Friday, August 3, 2007


Young, vocal and active are three words that perfectly describe Epeli Vakalalabure, who is devoted to building a safe and conducive environment for the youths of Fiji.

Epeli hails from the beautiful Natewa Bay, in the province of Cakaudrove.

While Natewa Bay may be one of those spots that most would want to visit, this young man wants to make Fiji a place where youths are respected for who they are and what they stand for.
The 23-year-old is the youngest worker contracted by the United Nations Children Education Fund as a consultant to coordinate and facilitate regional youth workshops.
Epeli comes from a family of two sisters and three brothers, all of whom support his work and says there is nothing as rewarding as working for youths.
"I was educated at Veiuto Primary School and then Suva Grammar School,"he said.
"I was always interested in youth issues when I was in secondary school and I was blessed when I joined youth organisations dealing with issues concerning the youths of today."
Epeli certainly became aware of issues affecting youths when he was chosen as Speaker of The House during the Youth Parliament in 2004.
"I guess that was the biggest opportunity for me as a student, to listen and, at the same time, make decisions on the issues tabled in the Youth Parliament."
As soon as he left school, Epeli joined the Scripture Union In Schools, becoming active in organising rallies and camps around the country.
"SUIS is a Christian organisation that helps build Christian values in primary and secondary students,"he said.
Epeli is usually involved in visiting schools and promoting the ideals of SUIS.
In addition, he is responsible for bringing members together, especially during school breaks. "From this, I have been able to meet thousands of youths from around the country and we are able to share our different backgrounds and the problems that we face in our daily lives,"he said.
"When I joined UNICEF I thought this would be the biggest break in my career because it is an arm of the United Nations that primarily looks into youths.
"It was a step up the ladder in the work that I do, but it was not only faith-oriented it was a holistic approach to youths."
Epeli said it took a youth to fully understand the problems, difficulties and struggles that other youths faced.
"Because we are youths, those who face problems feel safe to share with us their experiences because we are of the same age group,"he said.
He said it was always a joy to see a young person being able to pick up the pieces and fight on to prosper in life.
Epeli once represented the youths of Fiji to the World Youth Festival in Spain.
He is part of the Young People Concerned Network, a group that was vocal during the December 5 takeover.
"The group had been very vocal during the political crisis, advocating young people's rights and democracy,"he said.
He is part of the Citizens Constitutional Youth Forum, saying joining all those organisations had rewarded him.
"It has taught me to be more confident, it has taught me to know my rights and it has given me the skills on how to go about communicating with youths in doing advocacy work,"he said.
He said his work was never boring.
"My advice to young people is to never give up and always have hope.
"Every youth has potential and only and when one tries it out then he or she will be able to know where his or her strength lies,
"he said.