Friday, August 29, 2008


He loves village life. Staying among the villagers in Nadrau up in Nadarivatu is the best thing that has ever happened to him. Ronil Singh, a primary school teacher at Nadrau Fijian School never regretted being posted to the interior of Viti Levu.

In fact he wished it had come earlier on in life ahead of all the difficulties he faced. But he believes that it was the reward of all his hard work and sacrifice which he made earlier on. Life had not been fair for this 21-year-old who had dreamt of becoming a lawyer.

After graduating from high school with a gold medal he won for scoring the highest chemistry marks in FSLC in the Ba zone, he enrolled for the University of the South Pacific's Bachelor of Law degree.

While he was accepted to do that program, it was finance that mattered. Since his parents were ordinary sugar cane farmers in Naba Tolu, Ba, there was no chance of him being a private student

He banked on a scholarship, but that too evaded him. Ronil's only other option was to become a teacher. During his two years at the teacher's college, Ronil also worked part time at a freight company in Nadi at the weekend to sustain his wants.

"Whatever I earn from working at the weekend, was used for my LTC affairs," he said. After two years of teacher training, he finally became a primary school teacher. But he waited for 10 months to get his first posting. "When I was posted to Nadrau, I received that opportunity with both hands," he said.

"At first I didn't know where I was going, but I knew that was my calling so I had to go. Being away from home in an unknown environment, Ronil said was one of the biggest challenges in his life.

"I was there alone, I have to cook my own food and wash my own clothes. I felt so lonely I wanted to run away." But he realised that running away from reality was not what life was about. He stayed on and had to counter it. He said that what made life easy there was that he had basic necessities in his two bedroom house like water and electricity.

"The villagers are the owners of Monasavu so we have electricity up there," he said. "And we have television and mobile network there too." To reduce being homesick, he had approached a student to stay with him in quarters.

"So it's me and Voniani at home," he said. Ronil said that Voniani's parents had allowed their son to stay with him. "He helps me and I help with his school fees and other needs." "I thank his parents for realising my request and allowing us to stay together."
"He is a bright student and I feel that there is a need for me to nurture him so that he can be someone in life." Ronil loves his village life so much, he sometimes wishes that he remains there forever.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, August 18, 2008


Her name will probably never cease in the history books of the Hibiscus Festival but if there is one thing Liebling Marlow has gained from it, it is a gut full of confidence.

The 70-year old has commented on the festival for the past 52 years and was still in a jovial mood to share a bit more about how the festival changed her life.

A resident of Pearce Home in Suva now, Liebling said the title of Miss Hibiscus or Fiji's first Miss Hibiscus never really mattered to her. She said after the festival, she joined her husband Herbert Marlow at the Fiji Visitors Bureau, meeting and greeting tourists who visited Fiji.

From that day she was actively involved in tourism and other Hibiscus festivals with her husband. "I don't know if it changed my life but I know that it gave me confidence. After the festival, I achieved so much and I became involved not only in tourism but in women's affairs.

"Back then the Hibiscus Festival was for two nights and there were 23 of us. The experience will always be a memorable one," she said.

Liebling was crowned the first Miss Hibiscus in 1956 and since then 45 other queens with the same stamina, poise and grace have followed suit to claim the same title at the annual event.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


BETANI Salusalu is somewhat of a celebrity in the stunning Mamanuca group of tropical islands. Every island he lands on sees staff provide him a homecoming welcome, not to mention a ready bed and breakfast.

It's a relationship that has taken several years in the making, but one which has become crucial to the future that resort and resource owners in these islands envision for themselves.

Salusalu is the coordinator of the Mamanuca Environment Society, a non-profit organisation formed in 2002 "to address environmental issues in the region and specifically work towards the betterment of the region's marine and terrestrial environment".

His work takes him across the spectacular chain of tropical islands scattered to the west of Fiji, visiting resorts, landowners and staff villages, with the chief goal being education and dialogue, along with environmental monitoring.

It's a role that was created by the resorts he visits, all of whom are members of the Mamanuca Fiji Islands Hotel and Tourism Association (MFIHTA) which founded MES. On any given day Salusalu and his team could be either monitoring water quality, surveying a reef system, advising resorts how to manage liquid waste, teaching villagers about composting or talking to land owners about a fishing "tabu" or ban.

It all depends on the needs of a particular site or community. The waters and reef systems around the Mamanucas, Salusalu says, are like the lungs of the west. "We sit around a bay that receives a lot of the runoff from activities in the west of Viti Levu. So we are vulnerable to sedimentation and a lot of waste from human activity is flushed into the area".

With the tourism industry in the area heavily reliant on the spectacular natural beauty of the Mamanucas, it makes sense that owners, workers and visitors take a wholistic approach to environmental protection there. What's been even more fulfilling, Salusalu says, is the support that MES has received financially through sponsorships.

Over the weekend, ANZ Bank's Fiji head Robert Bell handed the group a $25,000 cheque to help continue the environmental work in the area. It's the third time the bank, which is the Gold Sponsor of the program, has provided financial support to the body.

Bell says a big part of the reason for their support is that MES is concerned with creating a better future for Fiji and that it has a lot to do with education - which over the long term should have a wider impact than just policing of environment issues.

"Businesses need to have a broader reach and this program is particularly important because it's about Fiji's future. I've been on Castaway Island for 35 minutes and 35 days of stress just washed away. It's an indication of what tourists to the area can expect, and the environment is a major part of that success formula," Bell says.

MES treasurer Ronnie Chang - who represents Pacific Island Air on the executive committee - says the support of corporates such as ANZ, and silver sponsors AON Risk Services, as well as members spread throughout the Mamanucas, keep the environment in focus.

Salusalu and his team - which includes project assistant Fesi Isimeli, project officer Diana Nagatalevu and volunteer Kenneth Cokanasiga - are kept busy all year round focusing on bettering the environment in the islands. They travel to four schools in the area providing children with the basics on coral reefs, coral biology and ecology, and teaching kids how to conduct basic reef surveys.

They carry out best practice training for watersports activities staff in resorts - providing theory and practical education designed to make staff more environmentally savvy. One ongoing initiative is the bid to eradicate the crown of thorns starfish from the area because it is a coral predator. These are removed from the waters in the area

Twice a year they also conduct water quality analysis from the Nadi Bay area through to Lautoka Wharf, testing for nitrates and phosphates that might encourage the deadly algal blooms that could devastate the Mamanuca ecology.

Their busy program includes turtle conservation, including educating villagers in the area about how to protect turtles and turtle nesting sites. The region has also had one turtle released into the wild which has been satellite tagged, allowing resorts to receive updates of her travels around Fiji and the region. One area of major importance considering the tourism focus of the region is maintaining the health of coral reefs, which are a magnet for spectacular diving and snorkelling.
Part of this process is a drive to restore giant clam populations in the area, because clams are helpful for the development of reef.

Salusalu says mini clam nurseries sites are present at Castaway Island, Tokoriki Reef, Elevuka Reef, Qalito House Reef, and Solevu village house reef. The group also facilitates a Reef Check program which sees 18 separate sites undergo regular checks through trained volunteers. Castaway Island Resort operations manager Steven Andrews says guests are increasingly keen to help preserve the "paradise" they have come to love.

One of the more successful initiatives has been Castaway's Kids Sea Camp where children are educated on the marine environment - and parents more often than not join in.

Environmental issues in the Mamanucas are increasingly recognised as being not just crucial for everyday business, but for the very survival of the way of life of people who live and visit there.
Integrating the two now with the support of industry-led initiatives such as MES means paradise can remain uninterrupted for generations to come.

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


A NINE-year-old boy who partially lost his sight because of his fight with cancer is pleading with donors to assist him so that he can go overseas for treatment.

When most boys his age go to school and play with their friends, Josaia Temo, from Lakeba in Lau, has to stay indoors because of his condition.

Josaia suffers from genetic skin cancer and the disease has infected his left eye and caused partial blindness. He has lived with his grandmother ever since he was born and now 70 years of age, she continues to look after him.

When The Fiji Times visited Josaia and his grandmother Litiana Moce at their host's Raiwaqa home in Suva yesterday, he was lying on a mattress with his forehead and eyes heavily bandaged. Mereoni Taginadavui, a volunteer with the Fiji Cancer Society, said she was taking care of Josaia and helping with his condition.

Ms Taginadavui, a cancer survivor, said despite his serious condition, Josaia is full of life and loves to sing and pray. "We first found out about his case when we went to visit some of the rural islands to meet cancer patients and we found Josaia with his grandmother," she said.

Ms Taginadavui said Josaia was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2006 but they had lost contact when his grandmother had moved to the village.

"We are thankful to Project Heaven who were able to relocate Josaia during their trips to the island. His grandmother had brought him to the project for his eye infection," she said. She said Josaia has two big sores on his head and his eye infection but they were glad that his condition was improving.

"He was released from hospital one week ago and since we do not have any hospice, we were very glad when Alumita Cokanavula agreed to provide one bedroom in her house for Josaia and his grandmother to stay in,' she said. Speaking in Fijian and with tears in her eyes, his grandmother Ms Moce said she was the only family Josaia had and she had been taking care of him all these years. But she said with her advanced age it had become hard for her and she said she was thankful to all those who were helping them.

Ms Taginadavui said Save the Children Fiji, Fiji Cancer Society and Project Heaven were working to get people to donate money and medicial items to help Josaia. She said the money collected by Save the Children and Fiji Cancer Society would be used for Josaia's travel cost and treatment in New Zealand.

"Josaia is like any other nine-year-old boy and when he is not in pain, he will sing and talk to us. The only time he is in pain is when his bandages are changed and his sores are cleaned and it is very heart-wrenching to see him that way,' she said.

Those who wish to make a donation to help with Josaia's overseas treatment can do so by depositing into the Fiji Cancer Society Sashi Goundan Account.

Adpted from Fijitimes Online