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