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 Fijitimes.com