Tuesday, July 31, 2007

MEET LUISA NADAKUCA FROM DRAVO, BAU TAILEVU

SERVICE to the community pays more than status, says Luisa Nadakuca.
Mrs Nadakuca is a Fiji Girl Guides program adviser who just returned from Korea as an observer of the week-long International Girl Guides challenge camp.
She said she was invited to the Girls Guide challenge in Korea and came back with an insight on how the Fiji Girl Guides Association will hold its national camp in December in Nasinu.
A teacher at Dravo District School in Tailevu, Mrs Nadakuca said serving the community was a passion she held close to her heart and carried out in her daily activities.
She is from Dravo and her husband is from Viria in Naitasiri.
They have four children and the eldest son now lives in Germany.
Her second son plays rugby in Malaysia and one of their two daughters is a a student at Suva Grammar School.
She said if young girls joined groups such as the Brownies or the Girl Guides and followed their oaths daily, they would become responsible citizens.
"The kind of character Girl Guides are made off is different because we take an oath and promise to do our duty to God and serve others before ourselves," Mrs Nadakuca said.
"If they follow the Guides' oath and promise daily and the motto of 'being prepared', our Guides will become better citizens.
"For our young women, if they follow the oaths and make it part of their everyday life from when they are at a young age they will become trusted, better and responsible people in life.
"We need loyal people in society to take charge and take our country forward.
"If the government of the day goes back and implements or encourages our young men and women to join such organisations at an early age, they become responsible and trusted individuals.
"To be a volunteer, don't expect to get any special treatment because service is the greatest career in life."
Mrs Nadakuca said society today lacked loyal and responsible characters to lead the country.
She started as a Brownie in 1961 as a student of Dravo District School.
From Dravo, she went on to attend Ballantine Memorial School at Delainavesi and then studied to be a teacher at the Nasinu Teachers College in 1976.
Since then, she has climbed the ladder from the Brownies, Girl Guides, Ranger, youth leader, district commissioner to divisional commissioner and now to executive member of the Fiji Girl Guides.
"In doing service to the community as a Guide, you get to meet people you would not expect to meet such as the Governor-General of New Zealand or members of the Australian parliament.
"As a Guide, one of the opportunities you get is to travel around the world to places many dream of visiting such as India where we visited Gandhi's palace.
"I have been to New Zealand, Mumbai in India, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Australia, Singapore, Germany and just came back from Korea.
"These are some places most people in Fiji do not get to visit.
"When we travel through airports outside Fiji, we are ushered through without going through checks because of the trust we have earned from the uniform we wear but unfortunately, we do not receive the same treatment when we get back home."
In 1998, Mrs Nadakuca received the Order of Fiji and in 2003 she received the Quality Teacher Award.
Besides being involved with Girl Guides work and teaching, Mrs Nadakuca is also involved in church activities and fellowship programs. In sports, she was the president of the Tailevu Netball Association from 2004 to 2005.

Monday, July 30, 2007

MEET LITIA NAITANUI OF VUTIA, REWA

LIFE has not been easy for Litia Naitanui but it has not stopped her from doing what any normal person can do.
Litia, 45, is from Vutia, in Rewa, and is a kindergarten teacher in one of the village schools.
Although she is unable to walk properly, Litia has never let that stand in her way.
She proudly joined other people in getting qualifications from the Fiji Institute of Technology.
Whats more, she makes full use of traditional skills to weave mats.
The mats Litia weaves are only presented to the chief.
"When I was in the village school I always liked weaving mats," she said.
"We used to weave baskets and mats, so that is why at this stage I like to do mat weaving and baskets.
"I have four sisters and a brother and they all live in Suva."
She attended Lomaivuna Primary School and Lomaivuna High School, in Naitasiri, before studying secretarial studies at FIT for three years.
Litia then returned home and started teaching at the Tavuya Kindergarten School in Rewa.
"My grandmother taught me how to weave this kind of mat, which is special to Vutia," she said.
"This mat is special because the corners are different.
"It has different designs at the corners from the rest of the mat."
Litia sells the mat at times but it is not for business.
She weaved two mats during the Melanesian Arts Festival last year, with one taken by the US Embassy and the other sold.
"I do not sell mats but when a person wants to buy it, the price will be determined by the buyer," Litia said. Normally the mats can be bought for $20-$25.
"I was born physically disabled and sometimes it is hard to get things I want," she said. "When I want to go to some places it is very hard to go especially in hilly, sloppy and slippery places."
"Sometimes I encourage myself or force myself to go and get what I need and things that I want and not rely on people in helping me just because I am disabled." She is now staying with her mother in the village and in the weekdays she lives in a house provided by the school she teaches at.
Litia said life was hard when she was a young girl since there were five of them in the family and they had only a small family income.
"We faced difficulties in education. My parents sold agriculture produce to earn money, selling coconuts and root crops," she said.
"But I always helped my parents in weaving baskets, mats and then helping to sell and then from that we earned money to support our education."
She has been a kindergarten teacher for 11 years.
"I teach young girls in the village the art of weaving. Some village women come to learn as well." she said.
"I told them that I faced difficulties and financial problems when I was studying and that if they knew some of these skills like weaving mats, it would generate income for their education or for their children.
"If I can do these things with my disability, then we should not look at the disability but look at the ability that we have."
Her message is "do not judge yourself by your disability, judge yourself with what you can do".
"Some of us with disabilities are looked down on but the ability that we have I can challenge you and everybody that if I can do you can do it," she said.
She is president of the Rewa Disabled Peoples Association and while she is in Suva, visits the head office and shares the problems faced by the people in the Rewa district.
She wants to help all people with disabilities in Rewa.

Monday, July 23, 2007

MEET DEVANGI JOGIA

Despite being married and having a family to look after, Devangi Jogia went ahead to chase her dream.
The young and successful Devangi always dreamt of being a beauty therapist.
Today, the 23-year-old siren has achieved that dream by becoming the owner of Studio 21, a beauty saloon located in Pacific House, on Butt Street, in central Suva.
"I always had an interest and desire to treat peoples face and give them good looks," she said.
"This isn't just a business for me. It means a lot to give satisfaction and the look they desire to my customers," she said.
People go to Devangi with their skin problems and, she says, she is always glad she is able to help them out.
"I feel so happy when I advise people on their problems and later I come to know that those problems have gone away," she said
She is originally from India but has been living in Fiji for the past 10 years.
Besides caring for the people, Devangi loves cooking and reading in her spare time.
Devangi attended Mahatma Gandhi Memorial High School, in Vatuwaqa, Suva, from form three to six.
After that she went studied to become a beauty therapist, attaining a diploma in beauty therapy from the South Pacific Academy of Beauty Therapy.
She specialises in facial, manicure, pedicure, waxing, massaging, threading, henna designing and many other treatments.
She believes marriage should not stop a person from attaining goals in life.
"The fact that I was married didn't stop me from reaching for my goals.
"There was a lot of encouragement from my husband and other family members. They supported me greatly. Without them I wouldn't have recognised my talents and my capabilities," she said.
"After all, I only received my diploma after getting married.
"The credit goes to my family for whatever I have achieved."
She admits it was not easy when she first opened her salon.
She said she had an assistant who did not look after her customers very well and she often got complaints from people.
"I had to study, besides being married so it was difficult as well.
"But my family was very supportive and that helped me come across all the obstacles," she said.
Her advice to women is that marriage should not be a hindrance in life.
Instead, it should become one's strength.
"Everyone should set goals for themselves and try to achieve them in every way possible.
"You just might not know what you are capable of doing."
She always was ambitious, saying that was what kept her going.
She says often her clients seek personal advice from her and she is always willing to share. That personal touch is slowly but surely helping her succeed in her ultimate aim.
But owning and running her own her is not the end of the road for this talented woman.
Business is quite slow but she hopes it will pick up towards the end of the year.
Her ultimate aim is to become the best beauty therapist in the country.
To all young scholars who want to become beauty therapists, Devangi says it is a challenging and interesting field.
"You should follow your dreams and one day you will find out that it has come to be true."

MEET LETILA MITCHELL

What makes the Pacific so unique. We could come up with many answers but our rich multi-cultural set-up is an example of why we are a colourful bunch of people.
Many different races and religions as well as cultural and ethnic backgrounds form our Pacifc community today, and with this comes many distinctive ways of living.
Different food, languages, customs and traditions, religion makes an interesting mix of Pacific Islanders.
Another thing we are all proud of is our various forms of dances to express moods and occasions.
Dance is a very unique way of expressing our many varied stories.
Much research has been done on the one word "DANCE" with several books written on it. Here in TRNi, we have dance programs introduced through several dance groups some most prominent are the Oceania Dance group, the TRNi Institute of Technology Music and dance classes, the Indian Cultural Center dance group lead by Shobna Channel, to name a few.
Several religious communities express their message of faith through dancing.
Through dance, we as a society develop skills, knowledge and understanding and at the same time learn to be open-minded to new ideas and accept many perspectives.
So it can also be said that art and dance go hand in hand.
Dance is a unique expression of culture and essential to artistic, social and cultural learning. When in art form, one gets to see and perceive the symbolic and best representation of cultural expression at its highest essence. Through art form the dance significance and beauty will remain forever.
Many art collectors have items of dance in many forms. Dance in art form can be perceived as something emotional, happy and beautiful as well as something of great magnitude.
Last week an Art Exhibition at the Alliance Francaise saw some great work from artists. One such artist and dancer was our former Miss Hibiscus Letilla Mitchell, who also was the 1st Runner-up in the exhibition.
When you approach her two displays of "Polynesia

Saturday, July 21, 2007

MEET RAJESH KARNA

HE pulled out of school at the age of eight because his parents had died and there was no one to pay for his school fees.
Rajesh Karna was a Class Three student of Vunivutu Primary School in Labasa, in 1975 when his world fell apart.
Now, 32, and an accomplished entertainer, Rajesh readily admits a poor background, saying he and his family were so poor that he was "lucky to have eaten an egg a day".
"At that time an egg cost 15cents and if I bought one, I considered myself very lucky because my parents never wasted money on such food," he said.
"They would rather keep the money to buy vegetables which fed the family instead of one egg for one person."
Faced with survival early on, Rajesh knew he had to work hard because he did not want to end up in the same situation as his parents.
"Not that I blame them for being poor," he is quick to point out.
"I totally understood their situation but the change was because I knew I could do it.
"I knew I could make a change in my life and live a better life ... where I could financially support myself."
Today he earns a living entertaining people at weddings and church gatherings.
Rajesh is well known in the Northern Division for the amusing characters he portrays and the dances he performs something that puts a lot more than just an egg into his belly.
As part of his entertainment, Rajesh plays the guitar, is a dab hand on the organ and hammers away at a drum slung across his chest.
For entertaining at weddings, Rajesh earns between $200 to $500 a night.
With that money, he supports his younger sister.
"Although she is married, I help her out whenever I can because our parents are no longer around to help so it is my duty as the eldest child to help my younger sister," Rajesh said.
"I have many customers in the division and am booked almost every weekend.
"So in a weekend, I can earn up to $500 and that is good money because it has helped me pay my bills and my travel expenses around the area."
Rajesh, who says he got his name because his father was die-hard fan of former Bollywood star Rajesh Khanna, is equally in demand at Christian gatherings.
He proved that by first singing a Methodist and then the Catholic hymn Lomalagi vanua tautani, clicking time with his fingers.
"I sing with Catholic and Methodist church members in villages in Bua. Everyone there knows me," he said. "I play the piano and the guitar but if it's for the church, then I don't charge because it's for God and only he has helped me with my work."

Friday, July 20, 2007

MEET FRED ARCHARI

The former president of the Fiji Pensioners Association, Fred Archari, will soon be leaving for Australia but will remain a member of the association. He talks to DORINE NARAYAN about the association, its roles, what it has achieved and what it hopes to achieve in the future for the members.
TIMES: Can you tell us about the Fiji Pensioners Association and its roles?
ARCHARI: According to the Constitution, we promote and protect and the interest of the members the pensioners and their spouses and children directly or indirectly relating to or affecting their pension benefits.
The Constitution allows anyone who receives pension benefits from any source to become members of the association and to ensure that they get their benefits is our job.
TIMES: In what ways has the association progressed since it started in 1973?
ARCHARI:
The number of people who have become members of the association has grown immensely.
We started with 50 members but today the membership has gone to almost 1900. Since we started, there have been several negotiations which were fruitful.
In 1978 we negotiated successfully with the government for COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment) to be paid to pensioners whenever it is paid to civil servants on the same rate as applicable to civil servants.
This has been done over the years and is the practice now.
Before, pensioners were having 40 per cent of their pension money paid to spouses and dependents but now the spouses and dependents are receiving 60 per cent of the pensioners' money.
The changes were made in 2000 after a submission was made by the association.
The pensioners had been paying income tax on their pension but the association successfully negotiated with the Government to give total exemption to all the pensioners.
This was accepted initially for local pensioners only and in 1989 we got the Government to agree to give total tax concession to pensioners living abroad as well.
Previously, we were not given any office to operate from but now we have this office with the kind courtesy of the Public Service Commission.
TIMES: What are some of the things that have yet to be achieved by the association which it had been pushing for?
ARCHARI:
It is not very easy for the association to achieve a lot of things because we are not a trade union but at the mercy of the Government.
I think, generally, the Government has been quite receptive to our requests.
We are looking forward to have free medical benefits such as drugs for the members.
We made a written submission to the previous government and Cabinet was to have come back to us on it but until today, they have not done anything and it seems we really have to press for it.
In the area of transportation, we are asking the Government to give the pensioners some concessions.
At the moment, the members are paying full fare on public vehicles.
We are not asking for members to be exempted from the whole fare but just asking to give us some concessions.
We want this to be legislated in the Land Transport Authority Act.
We had also made a submission for this but it was not successful.
In other countries, pensioners receive a number of concessions which are very low compared to ours.
All Fiji National Provident Fund pensioners should be given COLA on pension benefits because at the moment they are not getting it.
We want 100 per cent benefits to be awarded to the spouses or their dependents when a pensioner dies.
At present, 75 per cent of civil service pensioners are receiving pension benefits below $8840 per annum and this amount is below the poverty threshold.
Pensioners should not be denied the COLA given by the Government.
We insist that all pensioners should be given COLA like other civil servants. This has been a long standing policy of the Government.
Civil servants are getting their COLA on the salary they get and pensioners are getting the benefits on the pension amount they contributed.
Most of the pensioners get retired on a low salary and therefore their pension is low.
TIMES: How has the negotiations with the Government been like in terms of increasing pensions with regards to COLA?
ARCHARI:
There are some outstanding COLA benefits that have not been given to the pensioners as yet and we have made a submission on this to the interim Finance Minister and hopefully they are looking into it.
TIMES: What were some of the obstacles faced by the association and how did you manage to overcome them?
ARCHARI:
The obstacles were faced with some of the things we could not achieve and this was based on the economic situation in the country.
It was hard to keep in touch with all the pensioners because they are scattered all over the country.
In the old days we had teachers and doctors especially going out to the outer islands and rural places for long periods of time and it was really hard to keep in touch with them and hard to get them to come forward and become members.
Another difficulty we faced was transport the shipping and airstrip services to the outer islands was not very efficient and they were major obstacles in us getting hold of more members and updating the present ones.
So it took a lot of time to even get the members to receive their pension benefits. When our members leave for places in the interior places when they retire, we did our best to ask them to come back but this did not always happening. But despite all these, we still tried to gather as many members as possible.
TIMES: What areas would you like the Government to look into in future to help contribute to the progress of the association?
ARCHARI:
We have asked the Government to give us a suitable site where we can build our headquarters.
We have already made an application to the Lands Department for an area at Nasese and it is a part of the parliamentary complex being developed.
The Government has shown some interest in it but they have to get back to us on it.
Second, we want 100 per cent pension benefits to be given to the spouses or dependents or members.
I don't see a problem in that. At present, they are being given only 60 per cent and this 60 per cent is further reduced by 12.5 per cent VAT.
It is not fair on the Government to follow this policy.
TIMES: How has the response from the members been like since you took up the post?
ARCHARI:
The response from the members has been great since I came in.
Their support had given me great encouragement to continue with the association.
The confidence the members had in me has been clearly shown with me being their choice for rep for the past 12 years.
They wanted me to continue but the circumstances have changed now.
I have to leave to spend some time with my children in Australia.
TIMES: How long have you been with the association and what has been your experience of working in such a field?
ARCHARI:
I have been with the association for 12 years and it was my part-time job.
I was a divisional planning officer for the Ministry of Rural Development.
I was vice-president of the association and was selected president in 1995.
The experience has been very rewarding and whatever I have achieved for the association has been very satisfying. It gives me a good feeling to know I was able to help the pensioners' quality of life.
It is more like a voluntary organisation because some of the people in the organisation such as the treasurer and secretary are not being paid for their efforts.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

MEET KEMUELI DAKAI FROM YASAWA

Giving up something you have a passion for is not easy and it takes some time before you can pick up the momentum of life.
This was how 60-year-old Kemueli Dakai felt when he was farewelled at the Quarantine Office in Suva.
With Quarantine officers from Sigatoka, Lautoka, Nadi and Savusavu present for the farewell, it was a day Dakai would cherish for the rest of his life.
Dakai as he was called by those who worked with him, served for 36 years with the Ministry of Agriculture, beginning first as a casual employee before making his way up the ladder of success.
"I joined the service in 1967 under the leadership of Berenado Vunibobo who was working in Lautoka at the time," said Dakai.
"At that time I was assisting vet officers in the construction of fences at Uluisavou in Ra for the cattle farm and it was all a new experience for me and I loved every minute of it," he grinned.
After spending three years in Lautoka, he was appointed as a quarantine examiner in Nadi.
"I remember clearly my first day there where I was told to wear our uniform which was a pair of khaki shorts, khaki shirt and white long socks," he laughed.
"In Nadi I was involved in the boarding of airplanes and whilst still working there, there was an outbreak of the foot and mouth disease and as a precautionary measure we were instructed to spray chemicals on all door mats in the airport and inspect all passengers," said Dakai.
In 1975 he was appointed to the permanent establishment as a senior technical assistant and remained in Nadi until 1990 when he was promoted to agriculture technical officer.
In 2000 he was transferred to post entry quarantine in Koronivia. He attended two training workshops abroad, in 1990 in New Caledonia on fumigation and certification of imports/exports and in 1996 he attended his second course in New Zealand on quarantine attachment.
"You just have a different attitude altogether when you are at work and you know that you have been given responsibilities that you have to perform no matter what and that was the thrill of working for me," he smiled.
"I always loved the challenge and I guess I was brought up that way by my parents and all those who helped in my upbringing."
Delivering a farewell speech, director quarantine Hiagi Foraete said Dakai was going to be missed by those who worked with him and valued his friendship.
"You were an asset to the Department of Quarantine and always will be as our door will always be open to you for your ideas and advice," said an emotional Mr Foraete.
"Thank you very much for your tireless efforts and your dedication during your time with us and I am sure other officers of the department who could not make it to this special day to farewell you will always hold you in their hearts as a father and a mentor," said Mr Foraete.
Dakai addressed the staff and said he was going to miss the hard work and the laughter he had shared with them.
"It's going to take me some time to settle down to island life because I have been used to the hustle and bustle of the office but it will certainly remain a fond memory for me," Dakai said. "We faced a lot of hardships while working in Nadi but through dedication and hard work we persevered through all the hard times just to see that we delivered our services to the best of our abilities."
The Malakake villager from the beautiful Yasawa Islands says life for him now would be on the slow lane as he wants to savor every minute of it.
Dakai said he would take back all the good memories and would spend time with relatives and take more walks on the beach while watching the sun set at his village.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

MEET KATALAINI WAIBUTA FROM CICIA, LAU

LIFE in the islands may sound idyllic but the truth is far from the picture postcard perfection most people imagine.
People who live on outer islands and in the interior of the main islands have to struggle and work hard to get by.
For those on the islands, inter-island trading vessels are usually their only link to other communities while those in the interior often rely on horses or their feet for transportation.
Today people flock from village life for urban centres in search of education and employment.
In all such movements, parents want their children to become somebody in life and that is how a well-spoken island girl went on to become a teacher.
Being encouraged when she was young gave her added impetus to work towards her dream.
The village setting is not a new environment for her because she was brought up in a similar environment.
A simple island girl, Katalaini Waibuta, 41, from Tarukua, Cicia, Lau, was born and bred in the village.
She is the second eldest among five siblings, all of whom were taught by their parents to work hard and persevere in life.
"Father was of a great inspiration,"she said.
"He was a Post Master at the time with his little salary he was able to pay the school fees for my brothers and sisters,"she said.
Katalaini is married to Saimoni Waibuta of Burebasaga, in Rewa, and they have two daughters and a son.
A graduate of the Lautoka Teachers College and a teacher for 19 years, she has worked in rural island schools as well in the urban setting.
She says having taught in Fiji-Indian-run schools, she learnt a lot and that is why she is desperate to do well.
"So I try to make a difference in the Fijian schools that I go to."
It was with that mind-set that she went back to teach at Cicia District School in her village before moving for five years to Kavala Bay Primary School.
"By the end of 1993, I bought a house in Davuilevu, Nausori, which is of great help, especially in trying to meet payments. I found that living in towns is not easy,"said Katalaini. "We have a car now but it is not easy owning one. The high school boarding upbringing helped me try harder and never give up,"she said.
Apart from teaching at the Davuilevu Methodist Primary School, Katalaini is a Scouts District Commissioner for the Nausori District.
She trains young Scouts to become good citizens and responsible leaders of tomorrow.
"With the skills they have now, we have to motivate and encourage them to keep on trying to do their best in order to love God and their country."
She said being away from home when she went to the University of the South Pacific to pursue further studies and raising a family proved a great challenge.
Katalaini made a sacrifice for studies, leaving home to stay on campus so she could keep focussed on her dream.
She tries her best to complete her assignments on time and to study hard before her final examinations.
Katalaini said there she had friends, lecturers and others who helped her achieve her dreams.
"Back in the village, I used to visualise coming to Suva for an education, before finding a job or even going overseas,"she said.
"I am happy with my achievements and I try to help young ones to dream of big things in life, to widen their reach and imagination, so if they do not get there, at least they feel good about themselves.
On top of her responsibilities, Katalaini helps out in the church Sunday school because she believes that without God, life is of no value.
Her advice for young people "is to shoot for the moon, and don't worry if you miss it, you will land on the stars. Never give up. Whatever you do, do it sincerely and honestly. Life is full of challenges. Overcoming them makes you strong.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

MEET FILIMONI TAUBALE

Being handicapped should not prevent one from working and this is what 36-year-old Filimoni Taubale wants to prove.
The fact that he is confined to a wheelchair yet shines shoes for a living is an example for a lot of people, of any age.
Arriving in front of the Harbour Centre in the city of Suva in a taxi at 7.30am, Filimoni begins his day and finishes work by 8pm.
"I live with my father and older brother who look after me," he said.
"My mother migrated to America in 2003.
"My father, who was a driver for the Ports Authority, is now retired and my mother used to be a nurse."
Filimoni said his mother was a Tongan and father was a Fijian.
Filimoni has two brothers and one sister and he is the second youngest.
"I am from an average family," he said.
Born healthy, Filimoni says he was mistakenly injected with a wrong medicine when he was one year seven months old which caused his disabilities.
He said he had been able to walk but was confined to the wheelchair in 2002.
Born in Suva, Filimoni attended Hilton Special School and only reached Class 7.
He has been shining shoes for 18 years now and says he began doing this job in front of the Queensland Insurance Arcade before he shifted to the Harbour Centre in 1992.
"I was the first one to start shining shoes in front of Harbour Centre and slowly I met all these friends of mine who began doing the same thing as me," he said.
Everyone has dreams but Filimonis disabilities have deprived him of being able to fulfill many of his.
He dreamed of becoming a businessman but had to resort to shining shoes because of his financial needs and disabilities.
Filimoni spoke about the cruel nature of some people, and said he used to be robbed of his days earnings.
"I only want to get up and walk like I used to and that is all I ask from God every day," he said.
Business for Filimoni is not going so well these days as he earns less than $10 a day now, whereas previously he used to earn $15 to $20 a day.
This however, has not dampened his spirits as he says he still enjoys the work because he makes lots of new friends.
Being wheelchair-bound has not stopped Filimoni from enjoying his life to the fullest.
"During the week, I go for movies with my fellow shoe-shine boys and on Friday and Saturday, I go clubbing," he said.
His advice to people is to continue with their education if they want to fulfill their dreams and look for a brighter future.

Monday, July 16, 2007

MEET ASHOK KUMAR

One should not stand back and do nothing in life because one was unable to complete his or her studies, is Ashok Kumar's philosophy.
Ashok, 30, runs a shoe and bag repair shop from Nina House, on Robertson Road, in Suva.
"I learnt sewing from the owner of Shammi's Footwear in 1990," he said.
"The shop is closed now but the knowledge and skills remain in me," he said.
"Practice makes perfect and that is exactly what I have been doing to earn a living."
Ashok, who lives at Six Miles, Nasinu, only went up to Class Six.
He started working at age 16 to support his family.
He started off as a sales assistant in a shoe-shop on Cumming Street, Suva.
"I come from a poor family. My parents could not afford to send me to school."
A corner-turned-room under the stairs in Nina House has been used by Ashok for the past 10 years as a shop.
"The idea of opening up a shop was my own as I had keen interest in this trade as this was something I was good at," he said.
He pays $120 monthly to the owners as rent.
Having opened up the shop in partnership with a colleague, Ashok today is the sole owner and reaping the benefits of his hard work.
His charges $2 to $15 for repairs but repairs can cost more, depending on the wear and tear of the item he has to repair.
"I vary my repair prices according to the customer's needs and requirements and give discounts if people are in real need of it," he said.
Mr Kumar said he normally serviced 10 to 15 customers daily but added times were harder now since because "there is so much competition around". "I sell the shoes and bags and at times belts, brought in for repair if customers do not pick them up after 21 days. I have to do that in order to recover costs or else I will be on the losing end."
Ashok is the sole bread-winner looking after his elderly parents, a responsibility he has shouldered for some time.
"I am the youngest, with two elder brothers and three elder sisters who are all married and live separately."
His dedication to support his parents is evident.
As the owner of Ashok's Professional Shoe and Bag Repairs, he wants to expand his business.
"I have given expanding my business a lot of thought but there is always the money factor," he said.
He finds saving money on such a tight budget is difficult, saying it would be a dream come true if he was ever able to expand his business.
Ashok's advice to students is that if someone has to leave school because of financial constraints or any other problem, he or she should never sit down and accept defeat.
"People should learn to earn their own living and not be dependent on anyone," he said.
He said as children, young people should give back to their parents what they had not been able to provide for them.
Ashok believes the failure to attain education simply means one has to look for an alternative trade or skill that is in demand.
It was how he found himself working as a cobbler and supporting his parents.
"This means making good use of one's undiscovered skills," he said.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

MEET PREMILA KUMAR

Premila Devi Kumar is a strong-willed woman, with a true urge to serve people and work for their best interests.
Her name will be familiar to people who have been cheated as a consumer for she is the Consumer Council of Fiji's chief executive officer, being appointed last May because of her personal interest and will to serve the people
"I had always had an interest and desire to assist people and one of the many ways to do this is to make them aware of their rights and obligations as consumers so that they are not unfairly treated by unscrupulous traders and service providers," she said.
"The profile of the council was low and I was interested in turning this important organisation to a level that it should have been rather than just being a passive organisation serving little purpose."
There is no doubt she has ended up in the right place at the right time as Premila said she loves her job and was committed to it.
"It is interesting, challenging and a very important area of intervention by the Government.
"My task here is to empower people on their consumer rights so they don't have to put up with sub-standard products, faulty weights, adulterated food, exorbitant prices, useless guarantees, poor services and a host of other ills," she said.
What triggers her to stay on with the council is seeing people coming to her office everyday because they believe that the council can address their problem.
Her aim is to promote and safeguard the interests of consumers. She is tasked with the responsibility of building a conscious and assertive consumer movement in Fiji.
Her ambition is to educate herself and to serve the people honestly to make a difference in their lives.
On the personal side, she said she wanted to have a close-knit family and was pleased to have achieved that.
Premila believes in honesty, hard work, transparency, accountability, equity, human values and recognition and respect.
"I dislike dishonesty, disregard for the law, rules and procedures and corruption. I dislike lazy people who depend on government for survival rather then believing in themselves that they can make a difference," she said.
She attended Suva Methodist Primary School and Dudley Intermediate before moving to Mahatma Gandhi Memorial secondary school.
The Suva born and bred girl showed leadership skills from an early age, something she is proud of, saying her leadership qualities helped her climb the ladder of success.
"I attended MGM High School and completed my sixth form education," she said. "While at MGM I was the head girl, so leadership came to me early in life.
"I am the eldest in my family so it was with me from the start. High expectations were always there and became a trend for me later in life. One needs maturity and commitment to handle things in this area
"After high school, I pursued a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Chemistry and Biology from Sophia College (an all- girls institute), in India. At the university, I again took up a number of leadership roles such as being active drama, oratory and debates and on the student council."
The Premila most people know and hear of evolved from teaching field.
"When I returned from India I taught at Dudley High School in the early 1980s before moving to Indian College where I stayed for 10 years teaching Form 6 and 7 Biology.
"I did my post-graduate certificate in education at USP to become a qualified teacher.
"I was the head of science before I joined the Fiji College of Advanced Education in 1994 where I was teaching teachers how to teach.
"I found that very challenging switching from 'chalk and talk' style to discovery and inquiry learning.
"It was difficult to enter the teaching field at the time and I had replaced the teacher who had taught me.
"It was very challenging at Indian College but I like challenges. I like working in the field where things are not perfect because it gives me a new challenge.
"I liked to challenge my students by telling them that 'You can't do it' and that worked well.
"It challenged and gave them a new confidence to prove me that I was wrong. When I am teaching, I mean business.
"Outside the classroom,
"I was different with them and they approached me to speak on any issue and were very comfortable but it was a different story inside the classroom where I demanded respect and expected students to work hard," she said,
Premila stays in touch with some of her students.
She gives her 100 per cent and is completely focused on the tasks she has to perform, ensuring the best results are obtained.
"To me, work is worship because that is my bread and butter. I can't pick the pay package and not do work worth the money," she said.
"I am known for criticisms but criticisms make you better in whatever you do, especially in workplaces. It's like an evaluation.
"My critical thinking has made my career and people know they can't fool around with me."
Premila gave up teaching to take out time for her children who were growing up and needed a mother's attention and care.
"It was difficult to leave teaching because people had the perception that once a teacher, always a teacher.
'After that my interest in environment grew and I began doing research on young people's attitude towards environment."
She then spent the next 10 years in the environment field, contributing to the formation of Fiji's environment legislations. Even though she has departed from the teaching field, it remains her proudest memory.
"I am proud to be a teacher because imparting knowledge is developed here," she said.
"The foundation to build my career and the confidence I needed started in school as a teacher."
Premila has been happily married for 21 years and is proud of her three beautiful children.
Her husband, Jaindra Kumar is Fiji's Trade Commissioner to Australia.
Mr Kumar is originally from Lautoka and the pair was introduced by a relative.
Premila said she had never thought of getting married because of the responsibilities and commitments that go with it but she gave in to the charms of Mr Kumar a decision she says she can never regret.
"I did not want to marry because of the responsibilities and I married late when my parents pressured me that it was time I settled down," she candidly said.
"Jaindra is not a typical Fiji-Indian man and I think that is what clicked between us.
"We created a respectful relationship with great understanding. I have no regrets of getting married," said Premila.
Yamal, 19, her elder son is at Auckland University in his second year of conjoint studies for Bachelors of Commerce LLB.
Daughter Eshmee, 17, is a seventh former at Indian College and her younger son, Shaman, is in year 11 in Sydney.
Shaman lives with his father in Sydney.
A family to Premila means responsibility, sharing and caring, love and affection and above all strength and respect.
"I have an excellent relationship with my family," she said.
"Everyone is important and we discuss issues affecting each and every one of us.
"So teamwork begins at home. We support and stand by each other.
"My family is very close to immediate extended family as well," she said.
Premila spends most of her time with her daughter Eshmee as her husband and two sons are normally away from home.
In this way Premila said she had lesser demands and expectations to fill.
"Yes, my husband is in Sydney doing an important job for Fiji in promoting exports to and investments from Australia.
"Managing the family is not a problem if one organises him or herself well," she said.
She devoted her success to her husband.
"My husband is very supportive, understanding and always encourages me to strive for better.
"Jaindra encouraged me to do my Masters degree.
"He looked after the kids when I was on study leave.
"Even after marriage, I continued with my education because my husband was very supportive and understanding.
"He believes in my ability to deliver and often says nothing is impossible for me to achieve," she said.
"My children are my angels now growing into adolescence. They are lovable and very caring — something they have learnt from my father-in-law and from my mother.
"I am looking forward to the day when they complete their tertiary education, get a good job and settle in their own life," said Premila.
Because of family commitments and Mr Kumar's job, Premila was unable to take up a scholarship to do her doctorate.
She had to choose between a PhD and her family and she chose her family. She doesn't regret giving up that scholarship. Premila said she had to play multiple roles at times but that was not a problem as she easily fits in whatever role that needs her attention.
"I play multiple roles such as a loving mother, caring wife, a responsible daughter and daughter-in-law and a good sister and so on. I am able to easily fit in whatever role that demands my attention," she said.
Premila comes from a well off background.
He father was a businessman who owned the popular Ram Karan Kava shop on Bureta Street, in Samabula.
After her father's death in 1991, the business was handled by her younger brother.
Premila comes from a big family she has three brothers and three sisters. She is the eldest.
"Being the eldest in the family and the first one to go to secondary school (MGM High) was a proud moment for my parents. They had high expectations of me so I was pressured to do my best not to disappoint them."
Her two other brothers, in Sydney and Vancouver, are businessman who import produce, frozen food and vegetables from Fiji for markets where they are.
Their supplier is none other than their younger brother and Premila said she was proud of the way her family business was being handled.
One of her sisters is settled in Sydney, the youngest is a doctor in Auckland and the one in Fiji runs a family shop.
Premila's mother is a social worker who still lives in the family home on Bureta Street.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

MEET EMI NAVUNISARAVI

Vendors selling produce in the markets always have high hopes of making enough money to live again another day.
Unlike many better off families, these people struggle to put food on the table and provide a shelter for their loved ones.
In this new millennium, people in the cities have to pay for everything in order to get by.
In the village, where money is scarce, people have to work equally hard to cultivate the land for the sake of their families.
Being brought up in a poor family, it is never easy to meet the individual needs and the wants of daily life.
One such vendor and a very well-spoken woman is Emi Navunisaravi, 40, of Vunisinu, Dreketi, Rewa, who is shining example of someone who wants to do well.
"Early morning, before sunrise, I usually travel from my village to get to the market just get to a place before others get in there," she said.
She sells coconuts for a saqamoli per heap, vudi, tavioka and fruit juice, with heaps of limes and other in-season produce.
Emi has been selling in the market for only four months and already can see a steady flow of income for her efforts.
She was born in Vunisinu Village, the fifth eldest of 12 children.
"My parents are not well educated and worked as fisherfolk," she said.
"From that came our main source of income for the family.
"Since there are so many of us in the family, my parents struggled with the aim that we may become somebody.
"Life is not easy, not just a flick of a finger, we have to work hard in order to be succeed," she said.
"Dad did own numerous businesses like running a store, a fish market and cattle farm in the village," she said.
"But he did get not up to the standard I expected. A lot of money was wasted and not used for his children's needs," she said.
She said facing such hardships early in life taught her to be independent and to stand on her own feet.
She said by doing that she learnt to believe in herself rather than relying on someone else.
"But as I grew up, I had an urge to work hard and become somebody," she said.
Emi attended Dreketi District School and Assemblies of God High School, in Kinoya, Nasinu.
She reached fifth form when she was told to quit and find a job to help put her younger brothers and sisters through school.
"After I completed my secondary studies, I started work in a straw factory in 1984," she said.
"Two years later, I worked as a baby sitter.
"Later on, in 1986, I got married and I now have two sons to look after.
"My husband is a fisherman who hails from Nalase, Rewa. He is the main breadwinner for the family."
Emi's eldest son is nearing completion of certificate level studies at the FIT Hospitality School in Suva.
"My son still cannot find a job," she said. "So I encourage him to go back to the village and help his father as a fisherman.
"That is just to do something for the time being in order to earn money for the family.
"My younger son follows his elder brother in helping out. Half my earnings go into my bank accounts for my sons.
"I am doing this for my sons' future," she said.
"If you come from a poor family, these two things you should treasure in life, which is to adopt wisdom and have patience in order for you to overcome the hardships of life," she said.
Her younger brother recently left school and is now thinking of getting married, something his siblings are looking forward to.
Emi believes good things in life do not come easy and that people need to work hard and focus on what they want to achieve in life.
"Start from small things in order to achieve bigger things in life," is her motto

Thursday, July 12, 2007

MEET MELA NAIDU,LEVUKA TOWN MAYOR

HER face lit up with a smile and there was a slight twitch of an eyebrow as she started to relate her story.
Sitting like a royal on her throne, Mela Naidu straightened her emerald green blouse and one could tell this was a woman of perfection.
Ms Naidu, as she is commonly known in Levuka, is the first woman to be the mayor of Levuka.
To add to her royal likeness she decided that her interview be done at the one and only town hall, which was built in 1898 in honour of Queen Victoria's 50 years anniversary on the British throne.
It still houses most of Levuka's municipal offices including the mayor's.
She might not be queen of the old capital but she is respected by all who have made Levuka their home.
She is respected for her role in developing Levuka.
Ms Naidu comes from Waibasaga Village in Naitasiri but for the past 10 years has lived in Levuka.
She has been mayor for 10 months but was a town councillor before that.
"It has not been smooth sailing for us," she said.
"We have endured a lot of challenges and we have been able to tackle them with the assistance of the people of Levuka."
Even though she did not grow up in the old capital, she says she is now at home in Levuka.
She did not imagine for one bit that she would become mayor of a town, let alone Levuka on Ovalau.
She gave a smile as she recalled the time she came to Levuka on a visit with her sister.
It was on that trip that she met Manasa Naidu, the man she is now married to. It was as if destiny brought her to Levuka.
They have three children, two at school in Levuka and the oldest at FIT in Suva.
"Something about this place makes you fall in love with it. I cannot express how much I like this place because it is so laid-back and relaxing.
"The sights around town are a perfect setting of living peacefully in Fiji.
"Despite all that our country has been through, Levuka is still the same, nothing has changed.
"One thing about Levuka is that most people know each other and everyone is always ready to lend a helping hand.
"We are all related and there is always someone to fall back to when faced by a problem.
"This is something I admire about this town our race relations is something visitors from other parts of the world and even locals can only marvel at."
She said this was something people of Levuka would always be proud of.
Ms Naidu said she was humbled to be appointed mayor because her role was one that catered for all citizens of Levuka.
"I would not say it is hard but rather challenging to be able to deliver the goods to people of Levuka.
"So far, we are working together to lift the image of our town and it has improved.
"You only have to come here to see it.
"Levuka is a litter-free town.
"This was the initiative of the council and has really gone down well with the people.
"The response we received was great but this is not the end of the plans we have for our lovely town.
"We need to improve on some areas."
So the next time you happen to travel to the old capital, spare a thought for Mela Naidu, the first woman to be Levuka's first citizen, all the way from Naitasiri.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MEET DUKE BRYSON

HOME is where the heart is and this aptly describes a teenager who just cannot be away for long from his island home town, Levuka.
For Duke Bryson, there is no feeling of comfort and peace when he is away from the old capital and said it was the same for all those who were born and bred in Levuka.
In typical Levuka dialect of mixed Fijian and English, Duke relayed his experience as a young boy looking after the welfare of guests in a lodge in Levuka.
Duke works at Mary's Lodge, a bed and breakfast accommodation on Beach Street.
He describes himself as very entertaining, confident and likes meeting people.
No wonder the 19-year-old lad makes sure that all guests at the lodge are looked after in the most special way and that their stay in the old capital will leave a lasting impression on their minds.
Duke grew up in Levuka and attended Levuka Public School.
He was in Suva for some time but said something kept telling him to go back to Levuka.
Because of the love for his island and girlfriend who is also from Levuka, he decided that he would follow his heart.
Duke starts his day preparing breakfast for the guests, while it not may be continental or English, what Duke prepares is just so homely and simple and a true reflection of a typical Fijian breakfast.
"I'm not the main man who does all the breakfast here. My aunts cook, fry and toast but I am there to help and make sure that everyone in the lodge gets to have theirs," Duke said.
He would be the first one you meet in the corridor setting up the table, nothing fancy, just enough to impress everyone. "Breakfast is usually buttered toast, banana and boiled egg or parale (pancakes)." Duke said some tourists liked parale because it was simple and tasty.
He said they served breakfast in the front lounge to allow people to watch the waves crash into the seawall and breath the fresh morning breeze from the sea.
Apart from preparing meals, Duke sees that the floors are mopped and in true Fijian style, he makes sure all guests take off their shoes at the door.
"I do the sweeping and mopping and make sure that the furnitures are in place in the rooms as well as in the lounge," he said.
"It may not be the kind of work that most 19-year-olds would love to do but I can say that I enjoy every minute of the work I do.
"Even when I clean the toilets and scrub the bathrooms I enjoy it because I know people would love to come to the lodge if it is clean and tidy.
"I enjoy being busy doing something worthwhile.
"There were opportunities for me to continue my studies but I really just wanted to be in Levuka and be with my girlfriend."
Duke said it was important for him to be friendly to all visitors who entered the lodge.
"I make sure I talk to them in a respectable way and make them feel at home," he said.
Duke said he would love to join the school of hotel and catering in the future and expand his knowledge and skills in the hospitality industry.
"If I join catering school and when I complete my training, I'd love to come back to Levuka and continue to work in an environment that is relaxed and laid-back like the old capital," he said.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


MEET JOHN KHAN

Although he lives in Australia, John Sharif Khan, 51, has great memories of his life here in Fiji.
His father was a Christian and his mother a Muslim and they were the only Fiji-Indian family living in a bure in Raiwai when he was a small boy.
"The greatest memory that I have about my childhood days is that, once I got sick and some villages came and when they saw me, they went barefoot in the night to get herbal medicine for me," he said.
"The screams and tears of my mom brought the villagers to my home and they helped us," he said.
He went to Marist Brothers' Primary School and then to Cathedral Secondary School.
"As a primary school boy with no knowledge of the West, I used to march against nuclear testing in the Pacific," he said.
After his education, he stayed in Fiji for two years and then went to Australia to work.
"I have worked in the hotel industry in Australia and have been manager of drama shows," he said.
He is in Fiji to shoot movies.
He has lived in Australia for more than 30 years but has visited his motherland several times to shoot films.
"My grandfather came from India and lived in Fiji as a girmitiya (indentured labourer)," he said.
"I am more Australian than Fijian but I love Fiji," he said.
"All the things in Fiji are so beautiful."
He said people were more spiritual here, saying Australians were more materialistic.
He said despite having to live in a bure, he and brothers were given a solid education. "I have a lot of pride in Fiji," he said.
He does drama shows on the girmit era in Fiji and wants to shoot a movie here.
"The show will be multi-cultural," he said.
He has three brothers and two sisters who attended Suva Methodist primary and Dudley High schools.
"Before I was born in the Colonial War Memorial Hospital, there was a call for migration to England by an English doctor whom my father worked for.
"It was free migration with a house provided but my parents rejected the offer," he said.
"I am so thankful to my mom and dad for taking good care of and getting us educated although we were poor," he said.
"As a little boy my father was liked by all the villagers and the European settlers encouraged my father to send his son to learn cooking," he said.
"I tell the Australians about life in the village and my speech starts with I come from the island of love'," he said.
"We were a true family where dad worked as a cook and as a night watchman and my mom stayed at home," he said.
"Our house was a shack but it was a diamond in the dirt," he said.
He said he always wanted to see people happy.
"I am a motivational speaker and speak from my heart," he said.
In addition, he is a singer and a song writer.

Monday, July 9, 2007

MACUATA VILLAGERS PROTECT MARINE AREAS
THE people of the Nabekavu, Dreketi, Macuata, Sasa and Mali have, in the past two years, implemented set actions for the use of their i qoliqoli (fishing ground) .
They have successfully set aside nine areas, totalling 117 square kilometres within the i qoliqoli as tabu (marine protected area), for the purpose of restocking the i qoliqoli.
The people of the Qoliqoli Cokovata are talking about larger fish caught near the shore as in the past and different types that had not been seen in recent years are surfacing again.
"This week we went out fishing everyday and came back with a full catch compared to few years ago when we would go out one day and have a good catch and the next three to four days we would hardly catch anything," said Emosi Baya, one of the qoliqoli committee members from Nakawaga, Mali Island.
"These changes have increasingly attracted illegal fishers into the i qoliqoli and the tabu areas," said Baya.
WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Fiji and partners (government, FLMMA) are working with the Macuata communities by assisting in the development and implementation of resource management plans.
It is also educating and training the community to undertake activities outlined in their management plans, training fish wardens and building community capacity (through household financial literacy training, community messaging, community biological and socio-economic surveys).
With WWFs support ending in three years, there is a commitment by WWF to assist the qoliqoli committee to secure funding with which the qoliqoli communities will continue to manage their i qoliqoli.
Long term finance
A 12 month fundraising plan (May 2007 to June 2008), with four activities, targeting $100,000, has been developed to generate funding for the management of the i qoliqoli, spearheaded by the Qoliqoli Cokovata management committee of the vanua of Nabekavu, Tikina Dreketi, Macuata, Sasa and Mali.
"A review of the 2004 management plan showed that the qoliqoli committee lacked dedicated funds or a plan to seek funds for the implementation of this plan which includes the actions by fish wardens in stemming illegal fishing," said Sanivalati Navuku, Project officers, WWF Fiji Programme.
The first fundraising event is the upcoming Great Sea Reefs (GSR) sevens rugby tournament, on November 9-10 at the Subrail Park, in Labasa. The tournament targets to raise $15,000.
Ten top national teams will be invited to participate, with part of their travel and accommodation costs supported by the qoliqoli committee through sponsorship.
A total of 56 teams are expected to participate, including boys teams of 17, 16, 15, 12, 9. The inclusion of the boys team is expected to pull in parents and families to travel to the games venue in Labasa.
Mr Baya who is involved in the fundraiser said, "the GSR sevens is not just to raise money but will help i qoliqoli owners to come together to work towards the protection of their natural resources. Working to manage our i qoliqoli has brought many of us together, from the inland villages and coastal villages for the first time. Some of us are visiting some i qoliqoli in other villages for the first time as well."
"When WWF started this project (MPA) in 2004, I was the only representative from the island of Mali.
"Today the number of representatives from Mali and other villagers has increased," he said.
"These efforts are helping re-establish our traditional links."
Other fundraising activities by the qoliqoli committee includes inviting 50 selected people in Fiji to become honorary qoliqoli owners, targeting $9000, connecting qoliqoli members living outside of Fiji, targeting $10,000 and village based fundraising and dinner by invitation, targeting $42,000.
"Effort is being made to increase the communities' involvement and participation in the management of their resources. The communities need to take ownership in protecting their natural resources starting with MPA projects," said Sanivalati Navuku, Project officer, WWF Fiji.
Fiji's precious marine ecosystem is under attack from overfishing, unsustainable and destructive harvesting of live coral and exotic fish for aquarium, and increasing levels of pollution. Climate change is also playing its part in the degradation of the marine environment.
In November 2005, seven chiefs of the province of Macuata launched the first of the country's networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on the Great Sea Reef, the third largest barrier reef in the world.
This came about as a result of the Great Sea Reef survey, a first in the area, conducted in 2004 with the support of WWF and partners, which highlighted its unique biodiversity. WWF has witnessed the benefits of MPAs to biodiversity and marine resources and the people who rely on them around the world.
Hence it is supporting the Government and the people of Fiji in the development and implementation of its commitment to have 30 per cent of the country's EEZ under MPAs by 2020.
Together with FLMMA and other key organisations, WWF is facilitating policy dialogue, scientific research, community capacity building and financing.
MEET MAYURI CHANDRA
SURVIVAL of the fittest is the belief of 23-year-old Mayuri Chandra, a science student at the University of the South Pacific.
Mayuri, a strong career-focused person has never doubted her capabilities but striving high is what she has always believed in.
What is more important for her is believing in oneself and trying to stand out in the crowd by trying to be the best in the field she chooses.
She is majoring in chemistry for her Masters but to complete her degree she majored in biology and chemistry at USP.
Mayuri's passion for chemistry is quite evident.
She was once offered an AUSAid scholarship but turned it down.
"I was offered the scholarship for my MBBS but because of some family commitment, I had to turn the offer down," she says.
Mayuri comes from Ba.
She finished her degree and post-graduate diploma in chemistry at USP before she was offered a Taiwan-sponsored scholarship in February to complete her Masters.
"I was looking for work after completing my degree but found none and then this scholarship came and I am able to further my studies."
Mayuri was the only student in her lot to be awarded the Taiwan scholarship for students in her research field.
She sees it as a great achievement for her but more as a reward for her hard work in her chosen field.
Her research project is aimed at detecting and isolating bioactive compounds in a marine sponge and a terrestrial plant and characterising isolated compounds using spectroscopic analysis.
According to Mayuri, choosing the marine research field was her way out of the family tradition where arts and not science dominated.
She says she was inspired by scientists since her childhood and choosing a science field was her way of exploring new and exciting things.
"I have always admired scientists since they come up with new and interesting things every now and then," she says.
"I feel it is through them that we have progressed in technology and medicine and it was what pushed me to join the research side."
She was awarded a scholarship by the French Embassy to do research in marine and plant natural products in New Caledonia.
Mayuri says she would later travel to France for further analysis of her samples.
She prefers to remain in the research field in future as she finds it challenging and exciting.
"This field is not like some of the other jobs where everything is set to a routine and you have to do the same thing over and over again," she says.
Mayuri feels all one needs to be successful is motivation and belief in oneself and God.
"My parents and supervisors have been my mentors who have inspired me and made me realise what I am capable of," she says.
"My inquisitive nature and self-drive has been my formula."
Mayuri has had a nomadic school life as her father retired manager of the Bank of Baroda took them where he was posted around Fiji.
She is the younger of three siblings.
Her older brother and sister are abroad.
She likes people who are fun-loving, cheerful and friendly.
Her hobbies include reading, travelling, socialising, listening to music and swimming. Standing out in the crowd is her advice to all the young scholars.
"Since everyone these days are competitive, I would advise them to go for the highest competition they can get," she says. "It is the best person who always wins in the end and so being the best."

Sunday, July 8, 2007

MEET CHIRANJILAL GANESH

Chiranjilal Ganesh reckons Labasa is a good place to live in.
Ganesh, 60, a descendant of the girmitiyas was born and raised in Vunika and is married with six children. Selling produce at a roadside market, he maintains a positive outlook.
Like his forefathers, Ganesh continues to live off the land, working his brother's farm, and selling produce at his mini-market.
"Fiji is a good place to live in," he says.
"I love this place. I've lived here all my life.
"Whatever people say, I still believe Labasa is a good place to live."

Saturday, July 7, 2007

MEET EDWARD RAO

Edward Rao, 45, is so fascinated by the beautiful sites Fiji has that he has turned it into a career.
Rao is a tour guide and the senior travel consultant with Good Time Charter and Tours, where he has been working for six years.
He was born in a Fiji Sugar Corporation quarters, in Lautoka, the third eldest of three siblings.
Edward's childhood dream was to become a teacher.
"When we used to attend school, my brothers and sisters and I used to admire the teachers," he said
"After school my sister and I would play student and teacher at home.
"But as I grew my admiration for other work grew."
Edward attended Lautoka Methodist and Nadi Muslim High School.
He was a voluntary teacher at the Lautoka Methodist School from 1985 to 1987.
"After completing my Form Six studies, I worked as a casual labourer at the Lautoka Mill.
"I was called in for painting a section of the mill.
I carted sugarcane from Savusavu, Nadi, to Lautoka Mill on locomotives.
"I used to wake up at 3am as I required to be at work at 4am. At 5am my workmates and I left for Savusavu," he said.
Edward said he worked diligently because he was grateful for the encouragement of his parents, Krishna and Parwati Rao.
"They helped me in my bad times as well as my good," he said.
"My mom supported my every decision and helped me make the right ones.
"I am very thankful to them for what they have done for me.
"They used to tell me that one cannot succeed without struggling to make his stand. In 1987, just two days before the coup, I moved to Suva. I got a job with Cakacaka Travels and Tours as a tour guide.
"My boss, Seva Banuve, trained me as a travel consultant. He sent me to attend workshops on tourism to extend my skills in marketing and promoting Fiji abroad. I was very outspoken, so that's why my chose me." In 1989, Edward started his own travel agency called Rainbow Travel Agent.
"The industry was not booming and we made little out of it."
So he closed his agency and in 2002 joined Good Time Charter and Tours.
"My job is to promote Fiji abroad and tell the tourists how best Fiji can be and inform them what the paradise Fiji is.
"When we get tourists, the response we get from is very good as 80 per cent of the tour is around villages.
"The tourists are fascinated with the Fijian way of life.
"They enjoy feasting on lovo and taking walks in the jungle. They enjoy picking up coconuts, watching wild pigs and swimming in the sea.
"During a tour, we go to five villages a day.
"I enjoy my job because I like meeting new people and getting to know more about their country.
Sometimes we have tourists who are very depressed and have come to a new place to relax.
"Sometimes they want someone who will listen to them, and in that case we, as guides, become their friends.
"I do not go to nightclubs, I don't smoke and I stay away from liquor.
"My mom told me to stay away from these things when I was in Class 8. I have heeded her advice," he confessed.
Edward is a divorcee and has a 15 year-old son, Eron Sumit Rao, who lives in California, USA, with his maternal grandparents.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

MEET ILIKENA WAQABACA

ILIKENA Waqabaca has been fighting fires for 15 years and says he enjoys it.
The senior officer at the Lami fire station loves what he is doing that he is not thinking of leaving the high risk job.
The 43-year-old native of Ono-i-Lau became a fireman in 1992 and within five years was promoted to be a senior officer of the National Fire Authority.
"My parents are from Ono-i-Lau but they moved to Vunimono Village in Nausori because they were teachers," he said.
"Most of my relatives have moved to Viti Levu but I go back to the island now and then, during the holidays."
Ilikena has a younger sister and brother.
"My job starts at nine in the morning and ends at nine the next morning," he said, meaning that he and other firemen were on call 24 hours a day.
"But we do get a lot of rest."
In accordance with international standards, firemen must rest for 48 hours after a 24-hour shift.
Apart from putting out fires, Ilikena also mans the control room.
"My work is challenging and that's why I like it.
"In fire fighting, you go to places where no one would go.
"Some of the greatest fires I have fought were the ones at MH's and the Hanson's supermarket at Makoi.
"Those fires were big but my colleagues and I managed to put them out.
"The important thing in our job is working together."
He said he believed the nature of the job was why he and his colleagues shared a special bond.
"We are like a big family and when we fight big fires, that relationship helps bind us together and put out the fire.
"We look after each other's back to see if any of our friends are in danger."
Before joining the service, Ilikena had been a private in the Fiji Military Forces for five years.
"My childhood dream was to join the army because I used to watch a lot of movies and I was excited about the work military people did.
"I was successful in the army but most of my relatives were in the fire department and after talking to them, I was drawn to their work.
"I wanted another challenge in my life and that is why I made the career change."
Ilikena said his late uncle, Isireli Qasenivalu, who was the chief fire officer at Lami fire station, inspired him to join the fire department.
Another influential person in his life was his father, Tevita.
"My father told us to go school and find a job. If we did not want to go to school, there was a special farming school back in the village. He always wanted us to get a good job and we made sure we found one or we would be transferred back to Ono-i-Lau."
Being raised on the island, when he is not at work, Ilikena is usually sweating it out in his plantation.
"I go to my dalo and cassava patch to do some planting. Sometimes I wait for my children to come back from school and we go to the plantation together.
"I enjoy spending time with my family and we often go fishing."
Ilikena is married to Sainiana and they have five sons and five daughters.
"We are religious and it helps our lives lot. It also gives me strength to fight and overcome problems in life.
"I am the sole breadwinner in my family and it has been God's blessings and my wife's support that helped us succeed."
When asked if he had any pearls of wisdom to share, he said families needed to be vigilant with their young wards.
"Keep a close watch on your children because they do not know the dangers of playing with match sticks and fire.
"It is always wise to practise safe house-keeping."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

MEET TEVITA MANU

BELIEVING in one's talent and putting it to good practice is what 52-year-old Tevita Manu believes in.
Tevita is a man of his own creation and sells mat strippers at Terry Walk in Suva.
The idea of making mat strippers a tool used for stripping mats into fine material is his own.
"This is my own idea and nobody taught me this," he said.
"I collect pieces of tin from the waste material at the tin factory in Valelevu to make this and I buy the wood from the sellers.
"It is better to use the waste material and earn money from it."
Tevita, hailing from Savusavu, said he has been in this business for the past eight years and the heat of the sun or the rainy season was not an obstacle for him to stop doing what he enjoyed.
"I do this because it is easy and I enjoy doing it," he said.
"It takes me about half an hour to make one tool. I thought about making this tool after I saw women weaving mats and the difficulty they were facing in getting thin straps of the pandanus leaves. Using this tool actually makes the work very easy and light as I saw people using nails and other tin materials to do the job.
"This is my talent and I am using it. I believe God gave everyone a talent and we should use in a good way.
"I am using mine and I suggest everyone to use whatever talent they have."
Making mat strippers is Tevita's part-time job.
"To run a family, I have to do two jobs.
"I also do some carpentry work here and there apart from this.
"When I am not sitting here, my wife comes instead of me."
The busiest day Tevita describes is during the weekdays and his customers are from all over Fiji.
"The locals and tourists buy the mat strippers," he said.
"In Fijian we call it the toci and I call it mat strippers in English."
Tevita says he earns well in his small business and is happy with it.
"It really depends how many customers come but at the end of the day I get about $50 to $40 from this creation of mine," he said.
"I am glad my wife helps me out in this."
As a word of advice, Tevita emphasised on the possibility of making something out of nothing.
"One can survive if their heart is into it and people should enjoy what they do, he said.
Tevita's mat strippers sell for $5 each and is quite a handy tool for women who weave mats.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Meet Aisea Rafai

AISEA Rafai has been a doctor for 45 years and at 73 years of age, he is not planning on leaving the profession soon.
He wants to continue serving the people of Fiji and Rotuma and said he would continue to serve until his services were no longer required.
"I think I am still physically and mentally fit and I will keep working," he said.
"If my performance starts to go down, then I will stop working."
Doctor Rafai came to Fiji from Rotuma in 1948.
After completing primary school he started secondary school at Ratu Kadavulevu School.
Being brought up in the village, he loves country life and enjoyed working in the interior villages where he was transferred to.
"In the village I grew up like a ordinary country boy with my parents."
From RKS he went to Queen Victoria School and then joined the Fiji School of Medicine in 1955.
He was at FSM for five years and went to New Zealand in 1956 to complete his studies.
He always wanted to be a doctor and his sick father was the reason why he wanted to be a doctor.
"My father was sickly and he died before I came back to Fiji.
"It was the one reason why I chose this profession, in memory of my father."
Dr Rafai said being a doctor was a very rewarding profession.
"I do not think I would be happier anywhere else and I would not find any job more pleasant than being a doctor.
"It is true that you have your ups and downs at times and sometimes a patient dies in front of you but the feeling you get from healing sick people is more rewarding.
"In this profession, you serve people who need care and medication with no respect to race, colour or belief.
"Your main intention is to save the patient."
He said it was always rewarding to see his patients get better.
Dr Rafai did his internship at the Colonial Memorial War Hospital before he was posted to Nadarivatu in the interior of Viti Levu.
"At that time I was just a young doctor and very fit.
"I enjoyed my two years up in the highland."
From Nadarivatu, he was posted to the Tamavua Hospital and then to Labasa in Vanua Levu for two years.
After several years of practical work, Dr Rafai went to do his diploma in New Zealand in 1974.
When he returned, he was posted to Kadavu, back to Tamavua and then to Koromumu Hospital in Sigatoka.
He later became the sub divisional Medical Officer for the Western Division and was head at Lautoka Hospital for eight years.
"In 1989, I came to headquarters as Director of Preventive and Primary Health Care Services."
Dr Rafai retired in 1992 and went to New Zealand for a hip operation.
When he returned, he was re-employed by the Ministry of Health on an annual contract basis.
"One of the reasons I want to serve and stay in the profession was that when I came to Fiji, the Government had given me a scholarship to study because I came from a poor background.
"I was tempted so many times to go into private practice where I would have earned more money but I always thought about the scholarship that I was given by the ministry when I was in need of financial help for my studies."
At one stage, Dr Rafai wanted to go to Rotuma to serve his people but he did not have the chance.
"It was when one of my colleagues refused to go and I had opted to go.
"If I do not work and stay home I would be bored because I cannot go to the garden as much as I want.
"If I keep working, my body and mind will be occupied."
He has a brother and three sisters in Fiji.
He goes to Rotuma now and then for a holiday but has no intention to retire there for the rest of his life.
"I have seven grandchildren and they are all in Fiji." he said.
"In my younger days I used to play rugby, hockey, cricket and tennis.
"I liked gardening and one of my hobbies was photography."
Dr Rafai has been married for 45 years and has four children.
He said he found working in rural areas most rewarding because he was able to meet a lot of people.
"I always tell young doctors that this is one of the most rewarding occupations. I always tell them to enjoy the work they are doing and serve the people as best as they can.
"It is an honour to keep serving the country and I thank God for giving me life to serve.
"I think I have used the talent from God and the time he gave me in life as best as I can. The other reason I am still working in my profession is that we are short of doctors in Fiji and I think I am still needed to provide health services for the people.
"It also keeps me occupied and I am moving around and it keeps me mentally fit."
Dr Rafai is fluent in Fijian but did not learn it.
"The first Fijian I knew were swear words."

Monday, July 2, 2007

Meet Elenoa Tupua

She loves the rainbow for its colours and she loves Naitasiri for its green hills.
Elenoa Tupua, 62, enjoys planting colourful flowers on a part of her seven-acres of land in Vuniniudrovu Village, in Naitasiri.
"I do dalo and cassava farming and my flower garden is about two-and-a-half-acres," she said proudly.
"I have loved flowers since I was a little girl."
Elenoa is a member of Suva Orchid and Horticulture Circle.
She has been selling flowers from a stall near the Suva city foreshore since Monday.
Usually, she can be found selling beautiful flowers under a mango tree in the Suva Market on Saturdays.
She is the widow of an auditor, Jona Tukua, and now lives with her youngest sister in her village.
"I got married when I was 19- years-old and after that I started work at the Tradewinds Hotel.
"I used to work as a waitress, as a room cleaner and then was promoted to receptionist. I worked in other hotels after that.
"When I was young, my parents leased land in Naitasiri and we all moved there.
"After my parents died, the property was passed on to me. I loved the village life because my family and I used to live in Flagstaff.
"But it was in Naitasiri where I gained skills in gardening," she said. "I started planting in small numbers but as my interest grew, so did my garden."
Elenoa has two women working in her garden twice a week.
She has gingerflowers, halacornias, carrabia and many other pot-plants of all colours and sizes.
"It's like my flowers make me relax. When I am upset, I go in my garden and my mind clears and am no longer upset.
"Whenever I am alone at home I go to my flowers and spend time with them.
"My flowers are very helpful to me. I take care of them and they take care of me," she said.
"All the flowers are my favourite, I can not choose among them which is prettier. If I choose I will be thinking low of the other flowers."
She is the eldest of two sisters, has two daughters, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
"My little ones are like flowers, they are very adorable and I like spending time with them.
"As the old people used to say, when you become a mother all your love goes to your children, but when you have great-grandchildren you put aside everyone else and love them. "The little ones love coming over to my place, they really like my flower garden," she said.
"I find myself alone at times but my children and my gardeners help me by keeping me company.
"Every day is like a routine for me. I wake up at five in the morning and clean the house, have breakfast then I soak the clothes. I go to my garden and at about 10 I wash my clothes.
"I arrange for a van to bring us to Suva Market. The van charges me $10 but at times when a cab is arranged, it costs about $30 to come from Naitasiri."
Elenoa is proud to be a student of Mahatma Gandhi High School.
"We were the first lot of student to go to that school. We opened that school and I really liked the principal, Mr Patel. He was a short guy and he was a nice man. I loved that school," she said.
She attended the Fiji Institute of Technology after high school where she did commercial studies.
She likes attending church services, saying her husband was her strength in the work she did.
"My husband was a very good man and very understanding. He used to plant the dalo in our farm and he helped me out with my flower gardening.
"He always used to tell me to do what gave me the most pleasure. And I am doing that," she said.
"Being a retired person, it's good to engage yourself in something with which you are happy with. I have my kids and my flowers, and am very happy."

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Meet Hassan Khan

HE started from humble beginnings. A man who has done much for the poor. A man who is recognised as the face of the Fiji Council of Social Services.
That is Hassan Khan, the executive director of FCOSS who has done his best to overcome every difficulty his organisation came across.
So who is this 65-year-old man with the grey beard that is a dead give-away of his Islamic faith.
Mr Khan's name is always prominently in the news every time poverty, education, health or social change is talked about.
He is, as friends say, a humble person who always does his utmost to help the poor and needy.
Mr Khan was born in Suva, one of 13 brothers and sisters who had a "very tough childhood".
His father used to work as a driver for the Tamavua Hospital and he spent most of his primary to early secondary school life at Tamavua.
That was from 1953 until 1960, exciting years for the young Hassan.
Because they were a big family, Mr Khan said he had to work for a living.
"I had to work for my school fees in primary school from Class Six onwards, as there were many in school and my parents wanted to see that all their children went as far as we could go," he said.
He started off with being a garden boy for an expatriate couple working at the hospital.
He was only in Class Six at Samabula Government School (now, Samabula Primary School) and recalls being paid 50 shillings a day ($1), which was above what others got back in those days.
Reminiscing, Mr Khan said proudly that he was paid more by the Irish doctor a Dr Gerard Murphy who played a huge part in molding him to become what he is today.
A man of discipline and integrity, deeply devout he prays five times a day.
Mr Khan said Dr Murphy had been his role model and mentor.
"He (Dr Murphy) always told me to operate through the front door and you knock on the door. And if the front door doesn't open, never go through the back door even if you have to kick open the front door," he said.
"Those are the values of integrity and forth righteousness that comes from that man.
"Partly because of my spiritual upbringing, I acquired those values at a very early stage in my life. And I live by those principles of respect and dignity."
He collected empty bottles from around the area and sold guavas in order to earn a living.
Mr Khan said after his father died when he was in fifth form at Marist Brothers' High School, it became an even bigger burden on his family because only one of his elder brothers was working.
He got an opportunity for further education and did a Certificate in Radiology at the Fiji School of Medicine in 1963.
Naturally, Dr Murphy helped him get the scholarship.
Mr Khan said he wished to become a doctor but couldn't do so because of financial constraints.
"At that time, we survived on one meal a day and so I know what poverty is. I know what hunger is, that eating meat was a luxury.
"Whenever I have good food in front of me now I think of those days and thank God for that life because it was for that type of simple eating that I'm still healthy today. I don't have diabetes or hypertension," he said.
Mr Khan said those were things that helped him in life.
After his tertiary education at FSM, he was posted to Labasa as a radiographer.
"I had never stepped out of my house and going to Labasa was a very painful thing for my family and myself.
"It was a very traumatic transfer to Labasa but in those days, civil servants had to take the plunge.
"My mother had to do without me," he said.
Mr Khan said one of the best things he did was "save, save and save", as the money he used to study was not a handout.
He said Dr Murphy loaned him the money as the doctor did not believe in handouts.
"He (Dr Murphy) believed we should be responsible and he told me to pay anytime I wanted," he said.
Mr Khan said he eventually repaid the loan after spending three years in Labasa. He paid the 110 pounds, which was big money at the time as he was paid three pounds per month.
He continued working as a garden boy for Dr Murphy and used to travel from his home in Samabula to Tamavua.
Mr Khan said he often walked back home as he didn't have bus fare.
He says roads were seldom tarsealed in those days.
Mr Khan said he worked in his uncle's photo studio Arts Studio (that was located on Marks Street, in Suva) mostly part-time and during the holidays.
He then went and worked in a mobile X-ray unit boat that went from island to island.
At that time, the tuberculosis campaign was on. He then spent a second stint in Labasa.
Mr Khan said there was a joke among the staff that every single person who went to Labasa, came back 'doubled'.
"So I said to them that I would prove them wrong.
"In 1963, I went and in 1965, when I came back, I was still single.
"Then again, I was there in Labasa. So when I returned in 1968 after my second trip, I came back double," he joked.
His wife, Anne Yee Wai, hails from Labasa, and is of Chinese and Fijian ancestry.
She used to work as a bank teller in Labasa.
So many years later, she has become the chief executive officer of Mr Khan's home, as he likes to call her.
Mr Khan said he had been happily married for the last 38 years and has three beautiful girls.
The eldest daughter is Sofyia, then Nooraimah and Naeemah.
All of them are now married, with the second eldest living in Australia.
Mr Khan said what cheered him most nowadays was the fact that his youngest daughter gave birth to a baby girl three months ago and he was now a grandfather.
"Naeemah is following her father's footsteps as she is working at the Fiji Women's Rights Movement," he said.
By 1974, Mr Khan had enough of being transferred all over the country, having endured 11 transfers in 13 years of his service with the Ministry of Health.
His interest in voluntary work began when he became a member of Apex Club, in Labasa.
When he came to Suva, he helped start the Fiji Muslim Youth Organisation and did youth leadership work.
Through that organisation, he became a member of the Fiji National Youth Council and was employed there as an executive secretary, which was when his vocation as a community worker became full-time in 1975. Through his involvement in the council, Mr Khan said he attended many training seminars and workshops.
That was where he got his experience in youth leadership training and community leadership training.
"So my so-called tertiary education started in the practical sense. Writing reports and so on," he said.
In 1980, Mr Khan joined the Fiji Muslim League as an executive officer. He applied for the job as a "joke".
"Because at that time, they offered $3500 per year as salary and I said to them that I would start if you give me $5500.
"I thought it would be very difficult for them to give me that. "After three months, they came back to me and said so would you start.
"So it was my word. And at that time, I was already earning $7500 at the Youth Council. But I started at the Muslim League with lesser pay," he said.
Mr Khan said he never chased money or ever had a desire to move to earn better salary elsewhere.
That, he said, was why he had remained with FCOSS for all these years.
"FCOSS is an organisation that never had any money. And when it did, it was from donor agencies and it was for all the projects that had to be done. There was never a big investment in staff salary," he said.
Mr Khan said bringing up children at that time was very difficult as technological changes swept the world. Fiji was only then becoming accustomed to videoes and the introduction of television.