Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hard work pays for villager

JOAPE Soata left school at only 10 years old in Class Five but it did not stop him from achieving his goals in life.
The 62-year-old from Vacalea in the district of Nakasaleka in Kadavu is a businessman in his own right.
He owns a contracting business specialising in painting buildings and employs youths from Wainibuku, Nasinu, where he lives.
Just like the youths he is now employing, Joape said he knew it was never too late to try to do something worthwhile even without a good education.
"Things do not come easily in life. One has to walk the extra mile and work the extra hour to achieve and that was what I did.
"I did not let my educational shortcomings stand in the way when I looked for work," he said.
As a village boy, Joape said he knew how to use the natural resources around him and it was an advantage.
"I left the village to look for a job but because I was not well educated, I knew the chance of getting one was very slim, but I tried.
"At that time, I was in my early 20s and it just happened that I went to Levuka.
"It was in the old capital that I was able to find a job on the Japanese fishing boat Fuji Maru
"I told those in charge I was brought up in the village and was a good fisherman and I proved this to them and they hired me on the spot."
He said the boss and crew on the boat were all Japanese.
"There was only a few Fijians and we had to live, talk and eat Japanese every day.
"It was hard at first and I found the language barrier very hard to cope with.
"I did not even know English and to understand Japanese was out of the equation altogether."
Saying yes or no was all he could do and over the years he slowly adapted to their lifestyle. He started to learn everything they did on the boat and their language.
"This Japanese boat took me right to Japan where I spent about five months.
"During my time in Japan, I was recruited to work for a paint company. They were looking for men to work as painters for their company."
Joape knew it was the chance he had been waiting for and took it.
He said he learnt a great deal about the specifics of paints and paintings from Japanese experts.
Work was easy as he could now speak the language fluently.
After his stint in Japan, Joape decided to head back home and look for a wife.
"Where else can one find a better half than the village, so I went back to Kadavu to get a wife," he said.
Joape did not say if his wife was a sweetheart from his younger days but one can easily say he is committed and true to it.
"After we got married, I joined the Church of Latter Day Saints and then I decided to start a business and teach other people the things I leant in Japan.
"I recruited some men and started a painting business.
"Although business is not that good, it is better than doing nothing at all.
"With this business, I can support the education of three children, one whom is now working."
Apart from employing youths, the father-of-three also gives them advice just like any father.
"I always talk to the youths I recruit to commit themselves in whatever they do because they will be recognised for their work.
"Some workers have left to look for work in other companies but I am happy I am able to teach youths in my area something they know little or no knowledge of."
Joape believes his story will inspire other unemployed youths in villages to look for work, trust themselves and at the same time learn more.
Only they will benefit from it.