Monday, April 30, 2007

Feedback on Tuwawa Youth of the Month

Our Tuwawa Youth of the Month concept was born out of the idea that Youths are often not recognised in the work that they do. This is an opportunity where their achievements can be seen and shared with their peers, and acknowledged by members of the Fijian community worldwide.

Let us know of any youths in your neighbourhood that needs to be featured on our website, and also if you have feedback on making this initiative a better one, please email us your thoughts.

Look forward to hearing your views on the youths of the month we have featured so far.


Saturday, April 21, 2007


Miau sa bula Re!

Na yacaqu o Sanaila Raleqe. Au cavutu mai na koro o Tavea ena Tikina o Lekutu ena Yasana vaka Turaga O Bua. Noqu Mataqali o Lasakau, ena Tokatoka o Sawai ena Yavusa o Burenitu I Wai. Au vasu ena koro o Naidiri ena tikina o Malomalo ena Yasana Vakaturaga O Nadroga.

· Tutu vakavanua: Gonedau
· Kau: Vasa
· Manumanu: Visako
· Noqui cavuti vakaturaga: I Rocivo vua na turaga na Tunidau, I Cakaunitabua vua na Gone Turaga na Tui Bua

My primary school education began at Veiuto Primary School. I continued on to finish my secondary education at Suva Grammar School. My parents were both graduates of the University of the South Pacific and were secondary school teachers in Fiji in the 1980's to the end of the 1990's. My dad unfortunately passed away in the year 1997 after a short illness. My mum then the sole breadwinner in the family brought us through to this very day. I have a younger brother who now works for Clay Engineering in Fiji and a younger sister who is currently into her 2nd year pursuing her degree at the University of Canterbury.

I currently work as a Youth & Recreation Officer at the Canterbury Fiji Social Service Trust based here in Christchurch. I basically organise and oversee the running of all the youth programmes that we offer to the Riccarton / Wigram area. Our youth programmes are multi racial and we have participants from all ethnic backgrounds. We target two main age categories, which are 5- 10 years and 11 - 19 years. These are some of the youth programmes that we offer:






5- 10 YEARS & 11 - 19 YEARS

11 - 19 YEARS

5 - 10 YEARS

The programmes have different modes of time basis when it is being run. The Out of School Care is being offered throughout the school terms where children are being looked after as soon school finishes till their parents pick them up after their days work. The Holiday programme on the other hand is only offered during the school term holidays. Whilst the life skill programme which is called the Youth @ Gr8 is an ongoing programme throughout the year on fortnightly basis.

We have some other staff members who help organise the daily activities for the OSCAR and the Holiday programmes. I personally concentrate and spend most of my time with the Life Skill Programme, which is called the Youth@GR8. This is a collective number of youths within the Riccarton / Wigram area whom are being prone to personal and social problems at home and in schools. Often youth workers would know them generally as Youth @ risk. Therefore I have changed the whole nametag and personal views on them by naming our youth group as youth@ great. The name itself inspires an individual that he or she is special and can always achieve their personal goals in life to become a successful person one-day.

Hence fortnightly we go for weekend camps, a day at the confidence course, retreats, tours to heritage parks and sceneries, picnics, sports and we also do community work like clean up campaigns and neighbourhood day celebrations. In these special programmes we provide special talks presented by myself or invited speakers. The aim is to encourage youths that life is best if we take our chances, believe in ourselves and live positively in society. I often enjoy these sessions and found them to be a great learning experience for the youths and empowering for me personally. We aspire to develop social interaction, culture integration, and mainly build personal development for all our participants.

Apart from the above, we also have other youth programmes that directly target Fijian youths around Christchurch. We have a cultural dance (Meke) group that often participates in various events within Canterbury. The focus is to encourage our Fijian youths to know their culture and develop the ability to appreciate it by the expression of traditional meke or contemporary dance.

We also have a Radio youth programme which airs on Plains FM 96.9 every week on Thursdays from 6pm - 7pm. The multi- lingual programme is heard throughout Christchurch and comprises of news, interviews, old folk and traditional Fijian songs.

In the year 2006 the programme was awarded the best youth programme on community radio here in Christchurch. It has been also the medium of gathering information by the Fijian community to update Fijians in the Canterbury region of any important upcoming events.

If there is something I have learnt throughout my whole life and especially working with youths is that " Nothing is impossible".


Vinaka vakalevu.


Ni Sa Bula,

O au o Maciu Vucago. Au vola kawabula e na vanua vaka Nalolo, na Yavusa ko Dravuni, Koro ko Deuba, Yasana rairai totoka ko Serua.

I was born and raised in Deuba village, situated on the beautiful province of Serua. I attended all my primary school level education at Deuba District School. I left the village for secondary education at Queen Victoria School in 1990, and completed Fiji Seventh Form at Nasinu Secondary School in 1997. I migrated to New Zealand in January 2000 after two years stint of work experience at Telecom Fiji Ltd.

Current Education Details
Post Graduate Dip - Development Studies (Leadership and Governance) - Current (Victoria University of Wellington).
Bachelor in Arts - Development Studies and Public Policies - 2006

Diploma in Bilingual Education - Primary - 2003 My New Zealand Experience
New Zealand or Aotearoa has become part of a significant chapter in my life story. It has provided me with a lot of opportunities and support so I can be able to realize my own aspirations in life. Some of these aspirations have become realities. Some are still to be achieved. As a Fijian and a Pacific Islander, I am fortunate to have been taught values that have been deeply embedded within me. These values are what I share with people around me.

My family has played a key role in my life outside of Fiji. Upon arriving to this new country, I developed a fear of the unknown. I at times feel totally alienated, as I see a new culture different from what I was used to. I then found out that in order to be successful in a new country, I have to experience a different life so I can develop the confidence to face challenges that life may bring. I became actively involved in various community groups; working with them has boosted my confidence. For instance, the Methodist Church, the Wanganui Fijian Community, the Wanganui Pasifika Community and the Fijian youth needed my help and so I voluntarily provided my assistance. These experiences I hold dear in my heart especially, those lives I had touched and helped through the years.

Current Work and Studies
I currently work as a part time tutor in the Institute of Education at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) as well as a fellow with the Pacific Regional Leadership Group contracted by NZAID to facilitate leadership development in the Pacific. Voluntarily, I am the President of the Fiji students Association at VUW; youth coordinator to Wellington Wesley youth, and as an executive member to the Pacific Nations Educators Association (PNEA). Most importantly, I am a choir member of the Taranaki Wesley Fijian Congregation in Wellington. Even though I have a lot of extra curricular responsibilities, I still prioritize my studies.

My advice to Fijian Youths
The smaller positive contribution that you may give today, even though it may look insignificant to you, will eventually become bigger in the future. Build a dream and a vision for yourself and strive towards it. Being a Fijian is a blessing, if you use it to your advantage. We are born with integrity to serve and if given the opportunity to serve, serve meaningfully. We are also born with the mindset to defend life, from birth till death. This is symbolic through the unconditional value of sharing that we are born with as Fijians. We must always aspire to be leaders in our own unique ways. Always be committed and loyal to the work and responsibility entrusted to you. True Fijians are ethical and socially responsible. Find the real Fijian in you, be courageous and give hope to those who need it. Keep that smile that sets us apart from other nationalities. Last but not least, there is nothing impossible on this earth and live life to the full!!!!!

Vinaka vakalevu


Ni sa bula vinaka!

Na yacaqu 'o Ema Rosemary Vasemaca Tavola. Na tamaqu 'o Kaliopate Tavola; na tinaqu 'o Helen Goodwill Tavola mai Palmerston North, Niu Siladi. Na noqu koro 'o Dravuni, mai na tikina 'o Ono, na yasana 'o Kadavu. Na noqu Yavusa 'o Natusara, na noqu Mataqali 'o Navusalevu, na noqu i tokatoka 'o Samualevu se 'o Naisaumualevu.

I was born in Suva in 1982 and raised in London, England (1984-1988) and Brussels, Belgium (1989-1998), whilst my father was working for Fiji Sugar Marketing and as the Fiji Ambassador to Belgium and the EU. I spent ten years at the British School of Brussels, and in 1998 our family moved back to Fiji. I completed 7th Form at Wellington High School, and returned to Fiji in 1999 to commence a year's work experience before embarking on tertiary education.

In 2000, I worked as Production Assistant at Fiji Television, and as the Creative Director of, the website of Communications Fiji Limited. After the civilian coup of 2000, I was made redundant and returned to Wellington to continue gaining work experience. There I worked for four months as the Receptionist of the Fiji High Commission, amongst other temporary administration jobs.

In 2001, I returned to Suva and started painting, as I was unemployed and had a lot of time on my hands! I was fortunate to be selected for a two week painting workshop at the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture at the University of the South Pacific, facilitated by John Pule, renowned New Zealand Niuean painter and author.

This workshop was the start of my awareness as artist, and helped me to identify a path in life that engaged my heart, soul and mind. I continued painting after this workshop, and managed to find a job in the challenging post-coup environment of Suva, working as a retail assistant at Wai Tui Surf. I evolved this role into a 'Visual Merchandiser' role, to capitalise on my creative strengths. I wanted to achieve more in the creative field, so my mother, an educationalist, urged me to pursue a degree, and I found the perfect programme at Manukau School of Visual Arts, in Otara, South Auckland. My goal was to complete the degree, spend four years in Auckland researching and developing a business plan to return and open my own art gallery in Suva.

I moved to Auckland in late 2001, and settled into Auckland life, living with friends, also recent migrants from Suva. I found work at a shop in Auckland City called Pauanesia, selling Pacific arts and crafts. I worked there until my course began in 2002, when I moved to Otara.

There were many points in my study at University when I wanted to go home: I missed the support of my family, especially in the cold New Zealand winter months. I am very independent, but I would get so uplifted after my Sunday night conversation with mum and dad, and whoever was at home in Suva. University really challenged me, in lots of ways. I became in Pasifika mentor in my second year to help other Pasifika students adapt to University life, a most fulfilling role that I stuck with for two years.

In my third year, I got involved with a community art gallery in Otara, which allowed me to experiment with exhibition organisation and introduced me to the realities of working within the visual arts/gallery context. I loved it! I spent my final year at University researching and developing my understanding of art curatorship, art placement and audiences, and investigating the potential and limitations of the gallery context.

I did a series of projects where Pacific (and Maori) contemporary visual arts were purposely placed in Pacific and Maori contexts, including an exhibition in suburban Otahuhu, an exhibition in print disseminated at the Otara Markets and 'Postcards from Suva', a postal exhibition!

I was fortunate to be able to return home to Suva almost every 6 months whilst studying, which helped remind me why I was here and my goal of opening my gallery. Periodically returning allowed me to monitor the changing socio-political and economic climate of Suva, which constantly impacted my gallery plans.

After completing my degree I secured what I have termed as my dream job, as Pacific Arts Co-ordinator for Manukau City Council, in South Auckland, New Zealand. Although it meant my plans of returning home to open my gallery went on hold, this position has given me incredible experience and insight into so many things that will make my gallery plans in Suva even stronger. The community art gallery I was volunteering at during my studies has recently been re-opened as a Council arts facility, Fresh Gallery Otara, and this is where I am based! I am now curating exhibitions, working with Pacific artists, developing projects and ideas, and developing the profile of Manukau City as an exciting space for the celebration and development of Pacific Arts in New Zealand.

Next year I'm involved with some excellent projects including an exhibition called "BUY SPEND SAVE NOW" about the politics of poverty and wealth, with Shigeyuki Kihara and Sieni Salesa, and a collaborative project with two Fiji artists from Melbourne, Australia: Torika Bolatagici and Salote Tawale, and Otara based video installation artist Leilani Kake. This collaborative project is due to take place in Suva in July to coincide wit a conference called "Lies: A conference on Art". My advice to young Fiji Islanders:

I always remember, as a Pacific person in New Zealand, that I am representing my country in everything I do. I represent my parents and my family, my extended family, my village... what I achieve here is a reflection on all of that. I'm so proud of Fiji, coup or no coup, I am so proud to come from Dravuni, and Suva. The strength of my cultural identity has come from my upbringing, but also my own awareness as an adult, taking the opportunity to live and work in Suva, learning by trying, sometimes feeling awkward and uneasy, all those experiences have enriched me more than I know.

Being Fijian, and having that connection to my vanua, is something no one can ever question or take away from me. It is our bloodlines and connections, whether we speak Fijian or not, whether we live in Hamilton or Hungary, we will always be Fijians.

The more I learn about Fiji and Fijians, the more I learn about why I am the way I am.

Vinaka vakalevu.


Muru Lea Bula. Na yacaqu o Peni Diani Seru. Au gone ni Lomati, Nabukelevu, Kadavu. Vasu i Rukuruku, Levuka, Ovalau. I was born in the old capital of Fiji, Levuka, Ovalau.

Education Details
· Bachelor of Professional Education - University of Waikato- current
· Diploma In Education - FCAE, Fiji 1999
· Fiji Seventh Form Examination - Queen Victoria School, Fiji 1997
· Fiji School Leaving Certificate- Queen Victoria School, Fiji 1996
· Fiji Junior Cert - Ratu Kadavulevu School, Fiji 1994

I grew up in Kadavu Island at Richmond High School where both my parents taught for 9years. My parents are both school teachers. My dad, Peni Seru Snr is a school Principal at Ra High School in Rakiraki and my mum, Alanieta Wati is a primary school teacher at Navesi in Suva. I graduated with a Diploma In Education from the Fiji College of Advanced Education in 1999 and was teaching for 5 years at St Thomas High School, Lautoka and Ballantine Memorial School teaching Social Science and English Literature for Senior forms.

Connection to my 'dela ni yavu':
Yasana: Kadavu
Tikina: Nabukelevu
Yavusa: Namara I Cake
Tokatoka: Namara
Mataqali: Bure
Manumanu: Kaka
Ika: kawakawa

I am a Fiji Govt sponsored student here in NZ doing a degree in Professional education at Waikato. This study involves critical inquiry into the social, political, cultural, economic and personal theories and practices of lifelong education. My aim is to be a great leader of Fiji and improve Fiji's educational system into a higher quality standard.

I also work as a Residential Assistant at College Hall, Waikato Uni looking after our Pacific Islands students in terms of academic, social and general welfare in the Halls of residence. Also, a President of Fiji students Association here at Waikato University. In 2005 I was awarded the Logo Award for designing the Halls of Residence logo that will be used by the University of Waikato for 12years. This year, I was awarded the Manueli Koro trophy for Outstanding Contribution to Cultural Life at College Hall. Again on 6th October 2006, I received an award at the Waikato University Blues award for Overall Contribution and Service to Contemporary Art and Dance at the University. This after I designed the Logo, "tapa" banners and choreographed dances for the university's cultural & performances night, and Fiji students' winning performance 2years in a row. Performing and fine arts have always been a passion and part of my life. I have been doing art and choreography since high school, teacher's college and during my teaching years.

Other achievement in life that I would like to share is that, I am the first in my family to attend a University overseas. My role models are my parents - very staunch Christians who have been my mentor and have been motivating me all these years. Most importantly the God Almighty for being the source of strength, knowledge, wisdom and talents.

Believe in Yourself and let God be the captain, teacher and counselor of your journey.

If you can't be an oak on top of a hill, be a bush at the foothill, but be the best bush to grow. If you can't be a bush, then be green grass and double the beauty of the sides of a path. You may not be able to be the sun, but try to be a shining star. What matters is that, whatever role you play in this world, big or small, play the best and the most useful one.

Be proud of who you are and enjoy life to the fullest.

Vinaka Vakalevu & Ni sa Moce.


Bula Vinaka! Na yacaqu ko Melissa Lelo. I was born in Suva, Fiji. I grew up there and went to Yat Sen Primary School till our family moved to Auckland, NZ in 1988.

My family consists of my mum (Marian), dad (Herbert) and younger sister (Brianna). I completed all my secondary and tertiary education in Auckland. I have a Bachelor in Maori Studies, majoring in youth development and postgraduate diploma in Public Health. I enjoy playing most sports but particularly like indoor netball and touch rugby. I have strong determination in succeeding in anything I set my mind on.

My connections to Fiji is noted here below:
On my mothers side:
Mataqali in Gau is called the Takalai-gau
Yavusa is Buraia
Village is Na Korolevu (Sawaieke)
Province : Lomaiviti
Matanitu: Kubuna

On my fathers side:
My grandmother's is related to Tui Namosi
Danfords - Raiwaqa (na koro makawa)
Village in Navua

I have been away from Fiji for 19 years. I travel back to Fiji to visit family every couple of years or so and continue both personal/social and professional links with the Fijian Community both in Auckland and around NZ.

I work as a Health Promotion Advisor, ProCare Network Auckland. (One of NZ's largest - primary health organizations (PHO)
My work involves assisting our people to improve their health and well-being as Pacific people in the Auckland region through good nutrition and regular physical activity.

I am also a committee member of the Action for Children Youth Aotearoa - promoting the well being of children and youth in Aotearoa. Also focusing on UN Convention on the rights of the child. (UNCROC). ( Recently I am the Fijian rep on Pacific Island Advisory Board for Auckland City Council ( I am also the branch committee member of theNZ Association for Adolescent Health and Development (NZAAHD) Auckland ( and member of the World Youth alumni ( and the Fijian youth leadership project (Auckland Fijian Community)

I aim to be a recognized leader in my chosen career path. (Areas of interest: health, youth, Pacific, policy) and aim to be able to speak Fijian and have a better understanding of my family history. I would love to travel around Fiji as well as the rest of the world.

My role model is any woman who is independent, intelligent, knows their 'stuff' and is willing to share their knowledge. In particular, one who knows whom they are, where they come from, and has strong family values.

Other achievement in life that I would like to share is I am the first in my family (on my dads side) to attend university and get a degree. (Bachelor in Maori Studies, majoring in youth development). I was also selected to represent NZ on the Ship for World Youth. This was a youth leadership program with 12 other countries from around the world sponsored by the Japanese government. It was a very memorable experience, full of new learning's. Check out for more details and upcoming selections.

My advice to youths who are reading my profile is to:

Be proud of your heritage and culture. Learn all you can from the older generation because you in turn will hold your family history, which will strengthen who you are as a person.

You don't have to be smart but be curious in seeking answers to the unknown. It's your journey that is the most important lesson not necessarily the end result.

Celebrate being young, especially being a young Fijian person living in NZ!