Friday, August 29, 2008


A healthy life is a happy life and 59-year old Raubane Kirimaua has a goal to help people understand the benefits that come from a healthy lifestyle. Raubane is the president of Pasifika Health Reform Ministry, a non-profit cooperation promoting better health amongst Pacific islanders.

Based in Honolulu, Hawaii, Raubane said the aim of the cooperation is based on scientific and biblical guidelines. While he may be a certified secondary school teacher with two Masters' degrees, Raubane did not live a life of riches and fame.

Born and bred on the island of Abemama, Kiribati, Raubane is sixth in a family of eight children. His father Raubane Tobinabina was a magistrate while his mother Tekua Kirimaua was a housewife. Growing up on the island, Raubane never really thought about what he wanted to be when he was younger.

He did not even think he would ever leave the island and this was because the opportunities were very limited.

"Life on the island was very rural. I remember collecting just enough coconuts and firewood for the family. "Basically, we used what we needed. My parents were very staunch Seventh Day Adventists," he said. "My father was advanced in his education and he pushed us to get a good education but to move on to the next level was up to us.

"I did not think about what I wanted to do in life. I was like any other kid, just floating around, going with the wind." He attended SDA kindergarten before completing his primary education at Kauma SDA School.

There were no SDA secondary schools at the time so he came to Fiji to complete his secondary school at Fulton College in Tailevu. His first time to Fiji and away from Abemama Island, Raubane was very excited about the experience especially the fact it was away from home.

Raubane completed the Fiji Junior Certificate exam and went on to finish the New Zealand School Certificate exam. At the same time, he managed to graduate from Fulton College with a diploma in secondary school teaching majoring in mathematics and science.

"Boarding life at Fulton was an eye-opener especially when life was away from home. I was very excited but at the same time I learned a lot about being independent. "I had to wash my own clothes because my mother was not there but then again it taught me how to be responsible.
"After Fulton College, I continued my studies at the University of the South Pacific majoring in geography and demography from 1973 to 1976.

"I later taught at SDA mission secondary schools in Fiji including Navesau in Wainibuka and Beulah College in Tonga." He applied to join the East West Centre in Hawaii and worked for the government teaching at an all-boys high school. Things turned out for the better and he was sponsored by the centre to complete a Masters degree at the University of Hawaii.

Raubane first majored in Geography and later switched to public health after a physician relative persuaded him to help the public health department in Kiribati. "I worked for a while with the Kiribati Health Ministry and was later posted to Sopas hospital in the interior of Papua New Guinea.

"This is where I picked up and realised the needs of the people. Some people are illiterate and not well educated about chronic diseases. "It is important for people to understand the kind of food they are eating and the health benefits."

After attaining his doctorate in public health from Loma Linda University in California, Raubane headed a health van clinic moving around the city of San Francisco to do cholesterol checks and other medical checkups. Apart from that, Raubane does regular exercise and as best he can tries to encourage people to stick to local and organic foods.

"It is important for people to maintain natural remedy. Taking up this profession in promoting good health is very satisfying because you will not run out of patients."

To be able to help people live a healthier, happy life is something Raubane finds fulfilling about his profession in public health.
Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It was August 8 and her eyes sparkled like the blue ocean in the distance.
The Marama Na Buli Raviravi was happy and it was not because the Olympic Games had opened in its brilliant splendour half across the globe in China.

I met up with Adi Salote Ramatai, 96, (pictured) as she sat in her wheelchair atop a hillside having an eagle's eye view of the Integrated Port Development at Wairiki in Bua. The day was special indeed for Adi Salote for the $15million pine chip mill was being commissioned ushering in a new era of development for her province.

"I have waited a long time for this day, to see something big happening for my province, my people at Wairiki and it is emotional indeed for me today," her voice trembled with emotion.

"From the time I was a little girl to now, this is the first time I have seen something big happening for Bua. The only other big thing was when they made the road from Labasa to Nabouwalu. I remember I used to stand by the roadside and watch and wonder where that road would take me.

"Today I wonder about the future and can see a change for the better for my province. Many of the younger generation have left in search of jobs in towns and cities, and some have just left because it is so hard living in Bua because the infrastructure is not that good.

"Many want a better standard of living, they want electricity and proper water supply and that's why they have left their vanua. I really can't blame them." Her voice was a mere a whisper as she struggled to speak while the thick red cardigan she wore seemed out of place in the brilliant midday sun.

"I don't have much longer; while my life declines it thrills me that my province is finally getting developed. It used to hurt me that so much development used to go to the other two provinces Macuata and Cakaudrove but maybe the winds of change are now blowing through Bua," she added.

The machines from the pine chip mill and the port that stretched out to sea gleamed in the sunlight almost an indication of the bright future ahead. With the commissioning of the pine chip mill, logging is set to begin in earnest with landowners participating fully in logging pine, receiving stumpage and lease money all to the value of not less then $10m annually.

Infrastructural changes to road, water supply and electricity are some of the flow on effects of the integrated port development. Adi Salote is the traditional ruler of the area where the Wairiki port is located. Growing up at Nabouwalu Village back in the 1920's was one largely dedicated to service.

"As a young girl growing up in a chiefly family I had my obligations to meet. I never went to school until I was 17. That's the age when I started learning the alphabet and counting and I remember I was so excited when I could say the ABC right through to Z," she recounted.

"Life was also different then. Girls never went out anywhere, but stayed home a lot learning household chores, cooking and sewing. Those are the things that I love to do when I can. "But girls are different nowadays. They are out there competing with men in the workplace and they are tougher in a way. But I don't want to focus on that."

Adi Salote said the best change she wants to remember and live for is the development changes that will happen in Bua. "It's been so long but I'm glad it has begun. It's time for the new Bua."
Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Everything about teaching makes life worth living for 56-year-old Sudha Kant. The secondary school teacher at Vuci Mission has been in the teaching field for about 34 years and has enjoyed every minute of it.

With her bright smile and likeable personality, Sudha was elated when asked to share a bit about her career. Her reaction is what is expected of any teacher who has a lot of love and appreciation for their students.

But Sudha's journey to discovering her hidden passion was a rocky one especially growing up in a family of 13 children. Ninth in the family, Sudha was born and bred in Ba.

Her parents, Ranjit Singh and Ray Mati were both farmers who worked hard to provide for the needs of their big family. Living on a sugar cane farm, Sudha had to help out with family chores in and outside the home. Like her other siblings, Sudha worked in the farm, looking after the animals and even help with subsistence farming.

"Life then was very interesting although at the time I thought it was a hard life. Living on a farm is hard especially a sugarcane farm," she said. "We would work in the field every day and since there were a lot of us, there was no need for hired help.

"Apart from sugarcane, we did subsistence farming. We grew all kinds of dhal and this helped a lot with our big family. We used to get water from the well. Washing of dishes, clothes and bathing was done at the nearby river.

"Sometimes we would ride the horse to the river for a drink. Most importantly, I learnt how to swim every time I went down to the river." The burdens of life never ceased even when she started school. She attended primary school at Vatulaulau Sanatam Dharam before completing her secondary education at Ba Sangam High.

Sudha walked to school until she was in Class Five when her parents could afford to pay her bus fare. "My brothers and sisters used to walk to school too and I still remember how we used to walk in a single file like in school. In our time we had a lot of opportunities. When I was in Form Four in 1968, I wanted to do nursing.

"I was inspired by my friends who joined nursing school but my father said no. He wanted me to continue with school work and get an education. "He died when I was in Form Five and after that I got inspired to take up teaching. My mother was very strict but at that time it was very easy to get into teaching."

After completing Form Five, Sudha became a licenced teacher and started her profession teaching at three schools. She then decided to teach at Moto Sanatan Dharam primary which was closest to home.

She taught for a year before she completed her two-year training at Nasinu Teachers College.
Her first posting after she graduated from NTC was to Balebasoga school for a year. She lived with her sister in Labasa and in 1975 she moved to Nausori. She married Rajni Kant and is a mother of three.

"My two sons are teachers and their wives are teachers too. My daughter is in Form Six. "I taught at Dilkusha Girls most of my teaching life and for me teaching children from different backgrounds is the challenging aspect of this profession. "The future of our children is in the hands of teachers and as teachers we have to ensure that students are learning the right concept.
"My advice for those wanting to take up this profession is to be committed and dedicated especially at primary school level."

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Thursday, August 7, 2008


MATAIASI Tumaitoga, 45, (pictured) bears the telltale signs of a person who spends a lot of time at sea.

Sprinklings of salt trace his sun weathered face and his palms are roughly calloused by a combination of hard labour and the thousands of cuts from fishing lines and sharp fins.

I first saw him as he pulled his outboard powered boat towards the shore at Lakeba Village within the Namuka district, one of those villages that line the coast towards the northern tip of Vanua Levu. Lakeba Village borders Namuka and Dogotuki districts in Macuata and is the last stop for the public bus.

Mr Tumaitoga had just had a great catch and this was easily enough gauged from the brilliant smile that lit his face as he surveyed his spoils, about five 50kg sacks filled to their brims with fish. He calculated his catch for the day at about $200 and he couldn't stop grinning.

"I have been out the whole night at sea laying nets. It was cold, and I was hungry but that is what I do week in, week out. I have no other choice. My family like many other families in this village solely depends on the sea for survival," he said.

Mr Tumaitoga's career as a fisherman began when he could barely finish an intelligible sentence at the tender age of 3. "My father took me along on his fishing trips, teaching me how to bait the line, spin it out and when I could tell a fish was biting on the other side. Sometimes I cried because all I wanted to do at that age was play, eat and sleep but I guess he was only preparing me for the tough life of a fisherman," he related.

Mr Tumaitoga's day begins at the crack of dawn or sometimes it finishes at that time. "Well if I need to lay out nets early, then I start out early but there are times when we need to catch bigger fish so we go out diving at night when fish are sleeping so we tend to bring in a bigger catch which will ultimately mean more money for our pockets."

Companionship on these trips out in the dead of the night is crucial. He says it is for safety, survival and to ease the workload because it can get very lonely and scary being the only human surrounded by the vast blackness.

"That's why we usually dive in pairs because if something goes wrong, there's someone there to raise the alarm." Even though he has made numerous trips out to sea, this fisherman never takes the sea lightly.

"What I do is dangerous. That much I know. The sea is no man's friend. People say 'kaiwai' meaning 'person of the sea' but the only 'kaiwai' I know are the fish and the sharks and other living organisms that call the sea home. If I am not careful of the dangers, than the sea will take me," he said.

"I have had my encounters with sharks and I sometimes feel fear when I spot them, but most times I realise that when you respect the sea and its inhabitants, and just take what you need for your family's needs, the sea respects you right back. That's the way of life my ancestors practised and which I continue."

Despite the hardships and the challenges brought on by stormy weather and the rise in fuel prices, Mr Tumaitoga said he would not trade his life at the village, nor his career as a fisherman for an 'easier' life in town.

"I don't think people in towns have an easier life. I will stay on in the village because I think there are less financial commitments, there's no one to boss me around while I fish, I eat off the land and sea so I have a healthier lifestyle, and I am living out the life that marks me as an indigenous person," he said.

"I participate in the obligations of the vanua, the church and solesolevaki with other villagers for the interest of the community, speak my dialect fluently and know all the indigenous practices that a person from my village or district should know. So no thanks, I prefer village life."

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, August 4, 2008


FINDING a good job to support his family was all Aporosa Duwai could think of as a boy.

Born and bred in the village of Daria, Bua in Vanua Levu Aporosa is the post master at the Vunidawa post office.

The 31-year-old was brought up by his single mother Kaliveni Dicina who struggled to support Aporosa and his older brother. Life was not easy for him especially when his mother was the only breadwinner in the family.

"It was hard for us and my mother worked hard to make ends meet and put us through school. She would go to sea and fish. She worked in the plantation to put us through school. "It was not an easy life. We even helped out with plantation work but my mother was really the one who struggled to provide for us."

Aporosa attended primary school at Ratu Luke Memorial before going to Bua College.
He then moved to Suva and settled in Lami. He completed secondary education at Saraswati College in Nausori.

"All I was thinking of was finding a job to support my mother. After high school, I completed two units in an agricultural course at the Fiji Institute of Further Education. "I did not complete the course and decided to look for a job. I applied to Post Fiji and was employed as a postman in Suva. My job was to deliver mail to the Suva areas. I worked as a postman in Suva for three years before I was transferred to Lakeba."

His transfer meant a new posting and he took on the role of post master in Lakeba for three years. Responsible for the overall operations and services of the post office, Aporosa grew to love the job he never thought he would end up doing.

He was then transferred to manage the Kadavu post office where he continued his role for four years. He met his wife Mere in Lakeba. Aporosa's job as a post master is not easy especially striving to ensure customer satisfaction and postal reliability.

"From Kadavu I was transferred to Vunidawa. This is my second year and it's a challenging job. My job is to manage telephone payments, Western Union and the general functions of the post shop.

"I am responsible for postal operations at Vunidawa including customer service." The challenging part of his work is preparing and balancing accounts at the end of the month. He said it took up a lot of time as the financial accounts had to be balanced and accounted for.

For someone who has a load on his shoulder, Aporosa loves to spend his time away from work with his family who live just a few metres from the post office. Aporosa is expecting the birth of his second child and believes it was through hard work that he reached this phase in his life. "I never thought I would be in this profession but I have never regretted it.

"I am happy and find it satisfying to be able to help people through our postal services. "My advice for those who may be facing a bleak future is work hard at achieving your goals and dream.
Adapted from Fijitimes Online.