Saga Dewan is a man who knows how hard the lives of some young people can be. But that has only strengthened his belief that the youth of today are leaders of tomorrow.
It is why he believes in the importance of developing our children right, of ensuring that they grow holistically to become good citizens and leaders.
It is easier said than done given the increasing distractions and issues, like unemployment, HIV/AIDS, crime and drugs that mark today's civilisation.
Many of our young people have become victims of these ills. Many have found themselves on the streets through no fault of theirs. While some have found the strength to find a way out of their entrapment, there are many who continue to live on our streets.
Saga knows only too well. That's because he is in daily contact with them, trying to give them hope and inspire them to believe that there is still a chance to better their lives. As the principal of the Chevalier Training Centre, at Wainadoi, located only a few kilometres from the capital city, Mr Dewan has worked successfully with many youths who had gone astray.
The 37-year-old man of slender built calls himself a kai Wainikoro because he was born and bred on Vanua Levu. He lives with his wife and a child in the school compound. While he may be the biological father of his little one, he is father to the 36 young boys who call the centre home.
"Most of these young boys have either been left in the dark by their families, pushed out by society or have deliberately left home because of unbearable circumstances," he said. "Most have at one time in their lives been on the streets or have lived with friends in their respective societies.
"One thing is common in all these boys and that is that they have been victims of the great challenges that youths face today," he said. The youngest ward at the centre is 15 years old and the oldest is almost 19. "These boys are from all the 14 provinces in Fiji and we have quite a multi-racial lot in training," he said.
Mr Dewan said most of the boys were brought in because they felt that they could not make any positive change and contribution to their respective communities. "When they are brought in they are taught life skills. Some of them do not even know they have talents in those particular fields," he said.
"They are taught metal work, wood work, mechanical training, building, agriculture, English and maths." There's a class that teaches values, principles and the benefits of having a positive mental attitude. He said the biggest challenge was trying to convince every student that every cloud had a silver lining.
"I always tell them that no matter how low people think of you or how low your self-esteem there is always a place where each individual will be good at," he said.
"Not only do I have to talk to them constantly I have to help them and guide them in every little thing they do so that they know that even without their immediate family members we are there for them.
"In fact, we are a family and families look after each other through thick and thin," he said. Despite all the challenges Mr Dewan said he was always beside his sons to see them through as they transited from being a boy to a young man who could stand on his own feet in society.
"It always warms my heart and bring tears to me and the seven other staff members here to see one of our students being able to find a secure job and get a steady income," he said. Mr Dewan said students who graduated from the centre always returned there on special occasions not only to visit but to motivate their younger brothers.
"While working for such institutions is a great challenge I do enjoy it because I know that I am playing a part in trying to better someone's life to leave the world better than they have found it," he said
Adapated from the Fijitimes.com November 27th, 2007