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

Sunday, September 9, 2007


THERE is no substitute for hard work as Marica Baleivanualala can tell you after she won top honours at the Fiji School of Nursing graduation this week.
Becoming a nurse has always been a vision for this young woman who was brought up in Seaqaqa.
Marica said she would not have won the Outstanding Overall Performance award in the Diploma of Nursing course if she had not put in the extra effort in her work.
Marica, 21, traces her roots to Muana-i-Cake Village on Fulaga in Lau but considers herself to be from Seaqaqa where she, her siblings and parents have lived most of their lives.
She is the daughter of a cane farmer and a simple housewife.
Dressed in sulu and jiaba with gafigafi (waist mat) on graduation, it was plain to see how proud she was.
"This is something I did not really expect to win," Marica said.
"I worked hard because I wanted to be a nurse and a good one," she said with a smile but being dux is a bonus and proves that walking the extra mile is not bad after all." Marica is the first in the family to join the order of Florence Nightingale and is proud of it.
"No one in the family has been a nurse and this did not happen to me until I enrolled at the Fiji School of Nursing," she said.
"It was also the reason I had to make it, so I could be the first in the family."
Marica said her upbringing was one she always admired because her parents had seven daughters and two sons to look after. She is the third eldest.
"I was brought up in Seaqaqa and like any other who was brought up in the North, especially Seaqaqa, the usual sights are the sugarcane fields, sugar train and trucks that transport cane to the mill," she said.
"The experience I had from my upbringing was totally different from what I encountered when I enrolled at FSN.
"Everything was new, a culture shock you could say, but I had to adapt fast to the new environment so that I could cope."
Marica did cope very well and her results told the story of her hard work.
"I started school at Vunibasoga Primary School and went for secondary education at Seaqaqa Central College where I completed Form Six," she said.
She went to Labasa College to do Form Seven but left after the first term because she had been accepted at FSN.
"It was the first time for me to leave everyone at home and come to Viti Levu."
And for someone who has been so close to her brothers and sisters Marica admitted it was tough.
"But I knew this was an opportunity I should not miss because I would need to help my parents when I get a job," she said.
"I managed to survive at FSN partly because of the support I was getting from my family in Suva, especially my late uncle Mitieli Baleivanualala and other relatives. I owe them a lot.
"Graduating was something I had been looking forward to since the day I enrolled at FSN and to be recognised for the effort and hard work I put into my studies is really overwhelming but my studies do not end here."
Marica will do her internship at Nabouwalu Hospital in Bua where she can travel to and from Seaqaqa to visit her family but it is not the end of the road because she wants to pursue a degree in medicine.
"I want to be a doctor."
According to Marica the secret to success is to trust in the Lord and respect the advice given by elders.
"I would like to encourage those who are willing to take up nursing to take the challenge and be part of the family.
"Nursing is a noble profession and I challenge young people there to try it."
But above all, the country girl says that the key to all achievement is hard work and more hard work.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


It is hard to believe that Sevuloni Rokomatu Ratu is the mentor for hundreds of Red Cross Fiji volunteers.
Ratu, 21, is the HIV/AIDS program team leader and a source of inspiration and motivation for thousands of youths.
His job is to help them grasp the hard facts of life and to live responsibly.
Providing young people with the right guidance and correct information may be a difficult task for some but not for him.
Being able to do something for people is what gives him the greatest satisfaction.
He is handling a two-week HIV/AIDS awareness workshop at Red Cross in Suva where 22 participants from five branches are being trained.
The trained participants carry awareness work.
Ratu hails from Lawaki Village, Vuda, outside Lautoka.
After completing his high school studies at Vishnu Deo Secondary School, Ratu was in search of a job where he could help out people.
"When I was young I always had the passion to help people," he said.
"When I grew up, I was looking for a job that reflected this passion.
"It was a little hard to find such a job in the beginning."
That changed after he acquired formal skills.
In 2004, he did a one-year course in business and secretarial studies at the City Education Institute and a six-week course in computing with the New Zealand Pacific Training Centre.
Ratu was confused about where to go and finally decided to join the Red Cross Lautoka branch towards the end of 2004.
"When I joined the Red Cross, I felt I had come to the right place. I never looked to find another job since. I was only 18 years old then but I knew there was so much I could do," he said
"I did not know about Red Cross in depth but I knew it helped out people in need and those with problems so I was willing to take up that challenge," he said. Ratu started off as a health and welfare program officer.
"My focus was to care for people with disabilities and running sessions for people with lifestyle disease.
"I used to go around schools with other colleagues doing puppet shows and teaching students about HIV/AIDS, drugs, alcohol and lifestyle diseases.
"Joining the Red Cross was a boost to my career and finally I felt I was settled.
"I knew I was engaged in doing something that contributes to the society," he said.
Ratu was later promoted as the master peer educator on HIV/AIDS.
"My role here was to go out to the rural areas in Lautoka and let people know about HIV/AIDS," he said.
For some of us going out to the community and preaching about a topic seen as taboo can be pretty difficult but not for Ratu because that was what he wanted to do from the start.
He was called to the Suva branch in March as the HIV/AIDS program team leader and required to monitor all HIV/AIDS projects run in Fiji.
"I have to keep track with what's happening in all the 14 branches and see the implementation of all our programs with feedback on progress," he said.
The biggest challenge for Ratu was working with different communities but he has learnt to overcome that.
What triggers Ratu to get going is one of the seven principles of Red Cross.
"One of our principles says no to discrimination on race, gender and religion. We have to stay neutral and this is what gets me going and made me overcome many barriers that came my way.
"I enjoy what I do because I know I am passionate about it."

Adapted from Fijtimes Online

Saturday, September 1, 2007


FOR many young people fresh out of high school, the subjects they took in school for their future career path do not always turn out the way they expected.
Most of the time, the unthinkable happens.
Some who studied art subjects in high school end up working in the science field or the other way around.
This was the case with Nasi Tagi who completed secondary education with her sights set on a career path in the field of information technology.
But after securing her passes in the IT field at NZPTC, she had a change of heart and moved into the hospitality industry.
"I joined the tourism industry because in my view it is the largest and ever-expanding industry right now," she said.
"And for me, coming from one end of a totally different career path to this has been an eye opener.
"But I am grateful to the staff that I work with in the food and beverage department.
"I studied IT at the NZPTC but after completing my studies, had a change of heart and decided to join the tourism industry.
"For me, the tourism industry or working here at the Warwick is interesting because we get to meet and interact with a lot of people from all walks of life and see many things.
"In my field of work we meet a lot of people from different backgrounds and from across the world.
"Tourism has its advantages and for me right now I have been learning a lot of things as I work."
The 23-year-old lass from Tonia Village in Tailevu said when the opportunity came to start work at the Warwick's food and beverage department, she grabbed the chance.
She has been with the Warwick Fiji Resort for the past four years.
She started as a wine waiter at the resort's Seafood restaurant.
Four years down the road, Nasi has been promoted to be hostess of the Papagalo, the resort's Italian restaurant.
In the years she has been with the Warwick, Nasi has also entered the Bartender and Waiter of the Year competitions.
"I entered the Wine Waiter of the Year competition in 2005. It was the first time I entered.
"I came fourth but I learnt a lot from the other competitors who have helped me a lot in my work.
"I have a long way to go in the tourism field and I aim to gain experience from my senior colleagues."
However, at the back of her mind, Nasi says she is still keen on furthering her knowledge in the IT field.
She is keeping her options open if and when she changes her mind and leaves tourism. "I am keeping my options open.
"I am still young and there are a lot of opportunities out there for young people.
"Young people need to think hard and have options available to them so they can always have something to fall back on or do in the future."

Adapted from Fijitimes Online