Friday, June 8, 2007

Etonia works for the disabled

Etonia Ratu has dedicated himself to improving the lives of others.

He is a teacher at the Fiji Vocational Technical Training Centre for Persons with Disabilities.

"I never found peace in my previous work," Etonia said.

The man from Ucunivanua in Tailevu said he was intrigued by the needs of people with disability while he was learning sign language at the Hilton Special School.

"The school was looking for people who wanted to learn sign language and I decided to give it a try," he said. "Since that day I have never regretted it because it opened doors for me until I finally become a teacher.

"While at Hilton, they decided it would be best for me to learn more about disabilities at the University of the South Pacific. "At USP my interest in serving the disabled grew and I made it a point that this would be the right career path for me," Etonia said.

He is in charge of the screen-printing and light metal work studies at the school.
"This school serves all people with disability," he said. His work is a challenge that he takes seriously. "I would not say the work is hard because I have a heart to help these students and I take it as a challenge," he said.

"In my class I have students who are deaf, dumb, wheelchair stricken or partially blind so the needs of each student is different and every day I have to make sure their needs are met," he said.

Etonia said it was important for him to revise topics with students on a daily basis.
"Come the next day we have to go back to yesterday's lesson and review it before we can go further," he said. "It is when students return from school holidays that we really have to try and make them understand it is school time again," he said.

Etonia said this was one of the many challenges he faced. When asked if he had ever thought of leaving, Etonia said he learnt to appreciate life at the school and moving was not on his mind.
"I have to learn more while I teach. There are values I have come to understand more being with these students," he said.

"They enjoy and appreciate life just like any normal person and there is always sunshine in their smiles." Etonia believes he is being blessed for training the students.He said he felt proud when students showcased their work to the public and even joined the workforce.

"It is overwhelming to see people with disabilities break down barriers in the workforce and be able to fit in without discrimination," he said. I look forward to the day when I will see these students working in a free environment without discrimination of any sort."

The Tailevu man has urged the public to treat people with disability with respect. "They have families and are sons and daughters of the country so we need to treat them equally," he said.