earnings were kept in the Fijian development fund and kept by the Fijian Secretariat. This was for development purposes for the family and the village in terms of education or building homes. She said this was compulsory where proceeds would be directed towards development plans.
Personal life
Adi Finau has five children she loves and adores.
Her parents have played a big part in her successful career. Unfortunately, her mother died in 1992 at the age of 73 while her father died in 1999 at age 93. She said her parents were always supportive of her choices in life and despite her hectic work life, Adi Finau said her family is the most important part of her life.
If there is one aspect of life Adi Finau ponders on, it is the fact she never regarded gender as an issue. She said despite the need to address gender issues, she considered herself an individual.
"I may not have become an activist but I believe I have become a champion and an example for women in the country. I went on to do things men could do and even that is something I am proud of. I had wonderful parents who provided the foundation. They were always around and they lived with me," she said.
Adi Finau is also a member of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji. She has a passion for contributing to national building. For her, it is better to do something about an issue or matter rather than doing nothing at all. She said people should stand up and be counted.
"People spend time and energy concentrating on faults and problems. They highlight problems they perceive like the the proposed People's Charter. What is the use in that? Let us contribute and produce something wonderful and good for the nation. We have reached an important crossroad and people should put aside barriers and differences and contribute to building this nation.
"Any reasonable person will know the charter is good. It will not only assist leadership in the country but also for good governance in the future. People should not forget that the Government of the day is the one actually taking care of them. If the charter was not for a good cause, then people like me would not be part of it. The charter will address certain issues that past governments have not taken seriously."
She said these issues included equitable distribution, good quality housing, education, employment, health services and maximising returns from national resources.
Adi Finau has accepted different challenges in her life and believes one always has a choice in any given situation to make that situation better. Her secret to success is determination, perseverance and hard work. All key factors to living a happy life.
She attended Navatu district in Nasinu from classes one to six. The surprising note was that Adi Finau started boarding school from the time she started school.
"There was gravel road back then and the distance from home to school was too far. They had dormitories at the school and the living conditions were very basic. If OHS had existed back then, we wouldn't be able to live there. We had to make do with whatever was available. We would have tavioka and tea for lunch and even in the evening. No one complained or picked a fuss. We accepted this because it was part of our life and we were used to it.
"My uncle was posted to the school and sometimes he would take me home for a visit on horseback. During wet weather, we used to walk in the mud. I then continued my education at Draiba Fijian. My father had rented a home in Delainavesi in 1952. We used to walk to school on gravel road again. After school we would walk to the bus stand and catch the transport home."
She said her father remained in the village and sent money on a monthly basis to her mother. Living with their extended family from Bau, Adi Finau said they planted their own food.
She continued her secondary education at Adi Cakobau School.
Boarding life was nothing new for her. She had learned to be independent from an early age and life at ACS was no different.
"In primary, we had to sleep on a bamboo bench covered with coconut leaves. In the morning we would run down the slope to the stream at the bottom of the hill. We did everything there, washed our clothes, forage in the bush and sea for food. We did what we had to to survive. School was easy while at ACS everything was well organised. We had sets of uniforms including petticoat. The food was good and we were taught a lot about body hygiene and responsibility.
"We even had extra curricular activities at school. I then spent a year at Suva Grammar reaching upper Sixth Form. I sat the university entrance examination and went to Victoria University in Wellington to complete my degree in history from 1964 to 1967. It was my first time overseas and I had to adapt to the life there. Fortunately, we had a lot of teachers from New Zealand teaching at ACS during my time so I was exposed to their way of life.
"Life there is never easy. We depended so much on our government scholarship so most of us took on part time jobs. I started working at a candle shop learning how to make candles. I gained a lot of experience and I didn't know the different processes involved."
She then spent a year working in a factory sewing pillow cases and even head scarfs. Adi Finau was never embarrassed about the work she did as long as she was earning pocket money to survive in New Zealand.
Working life
She lived in the university hostel while completing her studies in New Zealand. Even though money was tight, she was determined to work hard to support and pay her way around. At one stage, Adi Finau worked as a babysitter. She said the job was an enjoyable one especially when meals were provided and the pay was enough. She then worked at the Downstage Theatre in downtown Wellington as a waitress. Although, waitressing was never on her mind, she knew she had to work hard.
Learning different trades was a part of Adi Finau's life that has taught her the meaning of appreciating the little things in life.
She said part of her job as a waitress was to set and clear tables. She said the plays at the theatre usually started at 8pm while dinner was served at 7pm. Within that hour, they had to make sure guests were served their three course meal, wine and coffee before the show started.
"We were very busy and making sure everything was done before the play started was really challenging. On one occasion, I was carrying a pile of dirty plates.
"I stumbled and the plates fell on one of the guests. I was so embarrassed but luckily the guest was gracious about the accident and said æyou know my dear, I am so glad I wore the black dress and not the white one'.
"I graduated from university in 1967. The following year I did my teacher training at Epsom Secondary Teachers College in Auckland.
"I returned to Fiji in 1968 and became a passionate supporter of the National Federation Party. However, I was not a politician but I was more interested in looking at good leadership in government. In 1969, I completed my training techniques from the Royal Institute of Public Administration in the United Kingdom.
"I returned to Fiji and joined the department of localisation and training. I was a training officer from 1968 to 1970. It was a challenging experience but an exciting one at the same time."
From 1971 to 1975, she was assistant secretary for the Ministry of Urban Development, Housing and Social Welfare. She was also assistant secretary for the Central Planning Office.
Apart from this, Adi Finau was secretary to the development subcommittee of the Secretariat Department, Cabinet development committee and social and economic council from 1975 to 1977. Adi Finau then joined the United Nations Development Program as a program assistant.
"My responsibilities were mainly to monitor planning figures that came under the UNDP.
"In 1981, I was a fellow in development administration in the Institute of Social and Administrative Studies at USP. From 1987 to 1992, I became minister for women, culture and social welfare as well as the caretaker minister for health.
"During that appointment I joined the fellowship at US state department. At the time, Bill Clinton was town governor for a place called Little Rock in Arkansas," she said.
Adi Finau was a member of the senate from 1994 to 2000 as well as a member of select committees including customary fishing rights, police and health services, Fiji Intelligence Services, senate renumeration and Fiji participation in business.
In 2000, she was appointed assistant minister in the Prime Minister's Office.
Some of the highlights of her life include preparing a proposal to establish microfinance in Fiji for the Prime Minister's Office and reviewing the Nabou landowners proposal to purchase Nabou Pine Forests from Fiji Pine. This was for the Ministry of Agriculture.
In 1996, she compiled Fiji's status report on the Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Some of her consultancy services include project management course for pine extension officers of Fiji Pine Limited and studies for the ministry of agriculture on labour supply for cane harvesting and cane transport system in Seaqaqa, Vanua Levu.
She also consulted in a case study of Seaqaqa area as proposed growth centre. Adi Finau's international experiences include attending the South Pacific economic council finance committee meeting in Papua New Guinea in 1974.
In 1977, she was attached to the UNDP office in New York. Three years later, she attended YWCA International training institute in Cartigny, Switzerland.
In 1992, she led Fiji's delegation to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific meeting in Beijing, China.

10 things about Adi Finau

  • She created the phrase 'democracy foreign flower';

  • Climbed Mount Victoria in 1960;

  • Tried to see Suva from Makuluva;

  • Has visited all the islands in the Yasawa Group;

  • She has been to all the provinces in Fiji except Rotuma;

  • Walked the Great Wall of China in 1992;

  • Visited the pyramids in Cairo Egypt in 1994;

  • She's been to the Sinai desert and the Suez Canal;

  • Considers the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara her role model; and

  • Her grandfather John William Brown was the first white settler on Vuna Point in Taveuni



FOLLOWING the death of her husband 10 years ago, Vir Mati (pictured) has been struggling to put food on the table and support her four children.
But that has not deterred the 62 year-old woman from starting her own nursery business from her home at Nasoso in Nadi.
She lives at her family home with her son and his family and one of her two daughters, a few minutes drive away from the Nadi International Airport.
Vir Mati and her son Sharwan operate the nursery business which is named after her son from their home which sits on about a quarter acre of land.
She said it has been a long struggle to get to where she is but the journey was worthwhile.
"I was born and raised in Sabeto. I moved to Nasoso when I got married," she said.
"I have four children. My husband was a labourer at the then Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji and I did domestic duties.
"But things started to change when my husband started getting sick and died in 1998. I had to support the family.
"It was not easy as I went around asking for money and doing housegirl jobs here and there.
Ms Mati said she had enough of borrowing from people and doing casual jobs to support her family six years after her husband died.
She said it was an enormous task to educate her children as they wanted to further their studies. "My children also had their fair share of pain and suffering," she said.
"My daughter who had completed her secondary education wanted to further her education at university level but I did not have the money to send her there.
"This affected my daughter mentally and now she is staying at home with me.
Ms Mati said she had gone to a flower show and saw how people bought pot plants although customers.
She said she immediately started her little business of 10 different flowers at that time in 2002.
"I found this very interesting so I carried on," she said.
"For three years after starting my business I never sold a plant. But as time went on I managed to sell three plants to Raffles Gateway Hotel.
"Then Arbor Week came along in 2005 when I managed to make around $70-$300.
"I also managed to score a hotel order ranging from $300 to $1000. This helped me out a lot."
Ms Mati said she would attend flower shows but did not like the fact that sales there were very low.
She said looking back she would not have guessed that she would be successful in her nursery business.
"It's been a long time coming and today I have almost every plant from roses to ferns," she said.
"The red ferns and other fern species rake in the highest sales.
"I would not change this for anything. Since my business has taken off I tend to my gardens in the morning around 7 and take a break from midday and then go back to the garden in the afternoon.
"My family has been through a lot and now we are doing okay. In life you have your ups and downs."


Monday, June 2, 2008


The contribution of volunteers in our communities has been immense as they give selflessly of themselves.
Volunteers have been leaving their mark in Fiji for many years.
Some have been actively involved in the development of our country, including the medical profession, agriculture, information technology, education and even home building.
One volunteer from New Zealand here to help build a home in Sigatoka is Asha Chandra, 45.
Although born and bred in Taupo, Asha has strong ties here.
Her parents are former residents Tilak and Damanti Chandra.
Her father is originally from Ba and is a Companion for the Queen's Service Order, apart from being a Justice of Peace.
Asha's father was actively involved in community work when in Fiji.
His passion for helping others has passed onto Asha who finds joy in aiding other people.
Although this is her fourth time to Fiji, this trip is a much more meaningful one.
She is part of a 10-member team from Habitat for Humanity New Zealand on a mission to complete a one-bedroom home for Waisake and Lidia Raibevu.
Third in a family of five children, Asha had a simple upbringing.
She said family togetherness was an important aspect of their daily life and everyone gave a helping hand whenever someone was in need.
She said both her grandmothers were born in Fiji while her grandfathers were born in India.
"I live in Hamilton but I was brought up in Taupo, which is in Waikato," she said.
"My father was quite popular when we were growing up.
"He worked hard to ensure we had a good upbringing.
"My father helped everyone and anyone he came across. "When he came to New Zealand, he worked for the railways here.
"He is a pundit.
"My mother was a simple housewife who was basically the backbone of our family.
"I have four sisters and growing up was fun.
"When I was younger I wanted to be a lot of things like a policewoman, a nurse and even an air hostess.
"But I enjoyed the life we had."
She attended primary school at Nawton Maeroa Intermediate before moving to Fraser High.
She then went to the Waikato Technical Institute.
Asha then worked in the records office as a supervisor.
She said the culture and way of life in New Zealand was structured and different but something she enjoyed.
"I joined the New Zealand army territorial part-time," she said.
"There were challenges but the experience was fun.
"I still keep in touch with some of my friends at reunions.
"I was part of the women's build project of Habitat for Humanity NZ.
"Two houses in NZ were built by 640 women in five weeks. "We had help from qualified builders though.
"The women in Waikato have beaten the world record by building a house in four days.
"I have learned a lot through volunteer work like how to be independent and having the courage to do what is considered to be a job for men."
Asha was a corporal in the New Zealand territorial Army.
She is now office administrator for the Relax Training Institute of New Zealand.
In addition, she is a New Zealand migrant specialist teaching migrants from all over the world the English language.
Surprisingly enough, she helps teach English to people living in New Zealand.
She said for the past few days, the experience in Fiji working with locals and living in the village was a memory she would cherish.
"I have been a volunteer but this is the first time for me to go overseas to help build.
"We pay our airfares, accommodation and food. "We made a cash donation as well. Regardless of that, the experience was worth every buck.
"Knowing that I can help make a difference in someone else's life is good enough for me.
"I feel so happy and pleased with the work I have done to build a home for a family. "Having family heritage from Fiji is something special.
"My advice is if you have the opportunity to do something worthwhile then grab that opportunity. If helping people is something that makes you happy then go for it.
"For me, volunteering my services and time to come here to help build a home from scratch is fulfilling and rewarding," she said.
The Kiwi volunteers leave on Thursday but not before completing the wooden house for the Raibevu family.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online