Monday, December 17, 2007


NAMAU's cocoa farmers say the market price of their cocoa beans are too low. One kilogram of cocoa beans costs $5.

This, said Tevita Niumou, is very cheap considering the process followed to extract cocoa beans, and the fact that it is pure cocoa. "The market price before was 70 cents a kg and farmers had to transport cocoa beans all the way to Suva to sell the cocoa beans," he said.

He said even though there were thousands of cocoa trees growing in the village, farmers were not getting the proper revenue they needed. "Each tree produces enough cocoa to fill a one kg bag," he said.

"We need to up our sale price to a satisfactory level," he said. He said plans to construct the first chocolate factory in Korovou and in Fiji was their biggest hope for the village in terms of cash revenue. "Once the factory is established we would be able to control our selling price at $25 a kg," he said.

He said the village needed a lot of change and farmers needed the extra cash for their families and the village. "All we can do now is continue with what we're doing and pray for assistance to quicken the plans to construct the factory," he said.

Tevita said the village did not want their produce to be passed through a middle-man and preferred to do everything on their own.

Adapted from the


THE cocoa plant has inspired women to experiment in the kitchen. So much so that adding cocoa to their dishes and drinks for that unique flavour has almost become habit, a temptation hard to resist.

For instance, the chances of one receiving a chilled chocolate shake are far greater. Women and young girls of Namau in Tailevu are adding the cocoa ingredient to the local Fijian food like tavioka yaca (Fijian bread cooked with cassava) as well as cakes and soft drinks.

The new industry, having women are better utilising their skills in the kitchen. But this time they are adding a bit of cocoa to the recipe. Cocoa farming is the big talk in Tailevu now and at a recent Tailevu Provincial meeting a variety of cakes were served at tea time, all of which were blended with varying quantities of cocoa. These cakes were baked by women of Namau.

Namau villager Nanise Niuvou is one of the women who occasionally adds cocoa to her baking. The mother of four is 42 years old and the wife of cocoa farm manager Tevita Niuvou. She said she was also selling cocoa chocolate lollies, which sold like hot cakes at the village.

"Children love it and adults are buying them in the numbers for chaser during grog (kava) sessions," she said, smiling. Nanise's family said finding the perfect food source to blend with cocoa was challenging. In baking though, steady progress was being made.

At Namau village, fermenting cocoa beans is normally the job for the men and women would then afterwards taste and determine the quality of the cocoa produce. Men, they say, did not have very good taste buds and agreed to anything regarding the quality of the cocoa. So the task of tasting the cocoa after fermentation was left to the women. They had the honour of rating the quality of cocoa.

Nanise and her family say maintaining and producing cocoa on the farm was challenging and sometimes women would go out with the men to harvest cocoa pods from the trees. However, Nanise, like her husband, believes that producing cocoa will one day benefit their village in the near future.

And this, she says, keeps her going despite the hard work involved.
Adapted from the

Thursday, December 13, 2007


YOUNG people need to get out of their comfort zone if they want to succeed in life, says Usaia Cirikiwai.

I was introduced to the 28-year-old man from Ovalau at the Youths at Risk Seminar two weeks ago in Lautoka. He did not hesitate to spare me the time to tell his story and the experiences he faced in life so far.
Usa came across as a person with a bubbly character willing to reach out and help anyone.

Usa as he is known to those close to him, is a Pacific Stars life skills trainer, an empowerment training program funded by United Nations International Children's Education Fund. The Pacific Life Skills program is an empowerment training program funded by UNICEF but facilitated by different youth-based organisations including the Youth and Sports Ministry.

Usa has had his fair share of problems and describes his life from an early childhood to a young adult as a roller-coaster ride. "Young people nowadays are always trying to be like somebody else other than themselves," he said. "What many young people fail to realise is that we are all born standout and are unique individuals."

Usa said his problems started when his parents were separated when he was five years old. He said he moved around staying with one relative to another and the same went with his school in Suva. He said by the time he reached Class Four he went to Levuka until he finished his primary education.
In 1993, Usa returned to Suva at the age of 13 to live with his father and be reunited with his young sister Vani Digogo. "When my parents separated I lived with my father and his family while my sister lived with my mother and her family," he said. "But when I came back from Levuka my sister and I had to live with my dad and our stepmother.

"It was good to be reunited with my sister but it was short-lived. "My sister and my step other had troubles between them. One day an argument broke out in the house where my sister received a beating but instead of rushing her to the hospital to tend to the swelling on her leg she was kept in the house. "Someone applied a warm cloth to the swelling as it got worse. By the time she was taken to the hospital it was too late. She died on Palm Sunday in 1993." Emotional speaking about his sister, Usa said after his sister passed away he lost interest in school work and started following his friends for about a year.

"I would get ready to go to school but end up following my friends to roam the streets. "This went on for about a year. Not long after that I met my mother. We had never met since the time my parents split. "I went to live with my mother and she made be go back to school and repeat Form Three."
Usa said in 1995 he was sent to school and repeated Form Four at Rishikul Sanatan College. By the time he was to have entered Form Five, he went to Koro where he stayed for a while. "When I went to the village for a break I liked it so much that I did not want to come back. "I spent two and half years in Koro where I practically did almost everything from copra to planting cassava and dalo.

"I had a stint in working in one of the hotels there but came back to the mainland to live with my mother and her family." Usa said he came back to Suva in 2001 and not long after that his mother moved to Vanua Levu, leaving him at home on his own. He said while his mother stayed in Vanua Levu she would pay the bills from there but things became difficult. "It got to a stage where the phone bill went right up to $300 and there was no one else in the house to pay the bill except me," he said.

"So it prompted me to go out and look for a job." Usa finally got a job as a security officer and was posted at the British High Commission in Suva. He said he spent two years at the British High Commission as a personal guard. He said in 2004, he attended the youth empowerment program and got introduced to Raleigh International, an organisation based in the United Kingdom.

"I went on the Raleigh International three-month program and it was the turning point in my life. "While undertaking that program I was required to do 50 hours of community work. "I did service at the St Christopher's Home and the Chevalier Boys hostel. "When I saw the joy on the children's faces from the little work I did to make their home a bit more comfortable, I knew that this was the career path I wanted to take up.

"We painted the walls of the home and helped out around the home in carrying out repair works and whatever had to be done." Usa said once he had completed his community service he was told about the life skills workshop which took place in the Pacific. "In 2004 to 2005 I attended a small workshop in the Pacific on life skills training of trainers.

"In May 2005 I was approached by the Chevalier Boys hostel to look after 28 boys which was a full-on thing. "But when the hostel closed last year from the 28 boys from I started with, we were left with 12 boys. "The rest of the boys had returned to their homes.

"So far my life has been like a roller-coaster. "Hopefully it gets better from here onward." Usa said when he was not involved in charity and volunteer work he spent his spare time coaching a sevens team from the Nanuku settlement.

He said as the festive season approached, he was working with the shoeshine and wheel barrow boys organise Christmas in the Park.

Adapted from the


YESTERDAY a 10-year-old boy lost his battle to brain tumour.

Bernard McGoon was evacuated to the Mercy Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand last month after his family launched a public appeal to help pay for his medical operation. He died yesterday in Auckland after being discharged from hospital on Friday.

He had always been a lively boy so if there was one thing his parents Charlie and Melyn never dreamt of was the loss of their eldest child and the only boy at that.

Bernard was born in August of 1997 and just one month after his 10th birthday he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Melyn's younger sister Nancy King said the initial reaction to his condition was shock, considering that he was the oldest grandchild.

"There was hurt and a lot of pain when we first heard about Bernard," she said. "More shock as Bernard was healthy one minute and diagnosed with a tumour the next." Nancy said her nephew was a lively boy. "Bernard was brought up by his papa (Lui) and nanna (Maggie) at the FSC compound in Lautoka.

"His papa always planned great things for him. One of them was for Bernard to study hard so he could buy a home for his mum and Bernard agreed to it. "He was a very considerate big brother; he took the role seriously, always watching out for his sisters Tehana and Cornelia.

"I remember once he did not come home on time and when he reached home, he was asked why he was late seeing as school had finished at 3pm. "He quietly explained that he waited with his friend because his friend's granddad was late in picking him up from school. "That's how considerate he was even for his age.

"Before he left for New Zealand, I spoke with him and he said thankyou Aunty Nancy for everything you are doing for me. "I couldn't believe that even in all his pain, he was thinking of thanking me or anyone for that matter. "He even asked all the nurses at the Lautoka Hospital Children's Ward what they wanted because he and his nanna would go shopping in New Zealand after his operation.

"He remained in high spirits to the end." In October, the family launched a public appeal to raise $70,000 for his medical operation in New Zealand. "We did a lot of crying those first weeks, waiting for the funds to come into Bernard's appeal account so we could send him overseas," Nancy said.

After his family was told of his condition, Lui King said the family of Natabua, in Lautoka were relying on divine intervention and public help to send Bernard overseas. That was on October 20. He was admitted at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital. In October, Bernard suffered a seizure, on World Teachers Day to be precise.

"I noticed he did not look well," his grandpa said. "I told him if he was not feeling well, he must not go to school but stay home but my grandson insisted he go since they would have programs in school." It was to be Bernard's last day at school. "When he returned in the afternoon, he became really sick," Lui said.

"He was sick throughout the weekend so we took him to Lautoka Hospital on Monday." Mr King said when Bernard had a seizure they were told he had to be transferred to the CWM Hospital in Suva for a scan.

Doctors at CWMH diagnosed him with a brain tumour. Bernard's condition had deteriorated further when he lost hand-eye co-ordination, experienced blurred double vision and was unable to open his eyes because of the pain. While doctors drained the liquid in Bernard's brain, Lui said a further operation to remove the tumour could only be done overseas.

He said a team of Australian surgeons in Fiji had been aware of his condition and advised his family that cranial surgery was impossible in Fiji. Nancy said Bernard and his granddad spent most of their spare time at Kulukulu, Sigatoka. "He was the first grandchild and baby in our home, we (aunties and uncles) used to dress him up funny and take pictures of him.
"He loved it because almost all the photos we have of him dressed up and with him smiling for the cameras. "He was also a clever boy, only dropped in exams when he was lazy to study but once he put his mind to it he could be very good at his school work. "He was part of his class quiz team, not accepting defeat when he was hospitalised, always telling his friends they should watch out when he came back to school because he would take his quiz team back to the top again."

The public appeal proved to be a great success. On October 30, his mum Melyn said Bernard was expected to be evacuated to New Zealand for treatment after more than half the $80,000 needed for surgery, travel and accommodation was raised in two weeks. She said she was deeply moved by how fast people responded to their appeal for help with about $40,000 collected.
Melyn said people she did not know from abroad had deposited money into the account they had opened specifically for her son's operation.

On November 2, the Ministry of Health advised that Bernard would fly out to New Zealand for surgery. He was accompanied by his grandmother and Dr Ben Reeves of the Fiji School of Medicine. Melyn said the visa application was approved immediately by the New Zealand High Commission.

"His chances are slim. Each day, he asks my mother Nanna, am I going to die?" Melyn said.
"He fell ill all too suddenly but this experience has been a real eye-opener and major challenge for us. "With him being the eldest grandchild and only grandson, you can imagine how it will affect my parents. This is a wake-up call. "He may not be the same after the surgery but it's a chance we're willing to take. If the New Zealand doctors find it is worse than what we have been told locally, then chemo has been suggested although it may drastically affect his IQ."

On November 24, realising that their son was just too far away from them, Melyn and Charlie flew to New Zealand. "They felt they needed to be with him and Ahura Resorts/Monarc, Melyn and Charlie's employers, were very supportive in giving them the necessary time to be with their son." By Monday, doctors had given Bernard three to five days to live.

His family was told there was nothing else doctors in New Zealand could do. Bernard could no longer communicate with his family. He was discharged from the Mercy Hospital in Auckland on Friday. Melyn said they were trying to come to terms with the fact that nothing else could be done to help Bernard. At 4.30am yesterday, Bernard passed on.

His father Charlie carried him and placed him in his mum's arms and there, he breathed his last breath. Melyn said her son was a fighter. "The doctors said he could lose his life after the blood clot was discovered in his brain but he came through it," she said. "They said Bernard may never open his eyes after the operation but he kept struggling to do so and he finally opened his eyes on December 3.

"He recognised family members around him in New Zealand. "He opened his eyes for two hours straight just to see all the visitors who came to visit. "The doctors gave him three to five days and last Friday they removed all the "drains" in order to let him go peacefully'. "When I spoke to my aunt, I asked that she tell him to hold on through the weekend in order for us to organise the necessary paperwork from this end.

"He did and I am thankful for that." Melyn said there has been so much pain since Bernard's diagnosis but her family learnt a lot. "Bernard's case touched so many people and brought out the best in humanity. "We raised a good amount of money in record time and we were amazed that some complete strangers in Fiji and abroad came forward to give toward Bernard's medical expenses.

"We learnt that God gives and God takes away and we remain thankful that Bernard was given to us for 10 years. "We know Bernard's illness has brought our families closer together." Melyn said families in the same situation should not lose hope and always try to do the best they can for the sick person.

"Even though they may lose their battle with the illness, you can find comfort in the fact that you did everything in your power to help that person," Melyn said.

Adapted from

Friday, December 7, 2007


A YOUNG man sat cross-legged, hunched over a pair of shoes that had obviously walked more than its fair share.

His posture never shifted as his fingers swiftly wove the needle through the leather. Only after his task was complete did he straighten up to stretch, the frown on his brow disappearing to give way to a smile.

It was a smile of satisfaction for Petero Dulukibau. The 19-year-old repairs shoes for a living. He has plied this trade from his home at Nawaido Village in Bua for the past three years. He says he is the only shoe repairer from his village up to Nabouwalu.

This, he said, was good for business but at times he was overwhelmed with work. "A lot of villagers come around with their broken shoes to get it fixed and no matter what the circumstance, I always make sure there is no credit," he said.
"Some of them, especially my relatives, ask for credit; for them to pick up the shoes first and pay later but I never allow this because it's a business that needs to survive."

He said business was so popular that at times his relatives and friends would drag him out of bed as early as 5am to fix their shoes before they leave for Labasa town. "That's the disadvantage of operating from home," he sighs, gesturing to the humble lean-to home he occupies with his cousins and two older brothers.

"Even at night at about 9pm or 10pm, my relatives and friends still come around home for me to fix their shoes. "Sometimes around the grog bowl, they will come and throw their shoes in and tell me to fix it so after hours, I always tell them, that charges will be higher and they still pay."
His favourite clients are the Roman Catholic nuns and priests from Solevu.

"I am always happy to see the nuns and priests come around and see me and ask about my business because that's when I share my experiences with them and it's just good to be encouraged by them," said Petero.

"At times, after a good conversation with them, I get shy again to ask for the payment so I just say bye and continue with my work but they never forget. "Instead they give me more than the normal charges of $1.50 and $2; I only thank God for bringing me such customers, he smiled.
His fondness for the nuns and priests could possibly run deeper than the interesting conversations they share.

This is because he largely attributes his success to a sermon a European priest delivered that inspired him never to give him. The priest, whose name he could not recall, had preached that dreams could come true if one had the will to do the long, hard slog.

He was a Class Three student of Solevu Primary School at the time he heard those words of encouragement. "The words continued to be in my mind and although I dropped out of school when I was nine, I always told myself that if I have the will to succeed in life, I will succeed," he said.

"Whether it be in farming or fishing, it will happen." Money woes meant he had to help his uncle, Viliame Raikivi, on the farm. Mr Raikivi, who is his mother's brother, practically raised him from birth. It was from him that he learnt his trade.

Mr Raikivi had repaired shoes before retiring to his farm. Today, Petero lives in a household of young bachelors. "We all have our share of buying food," he said. "While I buy from the shop, they provide root crops from the plantation and seafood for our meals."
He is happy with the lifestyle he has toiled to build. While it may be enough for some, it is not for Petero.

He is set on opening a little repair shop at Nabouwalu soon. He has already started saving towards this.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


A MOTHER'S sacrifice bore fruit yesterday when her eldest daughter graduated with a diploma from the Fiji College of Agriculture.

Elenoa Vosayaco's diploma was special because it was the result of her mother's back-breaking sacrifice and six years of hard living after her father was jailed for his role in the mutiny at the Sukunaivalu Barracks in Labasa in 2000.

As the eldest of six children, Elenoa said she was determined to set a good example for her siblings and to repay her mother for her hard work. "They're all looking up to me, being the eldest, so I have to be a good role model for them,'' said the 21 year old.

Her mother, Ana Vosayaco, 45, said she struggled to make ends meet by selling rootcrops at the Savusavu market to pay for her children's education. "I thank the Lord for this. It has not been easy for me being a single mother for these six years," Mrs Vosayaco said after the graduation.


Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Friday, November 30, 2007


SETTING goals and maintaining the right attitude are important steps one needs to follow to succeed, says Amali Shaw.
The 18-year-old is the dux of Dudley High School in Suva.
Amali is proud of her achievement which she attributes to proper planning and discipline.
"There is no substitute for hard work," she said.
"I believe in setting goals and planning in life because it will lead us to success.
"I had set a goal to be crowned dux of the school a long time ago and I had been working hard from the start of the year to achieve it.
"Setting goals is not enough because if your attitude is not right after setting the goal, then what's the whole point of it?
"Every small thing you do counts in the end. Students need to keep their attitude right with studies in order to get fruitful results in the end.
"For instance, punctuality and time management are very important elements and you cannot afford to slip out in this area."
Amali was taking six subjects and scored the highest mark in all six.
She had 83 for English, Biology 85, Chemistry 85, Mathematics 89, Religious Education 90 and Food and Technology 92.
She was also named the best science student of the year.
Amali expected her win and in her heart she always knew she could do it.
"I have been in this school since Form Three and I have never seen a Fijian student taking the dux of the school award and as I went to higher forms, my determination to be dux of the school at my time became stronger."
The character of students, personality and how they do in their studies depend on the type of family they come from, says Amali.
"I think the type of family a student comes from has a lot of effect on who he is and how he performs in school.
"It also depends on the parents' attitude and their interest in what goes on in their child's school life."
Amali's mentors are her parents, teachers and God.
She is from Mokani Village in Tailevu and attended Lami Primary School.
"I am always backed and supported by my mentors and I never give up in life.
"Religion also plays a huge part in a person' life and how they view things. I would just like to mention a verse from the Bible which I stand by all the time Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness then everything else will be added on to you."
Amali was head girl this year but the responsibility, she said, was not an obstacle for her academic progress.
"My message to all the young scholars is to work hard from the start of the term.
"Don't think that you can relax when there is plenty of free time.
"Make use of it and it will count in the end, every bit of it."
Amali is looking forward to joining the Fiji School of Medicine and enroll in the MBBS course next year.
She wants to be called Doctor Shaw in life.


Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Former shoeshine boy became the DUX of the school

A FORMER shoeshine boy who spent two and a half years roaming the streets of Sura was named Dux of the Year at Lami High School yesterday.

Maikeli Pio Bale, 19, topped the school in four subjects Agriculture, English, Chemistry and Biology. He said he was motivated by his street struggles and encouraged by his grand-uncle, who adopted him when he was a child after his parents split up.

"I just thought of all the struggles I had while I was in that situation and I thought to myself that I had the potential to go in the opposite direction and achieve whatever I want," he said.

Having come from a broken family, Maikeli was moved from school to school and spent time in his village of Tukavesi at Buca Bay in Vanua Levu about three years ago. In 2000, he was beaten up by soldiers for breaking a curfew.
Two years later, he was pulled off the streets by his granduncle and made to sit for his intermediate exam which he passed. But he returned to the streets and started shining shoes for a living and sleeping rough.

Eventually, Maikeli said he learnt the error of his ways and, like a prodigal son, returned home, went back to school and started going to church regularly. "I still meet my street-kid friends in town once in a while. They try to influence me back but I just tell them to go back to school," he said.

Maikeli has now set his sights on becoming a primary school teacher. His granduncle, Saimoni Naqete, a carpenter by trade, was a proud and a shocked man yesterday. He said Maikeli never told him how well he was doing in school.

He said he never gave up hope on his adopted child, despite his waywardness. "He was a street kid on and off for two and a half years but even while he was like that, I used to keep advising him that it was not the right way to go,'' said Mr Naqete.

"Just looking at what he has achieved today is amazing because he never even told me how he had been doing in school. I came to the prize-giving not expecting to see him collect so many prizes."

Adapted from November 28th, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


RENOWNED Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti once said the object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity. And that is how Sofaia Tagilala views art.

Sofaia always had a liking for art. At primary school she would always try and make something out of the little coloured crayons she had. She would draw stick figures and flowers like other students.

Little did she realise that one day she would be among local artists showcasing their work to prominent people in society. Today, this budding artist who hails from Galoa Village in Kadavu is making a name for herself at the Ratu Iloilovatu Gallery at the Arts Culture and Design School at Raiwai.

She had always wanted to be in the teaching profession but since she enrolled at the school she has never regretted making a change. Now at the age of 20, Tagilalas works of art has marveled a lot of people especially locally renowned artists.

Sofa as her friends call her was in her art room at the school busy painting, completing an incredible piece she has managed to put together in less than a week. Now a third year student at the Art School, Sofa says furthering her interest in art was something that never occurred to her until she joined the school.

Although I love drawing and colouring, it never occurred to me that one day I would actually join a school that would be able to build up my confidence in painting, Sofa said. I was educated at Rampur Primary School in Navua and later joined Rampur College for my secondary education. Although we had art and craft classes in school it never used to be a subject that was seriously taken by the teachers and students, she said.

Since I enrolled at the School of Arts, Culture and Design in 2005, I have come to appreciate what art is all about, she said. Sofa said art is not just about putting colours together to make drawings look good, but it is a way of expressing feelings, moods and views on a particular subject.

Like many of her friends at the school, they each have subjects they love to use as models for painting. My favourite subject is to paint flowers, she said. She said flowers were always the main subject of her artwork because of its complexities in shape and colours.

Flowers are unique and it is the simplest description of the beauty of nature, she said. Flowers are more realistic when we paint them and of cause they are loved by all, she said. Sofa who collected the emerging artist award during last years National Art Exhibition Awards said painting any subject directly related to nature always had an impact on those who love and are conscious of their natural surroundings.

In this years display, Sofa is proudly showcasing a painting of a bird of paradise flower that has colours of orange, purple, yellow and red against a black backdrop. On her wall she has paintings of gladiolas, tulips, orchids and other local flowers.

Sofa loves using pastels in her paintings because she finds it easy to blend the colours. Im glad that at school Im able to develop the little art instinct that I had with me and now it has started to blossom, she said. Sofa said it was an honour to have her art work showcased among those of other students at the gallery.

Sofa said while art may be seen by some people as mere drawings, there are important messages and themes that are behind every art work. I would like to tell the general public to appreciate art as a way of artists expressing their thoughts and ideas about a particular issue or subject, she said. She said most young people prefer to put their thoughts in art forms rather than speaking out publicly.

Sofa hopes to become a teacher one day and spread the fun of having art as a lesson in schools. I believe there is a lot of artistic talent out there that just needs the right tapping, she said.

Sofa encourages young artists in the country to make the most of their talents as it is now becoming an income earning industry in the country.

Adapted from the November 20th, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007


MARY Daya is one of the young emerging writers of the Pacific Writing Forum.

The forum is the creative expression and publications arms of the School of Languages, Arts and Media at the University of the South Pacific.

In the past 10 years, the forum has published more than 250 work by Pacific writer in books, journals, occasional papers and anthologies.

What does it take to be a writer? This is what Mary has to say about what she does. "One has to have an open, creative and dedicated mind in order to be a good writer," she said. "You cannot just go in front of a computer, log on and start typing a story; you have to do a lot of preparation in advance.

"In order to be a good writer, you have to read a lot and read with interest.
"Writing is not easy. You have to work on it for a long period of time. "To be a successful writer, you have to be inspired everyday to be able to write and you have to take it seriously like a job.
"For me, you have to take writing seriously and be into it like you report to any other job in the morning.

"It is not a fairy tale thing that everything will come to your mind and you just start writing. You have to be sure of who you are because it helps you in your writing." Having the skill of writing is one thing but what is more challenging is getting the opportunity to prove your talent, says Mary.

"It is not easy to get recognition especially in the Pacific region. "If you want to be a good writer and be recognised then you have to seek out for opportunities and make your way through."

That is exactly what she did. She enrolled in creative writing course at the USP Literature and Language Department last year and her outstanding writing got her to be part of PWF. Before enrolling at USP, Mary used to write for online readers.

She developed her talent by writing short stories for Asia Pacific Writers and Fiji Speakers Corner. She has also written articles for the USP's Language and Literature Department's annual journal Saraga last year and has contributed articles for this year's journal Dreadlocks. She specialises in writing prose, fiction novels and short stories.

Mary is also supervising and acting as an adviser for a Harvard University student at USP. However her biggest challenge which she has just taken up this week is teaching creative writing to women in Suva Prison. Mary will continue with this for a year she said she was looking forward to be involved in such a project.

Joining the creative writing program at USP, she said, was the best thing that happened to her.
"The best thing to do is join the creative writing program at USP because that is the best thing that ever happened to me. Doing a course is important because it develops your writing."

Mary's source of inspiration for writing further is her lecturer in creative writing program, David Whish-Wilson. Mary loves digging into history, especially the history of the place she comes from. She comes from the old capital Levuka on Ovalau.

At the moment, she is working on a novel based on the history of Levuka and when she completes the book, it will be a big achievement for her. In fact, all her writing, she says were inspired by the place she comes from.

"It is my town and the people there inspire me in all my writings. I am proud of where I come from." With no doubt English was Mary's favourite subject at Levuka Public School.

"I loved English in high school and I would really like to thank my teachers who shaped my writing from the beginning including Suli Sandys, Sera Lockington, Swadesh Kumar and Frances Pene."

She has been writing for the past 15 years and writing is what she wants to do for the rest of her life. "I always wanted to be a writer. Writing is something I was doing as a sideline thing until I made up my mind that it was what I wanted to do in life.

"I would like to spend the rest of my life writing. It does not matter how I do it but I know I will do it somehow," she said.

Adapted from November 17/11/2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007


KAVAIA Sacuqa's search for employment after completing Form Six two years ago was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

But he never gave up. He looked this way and that way for an opening but there was none. Then he turned to farming and it was a decision that proved a winner for the 18-year-old of Navidamu Village in Macuata.

This week, he harvested the first lot of more than 1000 dalo plants he planted in April. He took 20 bundles of dalo to Labasa market and sold them for $12 each and collected $240.

The amount, he said, was impossible to gain in a week if he had found a casual job. "I am glad I decided to join the Macuata provincial youth group. "They helped me find this self-employed job which has a financial reward," Kavaia said.

"There are programs suitable for youths such as me and especially village youths because the land and sea is around us and we can make use of our resources and earn money from it. "All we have to do is know what to do and for that, we seek advice from the experts."

After joining the youth group last year, Kavaia was sent to the Naleba training centre in September where he took up agriculture courses for three months. While at the centre, Kavaia realised how fortunate indigenous youths are as they own the resources that could be used as a source of employment.

"The thought encouraged me to make use of the land, even the piece of land behind our backyard as it would at least provide money to support the family." The thought was also a turning point for the Navidamu lad who decided to start his own farm and plant dalo and yaqona.

When he graduated from the centre December, he got in touch with an uncle at Wainunu in Bua and asked for a piece of land to farm. "My uncle in Wainunu has huge farms of dalo and yaqona so I asked him if I could plant my dalo and yaqona near his farm on a piece of his land.

"He accepted me and here I am in the market selling my dalo," he smiled. "I have never seen such a rewarding job that can bring in a lot of money. Starting the farm was not an easy job," he said.

"First we had to clear the land, dig it up and divide it into plots. "It was the hardest bit but it all turned out successful and I am seeing the rewards for the first time."

When Kavaia arrived at the market, other market vendors and middlemen rushed to buy his bundles of dalo which had eight or nine big dalos for $12 a bundle. With the money earned from his first harvest, Kavaia plans to expand his farm.

"It is good money and while I have the blessings of my uncle to use his land, I might as well plant more and save for the future. "I am still young and I have a long way to go in life but if I work hard now, only I will reap the benefits later on.

"There is no substitute for hard work if you want to get what you are aiming for in life. "

Adapted from November 15th, 2007

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Eliki Nabuto started working as a wheelbarrow boy at the age of 14. He is 32-years-old now and still doing the same job, but in a unique way with a whole new start and mindset.
Mr Nabuto is determined and dedicated. He is one of the 20 wheelbarrow boys in the capital city who were assisted by the Ministry of Social Welfare to start up their own wheelbarrow business early this year. Mr Nabuto said the effort by the ministry has given him a new life.

The ministry had organised a five-day training camp in August at Nanukuloa Village in Ra to empower the boys to improve their lives. The workshop was the first of its kind aimed specifically for displaced people of Suva to improve their lives.

The objective of the training program was to develop necessary skills to start and maintain a small business and it also was aimed at achieving a mindset change and to inculcate skills which encouraged better life management. The boys were later awarded certificates, a savings bank account book, new wheelbarrows with their brand name-WEEBEEZ, uniforms and licence to conduct their normal business.

"I thank this interim Government for thinking about us and giving us a new life. Without their kind support we would not be able to be this stable in life. I liked the training they gave us and I was encouraged to do better in my life and get somewhere now. I have so far saved more than $300 in my bank and before I knew nothing about saving. I do feel secure for the future," said Mr Nabuto.

He was interested in continuing with his education but had to leave school while in Form 4 to support his family. He is the eldest in a family of four children and hails from Deuba Village in Serua.

"I have two brothers and one sister and I had to leave school because someone had to look after my family. I started with the wheelbarrow job but also did farming at home and sold cash crops," he said.

In between his teenage years Mr Nabuto also used to do farming at home to support his family. He later tried other jobs but handling a wheelbarrow was what he settled with in the end. "I had worked as a assistant store man for Lees Trading Company, as a security officer, a garment factory worker, a kitchen hand in hotels in the western side but ended up with this wheelbarrow job in the end. I earn more this way and I also enjoy doing this," he said. Mr Nabuto said he used to earn more than what he does today because there was less competition in the field.

"I was earning more before because there were fewer boys doing this job. I used to make $60-$70 per day before and it was even more during Friday and Saturday but now I make about $30-$40 per day and get $60-$70 per day on Saturdays mostly," he said. Before being part of the program, Mr Nabuto used to pay $5 per day to the owner of the wheelbarrow. He is glad that he is his own boss now and is able to save for a brighter future for him and his family.

Mr Nabuto has a four year old daughter named Losalini Tagiri and his wife is Onorina Rokowati. His dream in life is to be a good father and husband and to take good care of his family. He lives at Kalokolevu Village in Naboro.

"I am also looking forward to getting my licence and perhaps start a small canteen business in my village," he said. His only regret in life is that he was unable to complete his studies and he looks forward to studying in the future. Never allow others to let you down is what Mr Nabuto believes in.

"My message to the young people is to do any job that comes your way. Dont be ashamed to do it because you think about what others will think. Secondly believe in God, pray every day and leave the rest to him," he said.

Adapted from the November 8th, 2007

Monday, November 5, 2007


Rural postings are always a challenge. This rings true for 40-year-old school teacher, Vereniki Namositava. And he says if you happen to be teaching in a boarding school, it is quite a task.

Mr Namositava is a school teacher at Vunisea Secondary School in Kadavu and is also the school's acting vice-principal.
Vunisea Secondary is the only government secondary school on the island and is the only one that most students on the island go to for secondary education.

Originally from Naivucini in Naitasiri, Mr Namositava has great memories of his 13 years teaching experience at the school. Growing up in the city most of his life, it was a big change for him when he had to travel to work in an island school.

"I worked in rural schools before coming to Vunisea," he said. But those schools were closer to towns and transportation was mostly by cars and trucks. And the environment was very different.

To Mr Namositava, being a Fijian and teaching in a Fijian-dominated school, has not made his work easy for him. In fact, it has opened his eyes to what island children and parents face to get children to school to have a proper education.

He has also learnt that in such settings, teaching children is more than just teaching them about books and what it says, because teachers have to concentrate on the children's upbringing as well.

"Vunisea Secondary School is a boarding school, so staff are tasked with a lot of work," he said. "Most students go back home only during school holidays. Most of their time is spent in school.
"So most of the time when we are teaching, we are just not teachers, but parents and guardians too. It is very challenging."

And having spent 13 years in the school, for Mr Namositava, every day is a learning curve. "When I first started, I felt like a student too entering a boarding school for the first time. I was amazed at most things I saw and heard," he said.

"And sometimes we have to teach students basic things that concern every day living. "I guess students face a culture shock when they come in to a big school, compared to their village schools and more so learning in a big environment that is preparing them for the big world out there."

Mr Namositava taught at Ratu Latianara Secondary School for three years from 1990 to 1993. He graduated in 1994 from the University of the South Pacific with a Bachelor of Science Degree.

He taught for a few months at Suva Grammar School before taking up the Vunisea posting.
Mr Namositava's wife also teaches at the school. They have no plans of leaving Vunisea soon because they are enjoying their stay. The school has a roll of 250 children from forms Three to Seven with 26 staff.

Mr Namositava's challenge to teachers out there is to take up teaching in rural schools, especially in boarding schools. "Most times we take things for granted while in the city and towns," he said.

"It's those small things that mean a lot to most people out there."

Adapted from the November 5th, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007


TEENAGER Doris Baleimakogai dedicated her victory in the Vodafone Gold Town Carnival to her mother, Ema Lidya Kivi, who died two weeks ago.

The Class Eight student of Vatukoula Convent School vowed to work with the carnival committee in helping the needy, saying that was a passion held dear by her mother.

"I am very excited to be crowned Miss Gold Town and I will always work with the committee to help the needy," Dori, 13, said.

"I want to dedicate my victory to my mother who passed away two weeks ago because she was the one who encouraged me to take part in the event."

Mrs Kivi was buried in Vatukoula on Saturday, October 13, just four days before the carnival started

Doris' father, Romeo, said he believed his daughter's victory was reward for the hardwork and sacrifices Doris made looking after her mother.

"Our family has been really struggling because my elder son is in a coma at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva after a serious accident last month while my wife passed away two weeks ago," he said.

"After she was buried on Saturday, I told Doris she should continue participating in the carnival because it was something her mother worked very hard for even when she was bedridden," he said.

Mr Kivi said he only hoped his wife could have been present when Doris was crowned Miss Gold Town.

Carnival trustees committee chairman Chandra Singh said they raised $50,300, with over $4000 donated by Fijians in


Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


FOR 13-year-old student, Doris Catherine Baleimakogai participating in the Vodafone Gold Town Carnival that gets underway today is more than just helping the poor and disadvantaged.
The Class Eight student of Vatukoula Convent School is also taking part in the four-day event in memory of her mother, Ema Lidya Kivi who died last week.
Even though her family suffered a major tragedy, Doris said her father, Romeo Kivi remained adamant she participate because her mother wanted her to be part of the carnival.
Doris, who is Miss Civil Servants, said her parents were very passionate about helping the poor and disadvantaged communities in the area so it was the least she could do for her mother.
She said when her mother died, she was prepared to pull out of the competition but her father told her to continue for the sake of her mum. The youngest of seven siblings said even though she was the youngest contestant, she relied on the faith of others to get her through the event.
Doris said being able to help the poor was something she always wanted to do and this was the best opportunity to reach as many people as possible.
"I am a little worried about the public speeches but I know I will be able to manage because I have a lot of support," she said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


Believing in oneself and moving positively in life despite difficulties is what Jona Moli Bukasoqo believes in. The 22-year-old who is now enrolled in a carpentry and joinery course at the National Youth Training Centre at Nasau in Sigatoka has struggled a lot in life before ending at the vocational school.

He joined the school in March this year for the one year course. Prior to this, he was making a living from farming and fishing in Levuka. He has learnt to live on his own and says he always has the 'can do' attitude.

"My mum is from Tailevu and my dad is from the Lomaiviti Group but I never really got to stay with them as a family. My parents always have been on their own and moved on with their lives and I have learnt to look after myself," said Jona. He is the second youngest in a family of five children and is a school dropout.

"I went to Uluibau Primary School in Moturiki in the Lomaiviti Group. I stayed with my dad's relatives when I was young and then I was sent to Levuka to stay with my mum's relatives. I attended Delana Methodist High School in Levuka but I went up to Form Five only. My mum was supporting and financing my school needs but things got hard when I was in Form Five so I stopped schooling," he said.

Since then Jona was expected to survive on his own and he turned towards farming and fishing to make a living for himself in Levuka. "I was planting yaqona and going out to fish to earn money and I survived on that. I did not want to be a burden on relatives I was staying with so I had to do something on my own," said Jona.

Before resorting to farming and fishing, Jona was working for a company in Walu Bay but he was unhappy with the pay and the working condition. "I was working for long hours six days a week and the pay was not good so I moved away from that job and went to Levuka. There I knew I could do things on my own and earn better too," he said.

"I don't want to rely on somebody or make a living from someone's support. I want to do something on my own and become someone on my own."

Even though Jona was making a living for himself from the resources he obtained from the land and sea, he had higher aims at the back of his head. "While I was farming in Levuka, at the back of my head I knew I didn't want to do this forever but study and become someone in life so I kept looking for opportunities. I applied here last year and started in March this year. We don't have to pay for anything here except an enrollment fee of $60," he said.

Jona had also applied to the Centre for Appropriate Technology and Development in Nadave in Nausori last year but missed out on the interview. "I had a boil on my leg when they called me for an interview so I could not go but doing engineering there is what I really want to do. After completing my course here, I will apply again. Doing engineering is my dream and I know I will be there one day," he said.

He has bigger dreams which he plans to achieve on his own.

"I don't even want to be attached to my parents but I want to struggle on my own and get somewhere in life on my own. I have never got the full support and attention I needed so that's why I prefer doing everything on my own. I would like to go and explore what's availabe overseas and perhaps settle there in future," said Jona.

"There are some people I would really like to thank the youth coordinator in Lomaitiviti, Master Saimoni Dobui who always encouraged me to strive higher in life and kept telling me that I can do it on my own. Secondly, I would like to thank Ms Manaini Rokovunisei from the Ministry of Youth and Master Joseph Fuata who looks after us here," he said.

Jona's motto in life is 'Never lose hope no matter what'.

"Hope of getting somewhere and for things to get better should always be there. This is what I would like to say to all the young people out there who are in the same boat as I was once. Struggling is a part of life and we should not give up," he said.

Adapted from October 24th, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Litiana finds niche in ceramics

FOR Litiana Vuniwaqa making things from ceramic is her first step to achieving her dream of being an artist and putting her work on display in an art gallery or sell online. She was recently part of the first-ever graduation for CreatiVITI Pottery Apprentices, held earlier this month in Mountain View, Nadi.

The CreatiVITI Pottery apprenticeship program was launched in December 2005. The design of this program reflects that ceramics involves an extensive range of knowledge and skills, some fairly complex.
Repeated practice over time is needed to master some of the techniques to a point where results are marketable.

A one-month probation period followed by a further five months of job experience and training is the standard structure of the program. The goals of the apprenticeship program may simply be exposure, work experience for school-leavers and others trying to move into the general job market.

Litiana was among six young people who completed this pioneer training program, gaining skills and knowledge needed as a foundation for building careers in contemporary ceramics. She has learned how to harvest clay from the field, test and process it.

Her training included theory and practical work in a range of pottery-forming processes, using modern tools and a special oven where clay pieces are heated to over 1000 degrees Celcius, making them strong, waterproof, and durable.

The shy lass from Dreketi, Qamea, said art in the form of drawings and sketches was something she had always been involved in. "This is something new for me but is very interesting because I play around with the designs and try new things out," she said. "It's no turning back because this is another avenue of earning a living for myself.

"I am still very young and my journey is just only beginning." Litiana, 21, was educated at Seaqaqa Indian Primary School before going to Seaqaqa Central, in Labasa, and completing seventh form at Penang Sangam, in Rakiraki.

She is the youngest among nine siblings of four brothers and four sisters. She said the hands-on community educational project was part of the work CreatiVITI did in developing and promoting art and craft in Fiji.

"One of my friends talked me into signing up for the program and that it would be worth giving a try," she said. "I have been doing clay pottery and ceramics for the last nine months, it's early days but it's something I am keen on getting this thing working.

"I found that it's one way of expressing myself in terms of the type of designs I come up with.
"I get my designs from my surroundings, nature and my imagination. "I have just completed one of my very first contracts with one of the hotels in the West.

"The design was my instructor Maria Rova's and it took me three months to put together.
"The time spent on each project differs as it depends on the design. "But the next big project I am working on right now is for the upcoming Christmas craft fair to be staged in Suva.

"I think young people should not shy away from this. "If they have the talent in producing extraordinary art work that makes people sit up and take notice, they should continue and not stop there," he said.

Adapted from - October 23rd, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007


Barbara Doton was surprised at being crowned the Vodafone Ba Carnival queen and Miss Charity on Saturday night.
Ms Doton, 20, a law student with the University of Huddersfield, in the United Kingdom, walked away a double winner, saying that she did not expect it at all.
"I live here in Ba and I am studying online," she said.
Ms Doton, a daughter of dentist, Dr Maria Doton, said she was the last contestant to enter the carnival.
Sponsored by 4R Electrical, Ms Doton said she entered the pageant a week before the carnival, hoping to have fun. "This was obvious during the carnival," she said.
She said being a bookworm, a weeklong carnival was a break from reading her law books.
Ms Doton has spent the past 16 years in Ba.
"I am originally from the Philippines, but I was born in Suva," she said. "We moved to Nadi and now live permanently in Ba."
She said although she had never taken part in such a contest, she believed her exposure to places like Suva and New Zealand had helped.
"I spent a year doing Foundation at the Central Queensland University in Suva before moving to New Zealand where I lived for a year."
Ms Doton said she was glad to take part and give something back to the community.
Organising committee chairman Rishi Kumar said the carnival to raise money for the Ba soccer team was a success but he could not reveal how much Ms Doton or the carnival had raised.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Naikatinis talents, skills raise eyebrows in New Zealand

Watching Api Naikatini play rugby, it seems absurd that he has spent much of the past few years with his head crushed between front rowers thighs.

The 22-year-old has athleticism and skill most with a 1.95m frame can only dream of. His loping one-handed runs with the ball in hand, skilful lineout work and seemingly tireless work around the park have made Wellingtons blindside flanker one of the finds of the season.
But till this season, Naikatini has had to temper much of that natural ability to fulfill the less glamorous role of a lock.

"I actually played first-five till under-14s. I used to like to do a few dropped goals and the goal kicking, but the under-16s put me to lock because I was growing too big," he said laughing. "It is quite new to me playing at six. I have been a lock for so long, but its been quite easy to adjust once you get some advice from the experienced boys."

Naikatini has been a revelation in his first year of Air New Zealand Cup and not surprisingly has warmed to the freedom of the loose forwards. After starting the season on the reserves bench, Naikatini got a start against Counties-Manukau in round six and hasnt looked back. The same could be said for his fledgling rugby career since he arrived in New Zealand for his final year of school.

Born in Nadi, Naikatini attended Nasinu Secondary School and then Marist Brothers College, the school that produced current Fiji national coach Illi Tabua and former Crusader Marika Vunibaka. Selected in the Fijian Schools side to tour Australia and Tonga, he caught the eye of talent scouts from New Zealand and gained a rugby scholarship at Wanganui City College.

His brother Illiki, a member of the current Manawatu squad, had moved to Wellington to try his luck with Northern United in 2002 and Api followed in 2004. Then-Norths coach Eddie Ellison recalls a reluctant young lock who hadnt realised his potential.

"I called him up into the premier squad pretty early on, but then I would turn up at training and hed be missing. He kept going back to the colts and I kept dragging him back into the premier squad."

Ellison, now Wellington Development team coach, said Naikatinis height and jumping ability had limited his chances to play blindside flanker at club level. "We played him mainly at lock because we didnt really have anyone tall enough and we had a lot of good loose forwards. This year Norths had a couple of bean poles and he got a bit more of a run.

"Apis so quick on the jump - thats one of his real strengths as a lock - but the other parts of his game have really improved. "He used to sort of do those dancing runs with the ball a lot and turn it over with 50-50 passes, but hes really worked on that and (Lions forwards coach) Jamie Joseph has obviously done some good work there."

A New Zealand Colts trialist last year, Naikatini is picked by many to be a bolter in the Hurricanes Super 14 squad at the end of the month.
Adapted from October 20, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Maya Breitburg-Smith says the environment is an important thing because it is connected with our personal and economic growth. She said if the area outside your home is not taken care of you are not going to be healthy, and you will be spending a lot on health care.

A lot of time people dont realise that the environment plays a crucial part of our life, she said. Maya as everyone calls her has been in the country a little over a year but already she has been involved in environmental awareness in the Tikina of Komave on the Coral Coast.

I met Maya while out on an assignment and was interested to know how she had adapted so well in the Tikina of Komave thousands of miles away from her homeland. The shy soft-spoken lass was a bit hesitant to be interviewed until she was encouraged by a few villagers. What startled me was the way she freely conversed in the Navosa dialect with everyone in Korolevu. Maya is originally from Maryland just outside Washington DC in the United States.

The 24-year-old peace corps volunteer and a graduate in environmental science has been working with the vusu environment committee to help the community focus on preserving the environment and improving environmental practices. Maya arrived in Fiji on June 1 last year and completed her training in Lawaki Village just outside Lautoka.

I wasnt really sure what to do with my degree so I joined the peace corps where I get to travel to some place new for two years and try something new, she said. When I started as a peace corps volunteer in the villages we started building compost toilets and doing recycling projects. We also organised a Clean Compound competition to see how best villagers keep their surroundings clean.

This would allow villagers to separate their rubbish. They would also ensure standing water and drains were cleared at the villages. Maya said the one thing she enjoyed and made a point of learning was the local dialect. Picking up the dialect took a while although we had training at Lawaki Village. But I am learning every day, she said.

When I went to the village I tried not to speak in English although the people here speak it very well and it is one of my goals to speak the dialects. I went to the bose ni yasana in Nadroga and when everyone from my district being Navosa was speaking I was able to understand them but when people from Sigatoka started speaking I was lost.

It takes time to learn the dialects and is a good experience because you get to meet new people and eat new foods and we also laugh about our funny experiences. Everyone has been welcoming but of course you would miss home and your family. I get homesick but communication with those back home isnt really that hard. I have a mobile phone that I use and there are email shops in town and being able to reach out to my family helps a lot.

It helps a lot that I am always surrounded by people here at the villages and it helps shake off my homesick blues and they are very friendly and caring.

Adapted from the 17 October 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007


WINNING a medal irrespective if it is gold, silver or bronze for your country at such an event as the Pacific Games, or any games for that matter, is an achievement of a lifetime.
That is how Paulini Korowaqa felt when she stood on the victory dais in Apia, Samoa two weeks ago to receive the silver medal for the women's 4x400m relay.
Fiji slipped behind the Papua New Guinea team which took the gold but for the 16-year-old student of Ballantine Memorial School at Delainavesi, Lami, it was something to remember.
Paulini ran in the women's 4x400m relay with track queen Makelesi Bulikiobo and was third in the women's 400m for the bronze medal, where Makelesi won the gold.
Although she has not fully achieved her goal of winning a gold medal, Paulini is glad she came back with something.
It was her biggest achievement so far in such a big event that only comes once in four years for the best athletes and sportspeople in the Pacific region.
"I am happy that at least I got something back.
"I admit it was disappointing to lose the gold in the 4x400m which was won by the PNG girl but I told myself it is all right because I managed to end up in second place," she said.
"My friends and family were very happy with my performance and I am happy about it.
"The most important thing was that I was part of such a big event and this is my biggest achievement."
Achieving positive results on the track or any arena in any sports, she says, is not an easy thing to do.
"The training bit and preparing for the event is very tough," she said.
"I had to wake up at 4am every day for three weeks to go and train at the national stadium.
"I had to go through three weeks of intensive training and I am glad I had coaches of the calibre and experience of Albert Miller and Jone Delai to train me.
"The training was tough but I was told that I had to work hard if I wanted to get somewhere."
She is glad she did not have to sit for any external exam this year.
"I managed to cope with my school work and getting updated with my subjects," she said.
"The school was really supportive and gave me space." Paulini is a boarder at BMS and comes from Nairukuruku Village in Naitasiri.
She is the youngest and only sister of three brothers.
She was part of the 4x400m team which went to the Oceania Games in Australia last month to build up for the Pacific Games and won silver.
Paulini made her mark at the secondary schools Coca-Cola Games in Suva, winning gold for BMS in the girls 400m.
"This year I won gold in 400m and silver in the 800m," she said.
"Last year I won silver in the 400m and the other year I managed to win bronze, so the gold medal is my next target at the Pacific Games."
Her outstanding performance at the Coke Games won her a place in the Fiji women's track team to the SPG. She was one of the many students who were members of the Team Fiji contingent.
"What keeps me going is the support I receive from my family, my friends and teachers at school," she said.
"Without their support and encouragement I would not have come this far."
Paulini said the good thing about taking part in sports was the chance to travel and see places.
"I like having trips and I really enjoy it when I travel out of Fiji to participate in major events.
"That is the fun bit.
"I love this part of the sport."
Paulini said she would like to be a professional athlete in future and will never give up the sport just yet.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


PATIENT, humble and confident are three words that aptly describe Arvind Maharaj.
It was those qualities that enabled the Fiji-born man to win the Sydney Institute TAFE International student of the year award.
Arvind said it was the first time a Fiji student had won the award and he was proud of it.
Arvind is a cool and collected young man.
You can tell he is a man of his words and holds his principles in life close to him.
With a humble beginning at Vuci Methodist Primary School, Arvind said he had a dream to achieve a feat no one in his family had done.
"I wanted to be an electronics engineer and nothing was going to stop me," Arvind said.
"I did not only dream about it, I hard to work hard for it."
From Vuci Methodist, Arvind went to Vunimono High School in 1996 and spent four years there.
He said at Vunimono High he realised he was destined for greater things in electronics.
"I was so interested in the subject and my teachers were very supportive of my ambition," Arvind said.
"They inspired me to work hard to achieve what I wanted."
In 2000, Arvind started at the Fiji Institute of Technology.
"We had a lot of time to ourselves at FIT but most of this time I had to sacrifice and studied and explored the world of electronics.
"Like other students straight from high school, the transition took time and I had to adjust."
After three years at FIT, Arvind graduated with honours in Electronic Engineering.
"I was overwhelmed after graduating but I knew it was not the end of it because I was young and had all the time in the world to continue with my studies."
But because of unforeseen circumstances, Arvind found a job as an electrical engineer with Courts Homecentres.
Lucky for him, it was not job alone he was also trained as engineer for the brand name NEC Asia Pacific.
Arvind said the opportunity was one he was glad to take.
"I did not know that I was going to be trained in while working and I never regretted taking the employment opportunity."
In 2004 it was the grand opening for him to join South Western Sydney Institute where he furthered his studies in network engineering.
Arvind admitted it was the best thing to happen to his life.
"Being enrolled in an institution with such a reputation was awesome and I made sure I made the most of the opportunities they gave me."
Since he enrolled as a student Arvind has always been recognised for his hard work.
For three years he has been a finalist in the international student of the year award.
He finally won this year.
"This award means a lot to me personally, because it recognises my contribution, dedication to the work I was sent here to do and I'm proud of it."
Arvind said the award would not have been possible if it was not for the support he had received from his family.
"This award is especially dedicated to my aji and aja (grandparents), my parents, my sisters and brother and all those who have been helping me during my education years."
Arvind said he hope more students from Fiji would enroll in such a reputable institute and stamp their mark for themselves and for Fiji.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, September 17, 2007


MOST countries in the world have their own music which is unique to the people and country.
Indonesia is known for its bamboo instruments or arumba.
Bamboo is in abundance there and it is not a surprise to find instruments made of the wood. Bamboo is like a sacred tree to them and is also used for kitchen utensils, floors, walls, etc.
Earlier this year, three young people from Fiji went to Indonesia on a cultural scholarship program. One of them was 24-year-old music teacher Isimeli Vatuwaliwali of Kavula from Nakorotubu in Ra.
He was offered the scholarship two years ago while a student at Fiji College of Advanced Education but went in May this year. His Fiji companions were Alena Vesikula and Akisi Bolabola. They met up with 47 other scholarship recipients in Jakarta and were divided in four groups and parted ways.
Alena and Akisi went to Solo and Bali while Isimeli went to Bandung the heart of bamboo music, where they teach it at the Saung Angklung Udjo.
The Saung Angklung Udjo is a centre established in 1967 by founders, Mang Udjo and his wife Uum Sumiati.
On his first night there, Isimeli said his friend from Kiribati, Bauta'aki Beia, came and sat with him in his room because he could not sleep from the loud prayers coming from the mosque next door.
As they stayed longer, they became used to the prayers and got to know the exact time of the prayers. Classes were from Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm (with breaks) where they were introduced to bamboo instruments.
"It's not hard to learn, it's just like playing the keyboard," Isimeli said.
Their teacher, Sam Udjo, was the son of the founder.
"Some of the old students were teaching as well. After two months of classes, we started performing at shows."
The shows are normally held from 3.30pm to 5.30pm and only by reservation.
Indonesian people, like most other Asians, are physically small and finding outfits to fit Isimeli and his Kiribati and New Zealand friend was a challenge. But there is a solution to every problem and this was solved without a hitch.
There were 13 scholarship recipients at Bandung and they were divided into groups of four and each group had a house.
Isimeli said it took him about three weeks to adjust to the food and it got to a point where he and members of his group asked if they could cook their own food.
"They have rice with everything, even with ice cream and we were shocked to find rice served at McDonald's and KFC restaurants as well."
But for a Fijian, three months of eating rice on a daily basis can take its toll and he could not wait to get home so he could sink his teeth into some dalo.
That basically had him texting home to tell his relatives to prepare a lovo for him. However, he said any signs of homesickness disappeared after the first few days as he found Indonesian people to be very much like Fijians.
"They are good-hearted people and have the same sort of respect we have at home. Before I came, I heard all the stories about terrorism and natural disasters, especially earthquakes but I found it was normal.
"This scholarship has not only allowed me to learn about Indonesian people but to know them by interacting with them on a daily basis.
"It has been a good opportunity not only to learn about the culture but to learn about the people as well."
One funny thing about the place where they stayed was that smoking was not allowed and even though there were mosquitoes, coils to repel them were not allowed. The reason the place is made of bamboo so all it needs is for a little flame and the whole place would be ablaze.
An interesting thing Isimeli found about the place was that there were festivals for food like picking strawberries, for example.
But he says he will never forget the place because of the people who were always willing to help even though most did not speak English.
Isimeli added that in the three months he was there, he was able to catch on quickly with the language because it was pretty similar to Fijian.
He is now back at Laucala Bay Secondary School where he will pass on the skills of playing bamboo instruments.
He encouraged all who would be given the chance to go on the same scholarship program.
For him, it was an opportunity that left him enriched and there is nothing about it that he would want to change.
He will never forget his first day in Jakarta where he did a sevusevu of yaqona at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and there was no bilo, so they had to use coffee cups to taki.
All who come away from Indonesia will never forget terima kasih thank yo

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


MONTFORT Boys Town won the Tadra Kahani for a record fifth time last week and for a group of young men, there is no better way of passing their message than through music and dance.
One of the students has been behind the two-years-in-a-row win.
He is Ledua Sigani, 20, an automotive engineering student from Waciwaci Village on Lakeba in Lau and the team leader.
"I believe that through music and dancing we are able to spread the message youths would like to share with the world," he said.
Ledua said one could always associate youths with music so it was easy for them to use music as a tool to highlight their concerns about issues affecting youths.
"We are grateful that such events are being organised and we are able to participate."
Ledua said the event was something the boys of Montfort at Veisari looked forward to every year.
He said the show brought out a lot of characters in the participants which the school was not aware of.
"With the show we are able to see some of the hidden talents my peers have and we often joke about it.
"For some, dancing is something we think only takes place in nightclubs but we have come to learn that music and dancing can be a tool of passing our thoughts and views on issues that concerns us."
Ledua said the Tadra Kahani had become a property of the school and it was something they would defend to the death. "I can say the competition every year has been really tough and it is getting tougher and we were glad to be able to take out the overall crown again this year."
Their theme this year was 'Inner Power Struggle' and all who watched the show at the Vodafone Arena will not dispute that Montfort Boys Town's performance was unique and a class of it's own. Ledua said the theme motivated the students to put up a vibrant and colourful performance. "The theme depicts the struggle we face from the womb to the tomb.
"Our hearts and minds are withered with insensitivity, self-righteousness and judgmentalism.
"We have to be life-giving people and celebrate life." He said the 60 students who took part were able to pass on the message in an award winning way.
"Montfort's performance was different from all other schools.
"It was simple but extravagant in the sense of the choreography of the dance moves.
"Our costumes, paints and background was simple and I believe that it was the choreography that made the difference." Montfort was the last school to go on stage, as defending champions, and they stunned the audience and won the accolades of the crowd.
Ledua said the win was a result of the effort put together by the students and staff of the school.
"Our principal was the driving force behind the scene and we also had staff members such as Master Ravin, who was always there for the performers." Ledua said they practised for one and half hours everyday during their free time and classes were not affected by their practice.
"Putting together the show was not easy and a lot had to be sacrificed but it was worth it."
He said the opportunity to give the performers a chance to show the God-given talents they had is something the school will always be proud of. He said the win was an added bonus to the boys and he dedicated it to all the staff and students who worked tirelessly behind the scene.
"This award is also for the old boys who won the award during their years at Montfort."
The school won the Tadra Kahani show in 2001, 2002 when it was known as the Rock Challenge and in 2003 and 2006.
This year it was changed from Tadra Kahani to the Dream Story and Montfort Boys Town gave them something to dream about.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Rusiate Savuto Vakadewavosa is a die-hard Fiji rugby fan. He has just released a single to inspire our team to the Rugby World Cup in France.
Titled Go Fiji go, Savuto as he is commonly called, hopes his song will inspire Fiji fans to rally behind the team.
"It is something that we need and what the team needs, taking into account what has happened around us," he says.
"I believe if there is a time our boys in France need our support the most, it would be during the World Cup campaign," he said.
Savuto is a Form Seven student at Lelean Memorial School and hails from the village of Lakeba in the district of Saqani in Cakaudrove.
Still in secondary school, this motivated young man has already released two singles and has vowed to release more in the near future.
The outspoken youngster said his love for music was nurtured as he grew up.
Being the only child of a talatala (church minister), Savuto would be part of every church gathering at his home as well as those that involved the community.
This was how he was introduced to music through Christian hymns. Savuto's dad is well known within the Methodist Church ranks.
Reverend Epineri Vakadewavosa is the principal of the Methodist Church Theological College at Davuilevu, Nausori.
Savuto said he first became a choir member when he was in primary school at Lautoka Methodist School.
"Even though we sing at home and in church my first choir was at Lautoka Methodist," he said.
After Lautoka, his father was enrolled at university in the United States of America where he furthered his study and the then young boy was introduced to a totally new environment and of cause new music.
"From Lautoka we had to go to America, and I attended Sycamore Elementary School in California," he said.
"This was also where my eyes and ears were taken away by the varieties of music that young people were exposed to in the States.
"I was amazed and because of the little knowledge and talent that I had brought over from Fiji I was motivated to explore more about music," Savuto said.
And that was exactly what this Saqani man did; he took up music classes for the six years in California.
However, this Davuilevu student said although there is a lot of different kinds of music in the world today, nothing beats the old traditional Fijian singing.
"We have heard so many international musicians thriving in the music industry and for me I still look up to Sakiusa Bulicokocoko and Laisa Vulakoro as inspirations," he said.
However, Savuto said he very much into contemporary music where all kinds of music are blended to bring out something a little bit different.
"I believe there is life in music, and creating melody is something that brings out life for me," he said.
Meanwhile the Go Fiji go release is currently number two on a Fijian radio station hit list and this was something he was grateful for.
However, this was not his first. His first single release was titled Na Noqu Timi which was dedicated to the Lelean Memorial School under 19 team that won the Deans Trophy last year.
With an ambition to pursue a career in music, Savuto is looking forward to release an album that would include all his single releases.
"I have made up my mind and I believe I would be able to pursue a professional career in singing," he said confidently.
Savuto said the support he has been receiving has been overwhelming especially from his parents, schoolmates and friends.
Savuto said he would be one of the future stars that would bring back live music to the scene, doing away with programmed music.
"Music is life and of cause the music has to be live," he said.
With his passion for music, this young man brings out memories of the late John Lennon of the Beatles who once said, "As I play the game of life, I try to make it better each and every day. And when I struggle in the night, the magic of the music seems to light the way".

Adapted from Fijitimes Online