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