Monday, September 15, 2008

MEET MOHAMMED NAUSHAD KHAN

Mohammed Naushad Khan was a cut above the rest when he was crowned Vodafone Hibiscus King two Saturdays ago.

Putting aside his handsome crown, Mohammed decided to cook one of his specialties lamb in special sauce. The final year dental student at the Fiji School of Medicine was up for the challenge when approached to whip up something fit for a king. His ideal recipe is not only nutritious garnished with greens but it is something any one can try.

Keeping the budget low, Mohammed said he learnt first-hand the basics of cooking while helping his mother, Radha Khan prepare family meals.

"Mostly I just help around in the kitchen but when my mother saw I had an interest in cooking too, she taught me how to make various Indian dishes," he said. "I can also cook Chinese dishes including chicken chow-mein, fried rice and deep fried chicken.

"My favourite dish is chicken curry with dhal, rice and potato salad. "The recipe I cooked today is a dish I picked up from my brother when I was living with him in Suva. It is fairly easy to cook and does not take up a lot of preparation time.

"The good thing is the recipe is modifiable and other ingredients including vegetables like carrots can be added to give it a more nutritious taste." Mohammed said the lamb in special sauce goes well with rice, dalo or cassava.

The middle child in a family of three, Mohammed said the secret to making a tasty dish is in having confidence in trying out new ideas and recipes. "The best thing about cooking is coming up with anything you want and not being afraid to try out something new."

The 24-year old is originally from Delailabasa in Labasa and wanted to become a pilot when he was younger.

Lamb in special sauce

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves: Four people
Ingredients:
1kg boneless lamb
Soya bean oil
One clove garlic crushed
Crushed ginger
1.5 onions chopped
Salt
Soya sauce
5 tbsp tomato sauce
Lettuce
Cucumber
Carrot

Method:

* Marinate boneless lamb with some crushed garlic, a little ginger and soya sauce. Leave to marinate for 10 to 15 minutes;
* Heat a little oil in a pan and add chopped onions. Fry until golden brown and add leftover garlic and ginger;
* Fry until golden brown and add marinated lamb. Stir and leave until lamb is almost cooked;
* Add salt to taste and add tomato sauce. Leave to simmer until lamb is cooked; and
* Serve with rice or dalo and garnish with lettuce and cucumber.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Thursday, September 11, 2008

MEET ELIZABETH PETERS

Her job is something right out of a CSI: Miami series but Elizabeth Peters (pictured) is more than just a forensics officer with the Fiji Police Force. Born and bred in Suva, Elizabeth never thought she would join the police force let alone the forensics science department.

The eldest of four, Elizabeth hails from Naisogovau in Tailevu. Her father John is a taxi proprietor while her mother Sera was a housewife. Thinking along the lines of being a doctor or lawyer, Elizabeth is a forensic biologist with a passion for the job.

"Like a normal Fiji kid, I was thinking of becoming a lawyer or a doctor. I had a normal upbringing in an average family," she said. "My dad used to work as a mechanic and both my parents worked hard to provide and put us through school.

"I attended primary and secondary school at Nabua before getting a scholarship to study at the University of Flinders in South Australia. "It was a whole new experience for me especially fresh out of high school into university."

She spent three years in Australia completing a bachelor in technology majoring in forensic and analytical chemistry.

Time away from home in another country meant a new life altogether. Sharing a house with four other scholarship recipients in the Land Down Under, Elizabeth learned to be independent. "It was a big difference and at first a bit difficult especially stepping out of Suva and being exposed to the bright lights in Australia.

"Being away from home was a major trial on independence and the four of us learned to cook, clean and shoulder responsibilities. "We had a lot of challenges but in the end we were just experiencing life.

"After I graduated, I came back to Fiji and joined the police force in 2001 as a special constable.
"Some of the things we learned at University were not required when I joined the force so it was more of a hands-on experience."

In 2004, Elizabeth went back to Australia to complete a post graduate diploma in DNA analysis at the same university. She returned to join the forensic science department assisting detectives and investigators with major crime scenes.

Apart from limited resources and finance, Elizabeth said one of the challenges of her profession is working on DNA legislations that set a platform and boundaries. "These are in terms of DNA analysis, uplifting of samples from suspects, accused, volunteers and maintaining a DNA database to name a few.

"The implementation has taken some time to complete owing to the lack of resources but validation should be accomplished in the very near future. "When this happens, it should be exciting as analysis along with a DNA legislation will assist in investigations allowing for prompt results as compared to when samples are sent overseas."

She said anyone could become a forensic biologist if they put their mind and heart to the task. Elizabeth enjoys the work she does and finds the profession very satisfying knowing she has helped detectives take a step further to finding the truth about a crime. Her advice for those thinking of joining the field is to work hard and be committed.

"Be sincere in all that you do and be inspired. Work on your aspirations and have a mentor. "Have some form of responsibility but know that not everybody's cut out for academic or school work.

"If you have a passion to do something then go for it. You can make a career out of anything.
"Regardless of your background, you can make a difference and contribute something positive back to society.
"Remember, anything is possible."

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, September 8, 2008

MEET JOSUA REECE

LOSING an arm in a tragic accident has not stopped Josua Reece from carrying on with his life.

The 37-year-old was selling pot plants and ferns at his stall outside the Suva Civic Centre hall when The Fiji Times caught up with him.

Born and bred in Naivimagimagi on Kadavu, Josua grew up in a farming community. His parents John and Senitiki Reece were farmers.
The youngest of three, Josua never thought about what he wanted to do in life. On Kadavu life centred around farming and during the school holidays, household chores.

"We leased in Naivimagimagi and even though my parents were farmers, the returns were not that good," Josua said. "I was the kind to go with the flow and I took life as it came. "Our income was not that much but my parents still managed to provide for us.

"All of us used to help out as much as we could with the farming at home." Josua attended primary and secondary school on Kadavu. As a student, he walked to school every day to save money. When he reached secondary school level, he stayed at a boarding school and after completing Form 6, he started looking for work to help support his family.

"I started looking for a job straight after high school. The first job I found was at a garment factory," he said. "I worked in the bulk section and at the time I was earning enough to get by.

"Like single youths at the time, I was into other distractions like drinking and smoking. "Shortly after, I applied for a job with Turtle Island Resort. "The pay was a bit better and I was a diver, mostly involved in water sports for tourists. "Diving is not easy but I learned when I was on Kadavu.

"For me, the challenging part of diving is during shark feeding time." Josua said he would take some of the tourist divers to underwater caves and near aircraft and ship crash sites. He was earning a good income and made a lot of friends. At the same time, he was honing his diving skills and learning new skills in the hospitality industry. However, it all came to a crashing end for Josua when he fell 150 feet while parasailing.

"I lost the nerves in my left arm," he said. "I took a tourist out for parasailing and as we went higher, the winds that day were very strong. "The rope from the boat snapped and luckily the tourist was still strapped onto the parachute so she was all right. "I had nothing tied to me.
"It was a free fall from 150 feet.

"I fell on my left arm. If I had fallen on my chest I would have died. "It was a very hard time in my life, especially when I was in hospital with no feeling in my left arm. "I thought that was the end of my life because I lost my left arm. "There was a point in my life when I felt there was no hope for the future." Josua said he coped with his mother by his side.

As time passed, he began to heal and his perspective on life changed when he married Alumeci Koroi and had two children. "I had a family and I wasn't going to let one arm hold me back from giving my children a good life," he said.

"So I moved on with life and decided to do something useful, "It was very hard to find a job but my in-laws pushed me to start selling flowers and plants. "At first I thought it was something for women and girls but then I realised as long as it brought home an income and put food on the table, this was something I wanted to do.

"I am grateful still that I am able to do something to keep my family going. I have been doing this for more than four years now and I learned a lot from this job.

"Sometimes, I would ask the other ladies for help about what sort of plants and flowers I had and they were very helpful." His advice to young people is to stop mucking around and find something useful and productive to do.

Josua said losing a limb is not the end of the world. His determination to live life for his family is enough to make anyone appreciate the passion this man has to make the most of life.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Friday, August 29, 2008

MEET LEO VUCU

TWO YEARS ago Leo Vucu, 17, then a Form Four student of Tabia Sanatan College outside Labasa felt despair when he received his Fiji Junior Certificate Examination results.

He had barely passed, had failed most of his subjects with the exception of woodwork, his favourite. "I felt so sad because I had achieved a very low C grade and knew I would have difficulties getting enrolled in Form Five," Mr Vucu said.

"I had tried so hard, studied so hard but still when I saw my marks I was shocked and didn't know what else I could do to improve," he added. "I was particularly unhappy knowing I could be a high school dropout and that embarrassed me. Kids can be pretty cruel in school so all these thoughts went through my mind when I saw my results."

But Mr Vucu, who thought of re-sitting Form Four, had an even bigger problem to consider. "I no longer had the interest to study the same subjects. The only subject keeping me in school was woodwork," he said.

"I totally felt nothing for Maths, Accounting or Agriculture and struggled with English yet at the same time I did not want to turn out a failure in life. I wanted to succeed, earn an income and become something in life," Mr Vucu said. At his wits end, the realisation that his passion for woodwork could very well make his future dawned on Mr Vucu.

"I love using my hands in creating things, turning plain pieces of wood into something of value so I decided not to waste any more time in high school and start working using my talent," he said.
Two years after that day, the young Rotuman proudly marched up the school ground at the Montfort Technical Institute in Savusavu in front of a huge crowd of students and parents as his name was called out to receive the Baton of Honour at the school's pass out parade.

"I faced my fear and shame of being a high school dropout, enrolled at Montfort and I am now completing my second year in a three year Certificate in Cabinet Making and Upholstery course," he said. "I am studying what I love doing and later on I intend to start my own business once I find the right amount of capital," he added. But studying woodwork comes at a price.

"Being a boarder is no easy feat. We do a lot of hard work like weeding and planting root crops," he said. "I remember my very first day at school and we had to weed a big dalo and cassava plantation from about 8.30am to 1pm. By 10.30am I had basically given up because I was so tired and the sun was so hot," he said.

"I think I even cried and all I wanted to do was go back home and then one of the senior boys told me 'sa sega ga ni rawa lesu i vale."

"But strangely those words made me determined to succeed and here I am now doing just that. I have one year to go and even though I did drop out of school, it was only to do something that I believe will prepare me for an even better future."
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, August 18, 2008

MEET AURELIA LEDUA RITOVA-HUFFER

FINDING out about her Fijian heritage is one of the reasons Aurelia Ledua Ritova-Huffer is in Fiji. Aurelia, 23, was born and bred in Suva but has been living with her family in Germany.

She is of German and Fijian decent. Her mother Sulueti Ritova is from Lakeba in Lau while her father is German. Returning to her maternal roots after 14 years, Aurelia is in the country with her mother and younger sister.
Her father Dr Henning Huffer is a lawyer by profession and wrote a book in German about the mutiny on the Bounty.

He worked on producing a film about the mutiny and it was during his research and documentation of the event in Fiji that he met and married Sulueti. Her mother had a role in the film and is now sales manager at an oriental store in Stuttgart, Germany.

Commonly called by her second name in Fiji, Aurelia is second in a family of four girls. Although she wanted to be a lot of things when she was younger, Aurelia set her sights on being a journalist. "I grew up in Lami and since we went to Germany in 1990, I have been travelling back and forth.

"I am here on holiday with my mum and younger sister and I hope to find out more about my Fijian heritage, especially the language and culture," she said. "I can speak a little Fijian but I understand more than I speak. "I attended the Holy Trinity kindergarten and then went to International School in Suva.

"We moved to Germany where I attended an European school at Karlsruhe. "It is a school for children whose parents work for the European Union. "It is something similar to International except those from outside had to pay a little more than the locals."

Aurelia completed her secondary education in 2003 and worked as a trainee producer for German music television conducting interviews and learning to produce music programs. "In high school, I was the only one in my class with Fijian heritage. "My best friend happened to be half Samoan so we were the only Pacific Islanders.

"At university, I am the only part-Fijian and it is something I am proud of. "Suva has changed a lot from the last time I was here. "It is more advanced than before and there are shopping malls."

Aurelia said the challenges of working in the media industry taught her a lot in terms of being efficient, productive and most importantly a confident, independent individual. With determination tucked up her sleeves, Aurelia continued her tertiary education at the University of Heidelberg, one of Germany's prestigious and oldest universities.

"I am completing my degree in llanguage and linguistics, majoring in English. "Higher education in Germany is not expensive. "I also work for a professor in the linguistic department at school.
"I help her with research on different dialects and language. "So while I am here, I want to learn as much as I can about the way Fiji-English is spoken and taught.

"One thing I notice is the difference in cultures, German and Fijian. "Here, everything is more relaxed. "In Germany, the life is fast-paced and modern." She said families in Fiji were very close-knit with the inclusion of extended families.

Unlike Fiji, most families in Germany were nuclear families and only on certain occasions such as weddings or funerals did the family members get together and meet. Despite this, Aurelia believes she has the best of both cultures and is proud to be exposed to the different backgrounds.

Her desire to discover this side of her life is an inspiration for many part-Fijians. Aurelia might be 23 years old and still in school but she has this indescribable desire to bring out the best of her cultural heritage both German and Fijian.

"My advice for young people is to stay in school and if you have fun be sure to get your priorities right. "Balance fun and school, think of the future and work hard to achieve your aim in life."

Aurelia will leave the country at the end of the month but has her eyes set on returning to Fiji after she graduates from university next year.

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Thursday, August 14, 2008

MEET SAVIRIO TOLOI

At his village, they affectionately call him the joka ni pulu. It could be translated as 'master of the bullocks'.

Savirio Toloi, 15, only smiles when he hears that name and coaxes his cows on, dragging a roughly hewn cart loaded with bags of copra. The dried copra bags were headed for the riverbanks, about two miles from the village where they would be loaded onto outboard powered boats headed for the market.

Savirio provides a crucial service for the copra farmers at Naduru Village and Valetokani settlement in the jungles of the Dogotuki District in Vanua Levu.

From morning till dusk, he carts cargo, to and from the riverbanks to the village and settlement, an important task in the absence of a proper road. He kept to himself, shyly avoiding our visiting party but when I did talk to him he relates a cruel twist of fate that changed his life.

Last year Savirio was in Class Eight, had passed his exams and looked forward to a new school year as a Form Three student with new friends to make and new things to learn. However, just a few weeks before school early this year, he woke up with an immense ear ache. Things seemed to go downhill from then on for this teenager.

A day later doctors discovered a boil in his ear, gave him an injection but the next day he was partially paralysed. "I couldn't walk or talk and I was just so scared I would die. I didn't know what was happening to me. The left side of my body was paralysed. All I did was cry," Savirio relates.

His mother, Ilisapeci Damiano sits close by listening to her son relate the frightful events that unfolded early this year. "He was in and out of hospital. He was even admitted at the Suva hospital. They all said he had been given the wrong medication. He couldn't go to school so we decided not to enroll him for the new school year. I think that disappointed him the most," Mrs Damiano said.

When Savirio finished his last day at the hospital, he came home shy and withdrawn. "Most times he didn't want people around him. He stayed indoors a lot because he was ashamed of the way the left side of his lip drooped from the paralysis. He couldn't speak properly," Mrs Damiano said.

"He didn't want to go to school after that because he feared the students would bully him, and tease him so he decided to spend this year at home." As the days grew into months, Savirio's health improved.

Over time, exercise and a healthy diet strengthened his limbs and the paralysis wore off. "Now my lips seem to pull to the left side but although I am sad and angry this happened to me, that I had to leave school, hope never left me. Deep within I wanted to get better and I did everything I could," he said.

While at home, the teenager helped out his parents who are copra and yaqona farmers. "Early in the morning I plant cassava, go out to fetch copra and help my parents with all household chores. But the best thing I like doing is carting cargo to the river bank. I enjoy walking the cows and bullocks," he said.

Although his life has been struck by tragedy, Savirio plans to resume school next year. "I'm just taking time off to recover. I want to go back to school next year because that is a way out of the hard life that we live out here in the village. Yes, you are right that my life has been struck by tragedy but I think that I have learnt a great lesson. Now that I have been at home, I now realise just how tough life can be for my parents as farmers so I want something different.
More than ever now I value education and how important it is. I even miss it. "That's why I am looking forward to next year."
Adpted fom Fijitimes Online

Thursday, July 31, 2008

SUVA SECONDARY SCHOOL MUSIC FESTIVAL

I had the opportunity last week to watch a moving and thought-provoking performance. No, not the "Sorry I confused you by switching cars on the way to the office;" or "Sorry to disappoint you but I'm not resigning," performance.

The performance I refer to had amateur performers. And they didn't change their tune even once until the song was over.

I am of course referring to the Suva Secondary Schools Music Festival, held at what I've always known to be the National Gymnasium (not that I've ever seen a gymnastic performance there) which is today almost the ignored older brother (or sister) of the larger Dome/Arena of Sports City in Suva.

As an International School student, I remember performing many a strange display of contemporary dance at this venue; or sitting high up in the back (in theatre-speak those seats are often referred to as the "God's") trying luck on whichever poor girl was the object of my obsession at the time.

More recently I remember being a ring-announcer to one of those boxing nights when "Joy-the-leaving-on-a-Jetplane" never showed up. "Let's get ready to rumble!" Or maybe not, as the case was.

I was fortunate to get tickets for the family to watch the Wednesday night performance of some 400 young people from schools of the greater-Suva area as well as the Pasifika Voices, wonderful Taiko drummers and of course the arrangement and conducting of among others, the very talented and humble (as only the son of a Samoan talatala can be) Iglese Ete.

For those who never got to watch Malaga: The Journey, or attend the USP's graduation day, it was wonderful to see an actual musical maestro (as opposed to the 7s rugby one we know and love) in action.

Choreographed movements and song seamlessly flowed to "inspire" at least one member of the audience, who emailed me later.

Some wanted more well most wanted more music but one or two wanted more out of the show; but my own experience was sublime, disrupted only by my dear children, who wanted first to go up to the stage and sing, then go up and dance, then go up and play the drums, then go up and conduct.

Their mother who is visiting George Bush's relatives (oh sorry ... it's only in the Pacific that everyone is related) in the United States (actually on a wonderful history workshop facilitated by the US Embassy here), missed out on the show and the joy of having two children wanting you to carry them and sit on your shoulders, or go to the toilet (not to be confused with the other BOG next door), when your favourite song is about to be sung. Ah the joys of parenthood!

The coming together of rival schools to sing duets of appropriately titled songs got me thinking that instead of all this money being spent on councils to weave better mats could be equally (or better your choice, this article is democratic) spent on putting together a Choir for Singing about a Better Fiji.

Of course those singing about a new day (no offence but I prefer the Stevie J. Heatley version) could be in the back up choir as could all the former, or in-limbo members of parliament and former or current members of the military-inspired Cabinet.

There'd even be enough room for the military council and the rest of the other councils.

However the stars of the night would be the duet singers. Here a couple of suggestions for songs:

- Let it Flow (originally sung by Toni Braxton) Mahendra Chaudhry and the Water Bottlers;

- Message in a Bottle (originally sung by The Police) Mahendra Chaudhry and the Cabinet;

- Get Back to Where You Don't Belong (originally sung by The Beatles) Evan Hannah, Russell Hunter and Viliame Naupoto (okay that's a trio)

- Ain't No Sunshine (when He's gone) (originally sung by Bill Withers/covered by Skee) "Frank Bainimarama and Parmesh Chand;

- What's Going On (originally sung by Marvin Gaye) Neumi Leweni and Daryl Tarte

- How Can We Be Lovers If We Can't Be Friends? (originally sung by Michael Bolton) Frank Bainimarama and Laisenia Qarase;

- Another Brick in the Wall (originally sung by Pink Floyd) John Samy and the TASS singers; and

- Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (sung by UB40) Tukana Bovoro and Taito Waradi.

Next week: "Heroes and Villains."

Have a week blessed with Love, Light and Peace!l Reverend Bhagwan is a member of the Faculty of the Methodist Davuilevu Theological College. The opinions expressed in this article are personal and in no way represent the opinion of the College or the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma.

Adated from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

MEET SHARON KHELAWAN

Dancing is not just for the slim and the fit. It is something that can be done by anyone and Sharon Khelawan (pictured) is proving just that.

The 32-year-old research assistant for the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre is not only passionate about women's rights but the freedom for individuals to express themselves through dance. She is a dancer, choreographer and runs her own dance group named after her.

Born and bred in Suva, Sharon grew up in Namadi Heights.
Her parents were Jack and Shyam Khelawan, former principals of Dilkusha High and Dilkusha Girls respectively.
The younger of two, Sharon was exposed to a lot of activities but dancing soon became a passion at the tender age of 10.

"I never thought I would also take up dancing professionally so I used to dance for fun. I wanted to become a lawyer when I was young. "A lot of people have said I am very talkative but I believe one day I will achieve that aim.

"The striking thing about being a lawyer is fighting for justice and helping people. Even though I am not a lawyer, I am still helping people in my profession whether at the centre or with dancing." Although a Methodist, Sharon attended primary school at Saint Annes before finishing her secondary education at Saint Josephs.

She then went on to complete a degree in Sociology at the University of the South Pacific. The interesting thing about Sharon is managing studies and dancing. She is the only local to specialise in kathak which is six dances of India consisting of fast spins, facial expressions and movements.

The difference between this dance and bharat natyam is it is done straight legged.
"I have been dancing since I was in Class Four. My sister had a big interest in this dance so we were taught the dance at the Indian Cultural Centre. "My first teacher was a male, Syed Asgar Trimizi.

"When I went to high school, I still practised the dance at the cultural centre. During the secondary schools music festival some time in 1992 or 1993, Saint Josephs was asked to perform during Indian night. "I performed with about 10 girls and I was so nervous but the support and the cheering from the other girls boosted my morale."

It was a memory she never forgot. At 19 years old, Sharon began to teach kathak professionally.
Although she was not taken seriously because of her age, Sharon made it a point to show that she had the knowledge and the passion to dance and choreograph.

In 2004, she was the lead dancer and choreographer for the Fiji contingent to the second Paravisi Bharitiya Divas in Delhi, India. It was a proud moment for her when her name was called out and like the other dancers who were nervous, Sharon danced her heart out.
"I have done solo dances in New Zealand and Canada but I have received lots of support from my family and people who have seen the dance.

"My mother is my biggest critic and I appreciate and love her for that. "My father was very supportive when he realised it not only gave me a whole lot of confidence but he knew it was something that really touched my heart.

"I lead a dual life. One is helping women through my work at FWCC and the other is helping dancers appreciate Indian culture." Her ideas come naturally and consist of a fusion of mixed cultures. She even choreographs moves for Fijian songs and is thinking of doing a drama along the same lines.

Proud of who she is and her cultural heritage, Sharon is living proof that size really does not matter when it comes to a matter close to the heart.




Adapted from Fijitimes Online

MEET AGNES PILLAY

SHE could stop you dead in your tracks or make any passerby turn for a second glance as is she normally stared at.

Agnes Pillay, 32, can be found on weekdays with a group of Telecom technicians working in the Nasinu-Suva dressed in her blue and orange overall.

As if that's not enough Agnes stands almost six feet tall so if her height does not catch your attention, the overalls will. Agnes is one of fewer than five female technicians at the Telecom Walu Bay base.

She was born and bred in Labasa, attended Bethal Primary, Sangam and then All Saints Secondary School. Agnes comes from an average family.
Her dad works as a driver for the Public Works Department and her mother is a housewife.

"I come from a family of nine and I am the eldest in the family," she said. "I always wanted to do a man's job and that's what I'm doing but there are other female technicians," she says modestly.
"My family has always been supportive of my work." Agnes began working for Telecom Fiji eight years ago and even then she used to go out on the field with the guys. It was only until she married that she stayed at home for three years but her passion for the job could not keep her away.

Her husband, Parmod, has always been supportive of his wife's career. The couple have two daughters, Shonelle, 8, and Shalom, 5. Agnes is a senior designer with TFL. "I design cable network structures for telephone lines," she said

"I have been back as a technician for two years. "I spent some time in Lautoka then was transferred to Suva only three months ago." Agnes said sometimes the stares from people embarrassed her but the outgoing mother of two fits in very well with her workmates.

"My workmates are very supportive because I'm a female," she said. "Most of them are Fijian and I understand the language."
Throughout the interview, Agnes occasionally replies with "io", "I have lunch with them," she said.

"When we're out on the field sometimes we eat with dirty hands we have to eat," she laughs.
"I thought Suva was modern but the people in the West don't stare at me like the people in Suva do.

"I accept it as a compliment but it some times becomes embarrassing." Agnes reckons she's like any ordinary Fiji-Indian woman. "I'm normal," she said. "I cook and clean. "I love music and I like dancing too. "I love fashion and dressing up.

"You wouldn't recognise me if you saw me in town in casual clothes." When Agnes is at work, she does almost everything the men do including carrying heavy things like a manhole cover. "I can do most of things they do but I'm still learning," she said.

"My work is fun and I fit in very well." Agnes said Shonelle was very proud of her mother and wanted to be like her when she grows up.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, July 14, 2008

MEET MILIKA GADE, KAILA STAR QUEST

HUNDREDS of people flocked into the Suva Civic Auditorium as Heat 3 of the Vodafone Hibiscus 'Kaila' Star Quest continued over the weekend.
For three weeks now the 'Kaila' Star Quest featured talented and eager singers who poured out their hearts and hidden talents on stage.
Sixteen participants took part in the singing contest.
Jam-packed audience cheered as organisers Sereana Senidamanu introduced each participant.
The participants were vying for a place in the semifinals.
Losana Masitabua, 15, of Suva Sangam College with her Carry your Candle song took out last night's completion and was selected the seventh semifinalists.

ADAPTED FROM FIJITIMES ONLINE

Saturday, July 12, 2008

MEET MISS AQUIFER FIJI, AMELE TUBUITAMANA

Hibiscus queens are not only beautiful they are smart as well.
This is what 22-year-old Amele Tubuitamana aims to prove by taking part in this year's Vodafone Hibiscus Festival.
"People have the general assumption that Hibiscus queens just have a beautiful face and lack intellectual ability," she said.
"That is not true, most contestants are an educated group of people who are not in the contest for the fame but for a lot of other reasons," said Amele.
She is sponsored by Aquifer Fiji and a push from her family was how she got into the Hibiscus picture.
The ex-Jasper Williams High School student is confident of doing well.
"Thinking about contesting in the first place, gave me some nervous vibes but I know I should be able to pursue further confidently."
She is a go-getter type of person who believes in achieving everything she knows she can.
But one has to start from the small things before looking at the big picture, says the contestant.
"You cannot solve the hunger problem facing the world but you can feed a hungry person," is how she puts it.
"People always want to do big things but ignore the little facts around them."
She works as a youth volunteer at Ba Pilot Community Correction Centre.
Amele is a daddy's girl and hopes to follow her dad's footsteps.
Her father, Vilikesa Tubuitamana is an evangelism pastor. "I am very keen to grow spiritually and I will sing and preach the good gospel with my dad some day.
"That is my dream. It is only through the Almighty's strength I am able to face all hurdles of life," she said.
Amele, is a Western girl. She was born in Lautoka but brought up in Ba.
She lives with her family in Ba.
Amele loves singing, gardening and reading.
- Fiji Times Ltd is a sponsor of the festival

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

MEET PETERO DOMINIKO OF ROTUMA, MR STAYING ALIVE CORPORATE PROMOTIONS

THE face on the FMF 24/7 biscuit ad is one of the charming figures vying for the king's title at the Vodafone Hibiscus Festival next month.
Petero Dominiko, 27, hopes to make the national event more memorable, alive and exciting with his participation.
"I would like to make the kings participation more significant because it was just introduced last year. Hibiscus has become a tradition for Suva and something people look forward to every year so I really hope to make it more memorable and successful with my participation," said the determined contestant.
Dominiko is sponsored by Stayin' Alive Corporate Promotion Fiji an ad agency and handles sales and marketing for the company.
He is also a graduate teacher from Corpus Christi College an institution close to his heart.
He has a bold personality and is not afraid of trying something new.
"It's always challenging for me to do that and I would just like to say that if your heart is into something then just go for it.
"Don't wait and sit around, plan and spend too much time on it," he said.
Dominiko has a friendly and warm personality with an everlasting smile on his face.
He hails from Rotuma but was brought up in Suva.
He likes socialising and catching up with friends around the tanoa of grog.
His favourite hobby is reading and it is something he does nearly everyday.
The Hibiscus festival is from August 15-23.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

MEET TEVITA TONGA,MR SUPREME FUEL

THE young and cultural figure of the University of the South Pacific is vying for the King's title at the Vodafone Hibiscus Festival next month.
But it is not all about winning for 24-year-old Tevita Tonga.
"I intend to promote the value and significance of the different and rich cultures that we have in the Pacific," said the Supreme Fuel-sponsored contestant.
"One's culture is significant because it gives you your identity and shows who you are," said Mr Tonga with pride.
To be the cultural chairman of the USP Students Association is a perfect match for him and something he organises and teaches with great interest.
Tonga is the key figure responsible for organising all cultural activities and dances at the USP's annual open day.
Taking part in the contest is an escape from his "small box" world.
"I grew up in a very small box and it was that way until this opportunity came by.
"I have always wanted to be part of something big and going for something this big is very exciting."
He is grateful to his sponsor for giving him the opportunity and he hopes to make them proud.
Tonga, always referred to as Dee by people who know him, is a final-year Accounting and Information System student at USP.
His best friend, Izzal Azid, describes him as sociable and funny.
"Tevita is friends with everyone and mixes around with everybody," said Azid.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

MEET CLARE DEACON, LEVUKA LIBRARIAN

MILES from home can be difficult but for Clare Deacon, the challenge is an exciting one.
The 24-year-old is a volunteer worker from GAP Activity Project which arranges placements for volunteers from places such as the United Kingdom and Ireland to work in schools and institutions around the world.
Clare is a volunteer staff at the Levuka library and museum.
Originally from Orpington in England, she is the eldest of two children.
Her mother Elaine is a legal secretary while her father Terry works as an information technology consultant.
Growing up in the suburban town south of London, Clare and her brother had a happy and normal childhood.
She initially wanted to be a veterinarian because she was always around animals.
"I had a good upbringing," Ms Deacon said.
"I grew up around animals especially a lot of cats.
"Life was pretty normal for us.
"I attended primary school at Warren Road from Class One to Class Six and later at Priory Secondary.
"It was in a counsel estate which is something like Raiwaqa here.
"I had a good experience at school.
"My primary school was very middle class, very white but secondary was different. There were a lot of mixed races so it was an eye-opener for me."
When she was 18, she joined GAP where she spent four months as an English teacher in a small village in Peru.
Living overseas was a challenge for her especially when she had to adapt to the culture and lifestyle in Peru.
She said language was a barrier but with confidence she was able to learn.
"I lived with a local family in San Salvador. I was a volunteer for English, art and sports.
"However, in 2006 I completed my university degree in International development at Norwich.
"I then worked in London for a charitable organisation called Greater London Enterprises.
"At the same time I was looking for a job overseas.
"I found out about Fiji through the GAP Activity Projects and I applied and was posted to work with the National Trust of Fiji in Suva."
She arrived in the country in January this year.
She has been living with a local family and says she loves every minute of it, especially the new things she found out.
Before she moved to Levuka, Clare spent a few weeks at the Sigatoka sand dunes before she was transferred to the library on Ovalau.
"I really like Fiji.
"It is a good and beautiful place. and the people are so good.
"I will be in Fiji until September when I have to go back but I want to extend my stay.
"I will wait and see if there are other projects.
"At the moment, I love working here in the library and love helping people.
"Working for charity is something I like to do.
"I was fortunate to have a good upbringing.
"The library is a good way to help develop and broaden people's knowledge."
Adapting to the Fijian lifestyle was something she found challenging at first but Clare maintains that the experience has been worthwhile.
She has learned to be a more confident and independent person.
Her advice to people in general is to grab every opportunity that life presents.
"If you are shy, you will never know what you can achieve with every opportunity."
While she may not have turned out to be a vet as she wanted, Clare has been a vegetarian since university.
She said if she could not be a vet then being a vegetarian was the closest way to express her passion and care for animals.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

MEET SINA SULIANO OF ROTUMA, MISS SUVA CITY COUNCIL

MISS Suva City Council, Sina Suliano is going to highlight youth and HIV issues at this year's Vodafone Hibiscus Festival.
Miss Suliano, 21, hails from Rotuma and works as a project assistant dealing with HIV issues at a non-governmental organisation, ADRA Youth Development Hub in Suva.
"I do a lot of HIV advocacy and it's very important for the young people to be aware that HIV is real," she said. "I joined this festival because I want to make a difference in young people's life.
"I want to emphasise to the young people that it is very important to have very high self- esteem.
"Once we have that, we can make the right decisions and the right choices in life."
Ms Suliano's hobbies are surfing the internet and photography.
She is looking forward to the challenge and meeting other contestants from August 15 to 23

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

MEET CHRISTINE PRAKASH,MS WHEELS PACIFIC

REACHING out to the grassroots people in the interior is the focus of 21-year-old Christine Prakash. The young contestant is grateful and excited that she will be given such a chance through her participation in the Vodafone Hibiscus Festival.
"I have always wanted to be part of something this big and to feel the rhythm of it. I really thought I would be working as a volunteer but I am thankful to Wheels Pacific for choosing me to represent them," said Ms Prakash.
"I am interested in helping people in the interior areas, outside Suva, especially those who don't even have a shelter and sleep on the roads. Through my participation in the Hibiscus Festival, I would like to reach out to the people in the community and be able to do something for them. I was born and brought up in Suva and it is time for me to do something for the people and be a good ambassador of my country is my goal."
The second-year real estate and management student at the University of the South Pacific said she would like to own and manage her own business in future. Be ambitious and having the will power to do something is her way of tackling life's obstacles.
She is the younger sister of last year's contestants, Ms MHCC Michelle Prakash and Ms Supreme Fuel Dipti Prakash.
Having her sisters' guidance and support, she is confident of doing her best for the people of Fiji.
The festival is from August 15-23.
The Fiji Times is a sponsor of the festival.
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

MEET AUDREY KAMALI OF WALLIS AND FUTUNA/ROTUMA

MISS Supreme Fuel Audrey Kamali will promote children's issues at the Vodafone Hibiscus Festival this year. Ms Kamali (left) hails from Wallis and Futuna, while her mother is from Rotuma.
The 20-year-old beauty is studying at the University of the South Pacific.
She lists her hobbies as spending quality time with friends and family, doing social work and sports. In leisure time, Ms Kamali helps children who are less fortunate by joining a social club under Save the Children Fund.
"Our club is called Kid's Link Fiji Alumni Club and we just came back from Vatukoula helping the kids there with finance to go to school," she said.
"My main aim in joining the Hibiscus is to help as many children have a better life and good education."
Ms Kamali attended St Annes Primary and St Joseph's Secondary School.
This year's festival, from August 15-23, will be the biggest in its 52-year history.
Secretary Aqela Cakobau said there was a lot to look forward to.
"This will be the 53rd year since the carnival started and it will be bigger and better in the sense that the ground set-up will be totally different," said Ms Cakobau.
"There will be no more scaffolding and instead, there will be marquees and the stalls will be bigger and an Australian circus will have two shows.
We are negotiating with the Chinese Embassy to bring an acrobatic team from China and there will be a section for an agriculture show.
"The day and evening programs will be exciting. Fiji TV will air live performances every day to the South Pacific. There will be contestants in various categories." Overseas trips have been lined up for the winners.
Miss Hibiscus will represent Fiji at the Miss South Pacific pageant in American Samoa in October.
As for the festival preparation, Ms Cakobau said: "It's been tough compared to last year but running smoothly, but achievable."
The theme for this year's festival is to create a festival that will promote Suva as a tourist destination, the hub of the South Pacific.
Associate sponsors are Air Pacific, Carpenters Motors, Coca-Cola, FBCL, Fijilive, The Fiji Times, Fiji TV, FMF, Go Advertising, Max Marketing, South Pacific Productions, TFL and TMS.


Adapted form Fijitimes Online

Saturday, June 7, 2008

MEET MICHAEL JOSEPH DOMINIKO OF PEJPEI, ROTUMA

Most people look forward to joining the British Army not only because of employment opportunities but the challenging aspect of military life. For 26 year-old Michael Joseph Dominiko (pictured), army life was far from his mind.
He is the only pay clerk from Fiji in his division and it is a fact he is proud of. The Lance Corporal was born and bred in Suva.
Michael grew up in Reba Circle, Nadera. His father Mua is from the district of Pepjei in Rotuma while his mother Asera is from Noatau. Life growing up was very hard especially in the barracks or low cost housing. His father did odd jobs while his mother worked as a waitress to help support their family.
Sixth in a family of seven children, Michael had an interest in accounting and economics. He wanted to further his education at the University of the South Pacific but due to financial constraints, he did not have the opportunity. Little did he know, fate had other plans for him.
"We grew up in the barracks and life there was hard especially financial constraints. I never thought of ever joining the army. I simply had no interest at all. We had a big family and even though we faced a lot of difficulties, my parents worked very hard to make sure we had a good upbringing.
"I had always wanted to do something in accounting and economics. I attended primary school at Saint John Bosco in Nepani from 1988 to 1995. I then moved on to complete my secondary education at Cathedral from 1996 to 1999. Fortunately, I was able to complete a Certificate in Basic Accounting. I did my attachment at the Ministry of Fijian Affairs as an accounts clerk."
For Michael, working as a clerical officer was an eye opener. It was through his work at the ministry that he met the deputy permanent secretary's sister doctor Korina Waibuta. He then worked for doctor Waibuta for two years as a medical receptionist. While working as a receptionist, Michael noticed a lot of people had come for a medical clearance for their application to join the British Army. He decided to apply for a place in the British Army. While waiting for word on his application, he completed a Certificate in Computing at NZPTC in 2001. The following year, he was assigned his first choice as a military clerk. He joined the army on June 2, 2002.
"It was my first time overseas but I was really excited. Even though this was something I had no interest in, I was happy doing something better with my life. Being overseas for the first time was a real culture shock for me. I stayed with my sponsors who were Dr Waibuta's family. I lived with them in Wembley London for six months. The training was difficult and life was very tough both physically and mentally. I have never been sworn at before and I got used to this kind of treatment there.
"We underwent a 12-weeks training program. We did all the training including swimming across rivers, hiking and camping out in the cold. The kind of training shown in the movies are the kinds we went through. Despite all the hardships I faced mentally and physically, I was determined to keep going. There were times when I wanted to give up but I kept telling myself I came this far so why quit now."
He said discipline was an important factor of life in the army. Michael said everything had to be neat and tidy including things in their lockers. The desire for a better life was a push factor for Michael especially during the early stages of army life. He said his faith in the Lord also helped him through the difficult times. After pass out, Michael went into trade training. "We had training instructors at Sir John Moore barracks in Winchester, London. We were taught our trade. I really enjoyed training to be a clerk because I wanted to do something in accounting and economics. I was then moved to Saint David's barracks in Bicester. There were 68 Fijians altogether and only one Fijian female. For two years, I was part of 3 Logistical Support Regiment at Delton Barracks in Abingdon.
"I am the only Fijian pay clerk there and I am very proud of that fact. All the Fijians there are close knit and we all try to help each other whenever we can. There are times when we get together to have a bowl of grog and reminisce about life back home. I have my own squadron with 58 people working under me. Even though its hard, I see it as a challenge. I like to help others especially meeting people and making new friends."
After being in the country for five years, Michael will finally get his citizenship next month. He said joining the military has given him a new lease of life.
He has been able to help his family back home as well as visit places he never thought he would visit. Some of these include France, Belgium, Germany, Kuwait and Qatar. He has been to Iraq three times for operations.
"Determination and passion for army life is what got me this far. If people want to join the army they have to be fit not just physically but mentally and spiritually as well. The army is about being disciplined and there is a high level of fitness. There are so many career paths and opportunities if one has the determination and passion to succeed. All the hardships have made me even more determined to live a better life and to provide a better life for my family," said Michael who will fly out of Fiji today.


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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

MEET SERAFINA WEDLOCK OF VATUWAQA,SUVA

For music lovers in the West, Serafina Wedlock or 'Fina', as she prefers to be known, is the sassy weekend host of popular radio show 'Classics' on 88.6 Mix FM.
The week days find her serving up sandwiches, frothy cappuccinos and the odd latte at the Chilli Tree Caf on Tukani Street, just around the corner from the Lautoka Hotel.
The quaint little coffee shop is unique in that it is the only 'real' espresso bar in Lautoka City and boasts a regular clientele of coffee-loving locals and wandering off-shore drifters.
Originally from Vatuwaqa in Suva, Fina is a graduate from the School of Hotel and Catering and had the privilege of completing the practical aspects of the course at the Tokatoka Hotel in Nadi.
"I really missed Suva when I first moved here, the hustle and bustle, night-life, there was always something to do, places to go, people to see,"
she reminisced.
"But I have to admit Lautoka grows on you and before you know it, you, but slowly, surely become a west-side girl," she said in-between serving a mid morning surge of caffeine cravers.
"The climate here is better, the people are friendlier and the grog is out of this world," she proclaimed, much to the bemusement of customers.
"When I left school, I worked at numerous cafes and bars until I landed my dream job at Beachcomber Island Resort, it was so much fun!" However, her dream was short-lived.
While employed at Beachcomber Island, she became a victim of the 2006 military takeover, losing her job as the tourism industry nose-dived forcing the resort to reluctantly shed casual staff.
"It was really devastating," she said, "there I was newly trained, enthusiastic, eager to go and really enjoying working on the island when the rug was literally pulled out from under my feet."
Determined not to give up as hundreds of former hotel employees combed the country in search of employment, Fina answered an advertisement for a barista and landed the job at the Chilli Tree. She found the change from resort to coffee shop challenging and the skills she had acquired not being utilized as much in her new role.
"The menu is set in a caf," she said, "unlike resorts where chefs are given the opportunity to be creative."
She has, however, observed an interesting trend, "the coffee shop is the new bar. Where business deals were once made over a beer at a noisy bar, cafes and coffee have become the venue and drink of choice."
Fina puts it down to the soothing music, the refreshing aroma of fresh coffee and relaxing environment.
Asked about her dreams and aspirations, she replied, "Who knows? I wanted to be a nurse but this is me now, coffee and sandwiches" she said, "I hope one day to have my own caf called La Fina."


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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

MEET MELISSA RAIVOTU OF NADI

YES, it's that time of the year again ... when the nation's greatest bathroom singers actually step out from under the shower and into the spotlight with microphone in hand to show they really can croon as well as whoever they idolise.
This is your chance to be Bob Marley, Beyonce or simply beyond belief.
Who knows, it could open a career path much in the way rugby has allowed Seru Rabeni, Akapusi Qera, Kele Leawere, Seremaia Bai, Vilimoni Delasau, Mosese Rauluni and all our other heroes to ply their trade on world stage.
The only difference is that right now it is not all or only about the money, although there is a some to be had, $500 actually.
This is all about simply showing you've got what it takes to cut it as a vocalist.
It is the third annual vocalist talent quest organised by the Alliance Fran├żaise de Suva as a build-up to the much looked forward to Fiji Music Festival.
Fiji's Mister Music, the right Reverend James Bhagwan, has voluntarily taken the competition by scruff of its neck to coordinate the quest being held in partnership with Dragon Music, and FM96, FM Legend and Viti FM.
The man of god simply wants us suitably warmed up as the season gets colder — a mid-winter warmth more people are now appreciating.
As Bhagwan says, "the objective is to give the opportunity to young people from 9-25 years to raise their voices and show their emerging talents".
Everyone has sang in the bathroom and some have gone even further.
Melissa Raivotu stole the show last year with her rendition of Beyonce's Listen, from the movie Dreamgirls.
Although now based in Nadi, Melissa confirmed she is definitely keen to be in. "I'll probably do something from Alicia Keys," she said.
But if you want to heat up the competition, you have to register by 4pm Tuesday, yes this Tuesday as auditions start on Saturday.
That will be held at the Alliance Fran├żaise, on MacGregor Road and at the Suva Civic Centre on Friday the 13th.
The grand final will be held at Sukuna Park on June 21 as part of the Fiji Music Festival.
In the audition, everyone sings a cappella before planning begins to get the proper soundtrack for the heats.
The final 20 will be backed by a live band. There is no entry fee and everyone will be allowed to sing in their vernacular.
"We've done that because in past years we said English and many people who wanted to sing in Fijian or Hindi missed out," Bhagwan said.
"By vernacular we mean people are welcome to sing in the language they are most comfortable in," he said.
"We're just opening the door to the untapped potential we have ... people can sing whatever they want," he stressed.
Bhagwan expects over 100 entries, most of them making their first outing on stage. And, that's the sweetest part about it all — one does not have to be a professional singer or have aspirations to rock the world.
It is simply about singing and having fun. Who knows the Vocalist Talent Quest may turn up a Leona Lewis and perhaps one day give us a truly global icon to adore and mimic.
The panel of judges includes award-winning composer Saimone Vuatalevu and broadcasters from FM96, FMLegend and Viti FM. Entry forms are available at the Alliance Francaise on MacGregor Road, The Boom Box, Dragon Music and FM96-Legend FM. See entry forms for details, or call the Alliance on 3313802. Remember, you have to be in to win so come we go chant down Babylon.


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MEET TARISI GANILAU OF NAITUTU, TAILEVU

TARISI Daku Ganilau has all the makings of an average young woman. Shes young, full of life, shy, and smiles a lot. But beneath this exterior lurks a determined person.
Tarisi, 23, harbours a dream most young women her age probably never think of when they look at themselves in the mirror.
She wants to be a captain on a ship.
Theres no shade of pink in the job. But theres a lot of oil, dirty overalls and rocking and rolling at sea.
Its about being one of the crew on a vessel at sea.
Theres no glamour in what she does.
Tarisi reckons one of the good sides to it though is the travelling bit, meeting people and the opportunity to visit the many islands that surround Fiji.
Tarisi is a deck cadet on the government vessel the MV Iloilovatu.
Shes learning to become a captain.
The confined spaces onboard the Iloilovatu may be restrictive, but it does nothing to demoralise this young woman from Naitutu in Tailevu.
She has three sisters and four brothers who, with their mother, are very supportive of Tarisis decision to churn out a career at sea.
Shed opted for captains training with the Government Shipping Services straight out of Form 7 at Nasinu Secondary School and is now into her third year as a deck cadet.
She started on the Dausoko, doing repair work before been assigned to the Iloilovatu. She has two years left on her path towards becoming a captain.
It was instant attraction for her.
I love what I am doing, she says.
I love meeting people and being out at sea.
One of the downsides to working on a vessel is the rocking and rolling out at sea.
My first trip on the Iloilovatu was to Rotuma. I remember sleeping all the way to Rotuma because I was sea-sick. I was okay on the trip back to Fiji.
The Iloilovatu is built for long travels.
It was once a Japanese training ship that was out at sea for the better part of six months in a year, travelling all the way across the vast Pacific ocean from Japan to Hawaii.
A fuel system that could store enough fuel for journeys across the Pacific is now filled with water which improves stability at sea.
A lengthened draught (the vertical distance measured from the lowest point of a ship's hull to the waterline or the water surface) helps to cut out rolling in heavy seas.
Tarisi shrugs aside talk of being in a world dominated by men.
I did physics and technical drawing at high school and I was the only female student in my class. This is nothing new.
I suppose the only difference was when I started work. I found it unusual working with a lot of older men. Now we are all like brothers and sisters here.
Tarisis work choice inches out sad memories for her mother, but it also strengthens her resolve to make a career for herself at sea.
My mum prays for me every time I leave to go out to sea, she says.
Tarisi was barely seven-years-old when her father and a brother disappeared at sea. They had gone out fishing outside the Suva harbour. It was in 1994. The only thing I remember is that their fibre glass boat was found. Their bodies have never been found.
Shes tried to push the incident back into the inner most recesses of her memory bank.
But it does provide a challenge for me whenever it does pop up, she says.
Sometimes I wonder what happened to them, or how they disappeared.
My mums support lifts my spirits.
It reassures her.
To be captain, Tarisi believes young hopefuls need to be calm under pressure.
I think its about making right decisions at the right time.
Its also about being confident.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

MEET SULIANA MAKARITA SAVERIO OF ROTUMA

SULIANA Makarita Saverio is a young woman with a great passion for music. She is a talented and professional violinist who is going places.
The first thing you notice about this 19-year-old is her beautiful smile and how strikingly graceful she is.
She is one of Fijis very own violinists, and a talented one at that. She is a member of the quartet, the Davui Ensemble.
Davui Ensemble is a small local musical group which plays the violin, viola and cello. The group aims to expose these instruments to people here in Fiji with the hope of getting interested locals to learn to play them and hopefully join the group.
Music is Sulianas escape from studies. The first year MBBS student at the Fiji School of Medicine is the daughter of Kaurasi and Akata Saverio. She is the eldest in a family of two. Her brother Oscar is 14. Suliana is shy but as the subject is music, she is eager to talk. She says music gives her a sense of identity.
Music is a part of me, it makes me who I am, she said matter-of-factly.
Its my language for expressing things I feel that I cant put into words. Music to me is a way of expressing myself. It helps me relax and relieves my stress from studies. Its my get-away from all the hustle and bustle life dishes out. To become a professional violinist was Sulianas childhood dream.
I would fantasise that I was a violinist with my ukulele and sasa-stick; trying to be like the professionals I saw on TV, she said.
The young teenager later discovered that playing a violin was not as simple as it was shown on TV. The violin was the only instrument she wanted to play ever since she was first introduced to musical instruments.
Its an instrument Ive always wanted to play because I love its sound and also because its not a commonly played instrument here.
Even when I began my music lessons on the piano at the age of seven, I always dreamt of learning to play the violin, she said.
She was 15 when she got her first chance.
I first learnt to play the violin in 2004. I started my violin lessons at USP with the former music lecturer (also the founder of our musical group, Davui Ensemble) Ueta Solomona. After he and his family returned to Samoa, I continued my lessons with Irene Cloin former Davui Ensemble leader who returned to the Netherlands with her family), she explained.
The first time she laid hands on the violin was an exciting and a memorable moment for Suliana. She couldnt wait to start the lessons.
Seeing a violin for the first time and getting the chance to learn to play it was a stepping stone for me in music, because it was an instrument I had always wanted to learn to play, she said. Learning how to play the violin was a challenge for her and she loved the challenge.
It wasnt easy and I found it difficult at first, but at the same time I enjoyed the challenge of learning something new, she said.
Unlike a guitar, there are no frets on the finger board, so to avoid hitting flat notes fingering must be precise. The other challenging thing is using a bow to play, because improper bowing gives a really screechy sound, she said. Suliana lists her faith, family and friends as the most important things in her life.
The young woman, who is originally from Juju district, is actively involved in the Rotuman Community church choir.
Apart from playing Violin, Suliana loves listening to music, playing volleyball, reading, watching movies and surfing the net.
Dont live for tomorrow what you can do today. For me, it not only applies to not leaving assignments or studies to the last minute but also not passing up any opportunity you get in life, she said.



Adapted from Fijtimes Online

MEET ANARE SIKOA OF CAKAUDROVE

FARMING is the major project for the youth of Cakaudrove Province.
For the 14 districts in the province, each youth group has to have a farming project whether it be cultivating dalo or yaqona.
The project is compulsory.
Cakaudrove youth coordinator Anare Sikoa said for the past four years, the youths have made farming compulsory.
"Some youths drop out of school and stay in the village while others who stay in school sometimes don't get through to tertiary institutions. So we have made farming projects compulsory so that they can have something to fall back on," Mr Sikoa said.
"Employment opportunities in the rural areas are limited so farming yaqona and dalo is the best option because it earns more than white collar jobs."
Every month, district reps submit a report to Mr Sikoa and the committee on the progress of their farms. For the girls their preoccupation is mat weaving and handicraft work.
The money earned by the youth groups is given to the individual member who owns the farm.
"We just motivate them and push them through with their farming, and assist others start new farms. But the individual members who own the farm are responsible for the harvest," Mr Sikoa said.
"Whatever money they earn belongs to them. Most have rural bank accounts in which they deposit their earnings for their future plans."
Such plans include further studies, building their own homes in the village, expanding their farms or starting up businesses.
"This is another area we concentrate on and that is to encourage our youth groups to do further studies and educate themselves but to always keep their farms because it's financial support for their plan."
Mr Sikoa said they also help the youths market their produce.
"Fishing is another area we encourage because it also gives good returns.
"We are training them to be responsible - for themselves, their families and their future."


Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Saturday, May 17, 2008

MEET JAMES TABULAWAKI OF NADROGA

THERE is always something about an artwork or craftwork that depicts the world around us.
For an artist such as James Epi Satavu Tabulawaki, putting thoughts and creativity into carving wood sculptures is inspiring.
James returned to Fiji more that year ago after spending about 12 years in the Land of the Long White Cloud. While in Wellington, he mastered the art of wood carving after learning the skill from Maori friends.
Born and bred in Fiji, James is of Fijian and Samoan decent. His father Sairusi Tabulawaki is a policeman from Nadroga while his mother, Maria Maisema worked as a diplomat for the New Zealand embassy in Fiji.
Sixth in a family of seven children, James was brought up at Sigatoka Village. Like many young boys coming of age, James never thought about what he wanted to do in life.
"When I was young, I didn't think about what I would do. We had a simple upbringing. I attended primary school at Mount Saint Mary in Nadi. In 1994, we moved to New Zealand and lived in Wellington. I then attended Auckland Grammar. I was able to make a lot of friends and some of them were Maori. They taught me how to carve.
"At first I didn't like it but over time I learned how to appreciate the art. I became interested in wood carving. It made me want to get back to my culture and learn more about my heritage but this wasn't something I planned or ever dreamed of doing."
In 2002, he attended a Maori school to learn more about wood carving. He returned to Fiji at the end of 2006 and put his carving work on hold. He said he did not do much upon his return to Fiji because he did not have the time for it. Like most youths, James spent most of his time hanging with friends and partaking in the occasional grog sessions. However, a turning point in his life was meeting with renowned local artist Craig Marlow whose mother is Liebling Marlow, the first Miss Hibiscus in 1956.
"I met Craig and told him I did carvings back in New Zealand. He took me to join the National Trust of Fiji where I did voluntary work at the Sigatoka sand dunes carving driftwood for the park as well. I spent a couple of months there before coming to Suva to join Craig at the Pacific Arts Alliance.
"Wood carving has become very interesting for me. In fact, it has become my life. Every morning when I wake up, I start carving. It makes me happy and I like what I am doing. I am able to focus on creating different carvings and designs on wood. Believe it or not, when I carve, it is as if I am communicating with the wood."
He is also grateful to the alliance for providing carving tools for his work.
To define the character of an artist would be impossible and if there is one thing that makes them stand out from the rest it is their natural instinct and passion for creativity.
"This is still a learning experience for me but I am determined to make the most of my skill.
"I might stick around a bit longer but maybe one day I might consider starting my own business. I had some of my tools from New Zealand but the Pacific Arts Alliance also bought some tools for my work which I am grateful for," he said. There is an art exhibition coming in July sponsored by ANZ bank and that is where James will join other artists and display their carvings and sculptures. James is an example to other youths.
He has shown that through hard work anything is possible.


Adapted from Fijitimes Online

MEET JOE SUSUSEWA OF NAVOSA

TO understand a painting, one must first understand the painter.
It is not easy to see through the eyes of a painter but Joe Taoi Sususewa looks at painting as another way to express his creativity and passion for beauty.
Joe is from Navosa, up the Sigatoka Valley.
He is the son of high school teacher Willie Sususewa and his mother Perina is the driving force at home.
The eldest of six children, Joe's passion for painting started when he was in Class Three.
Although he had a simple upbringing, Joe said drawing was something that always kept him busy in school.
It was the main reason he wanted to go to school and from that early age, Joe would be shaping things with his pencil on a piece of paper or on his exercise book when he was supposed to studying another subject.
"I was brought up in the interior and never really thought about what I wanted to do.
"In Class Three, instead of writing, I would be drawing.
"I attended primary school at Navesau then secondary school at Suva Adventist and then Navesau High School.
"After high school, I continued to pursue my interest in art at the Fiji Institute of Technology studying for a diploma in visual arts.
"It then that I started playing around with colours and started painting.
"I always try to develop something different from a picture I just painted.
"I do not find painting hard and I feel happy when I paint or draw.
"It has become something I love doing and enjoy."
It did not take long for Joe to discovering his talent for creating something beautiful from a simple paint brush and piece of paper or canvas.
His drawings and paintings of the environment is a pleasing sight.
Like most painters and artists, Joe's secret to creating a masterpiece is having a passion for the work.
No doubt, his passion for painting has inspired him to stand out and be different.
He has learnt to express his ideas and creativity through art.
"In 2004, I had the opportunity to work with a well known Korean artist named Young Soorhee.
"He helped me develop my talent in painting.
"I was not working and was facing financial difficulties at the time but was fortunate to cross paths with Sonny Misiolo, a Samoan artist.
"He was quite well-off and I was able to spend time learning about different kinds of artwork and paintings.
"I stayed with him for a year.
"Everyday after school, I would go to him to learn more about developing my talent.
"For me paintings and drawings contain stories and history.
"In 2005, my paintings and drawings were part of the national art exhibition.
"It was the first time for me to enter an art exhibition and I was very nervous but confident at the same time.
"I won two awards at that exhibition, one was for Emerging Artist and the other was for Indigenous Art.
"The paintings are part of the Fiji Arts Council's collection."
Apart from that Joe has done paintings for restaurants and nightclubs in Suva.
The award winning artist believes art has helped him become more confident of his skills and talent.
His dream is to follow in the footsteps of the one and only Vincent Van Gogh — famous for his paintings in the late 19th Century.
Like any other painter, their environment and culture influence their paintings.
Joe has an interest in indigenous and environmental art.
"We had a retreat on a mountain top and it was an eye opener for me.
"The natural beauty we take for granted becomes an inspiration.
In Fiji, paintings and drawings tell stories.
"Our environment tells a story and these stories are put into art, paintings and drawings for the next generation.
"We are preserving our culture and identity through our paintings.
"I believe everyone has a God-given talent.
"It is up to them to discover that talent and move on to do something better and more productive with their life."
For Joe, the sky is the limit and his example should be a lead for spiring painters and artists.
But as Joe said, if you do not have the passion for it, then you do not have it.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

MEET SEINI BOLATAGICI FROM NACOBO

WHEN health and welfare volunteers in Levuka visited four-year-old Seini Bolatagici at her home at Nacobo Village two years ago, she was shy and quiet, unlike other little girls her age.
Seini's shyness stemmed from her inability to make conversation because of a cleft palate from birth.
A cleft palate results when the plates of the skull that join to cover the roof of the mouth are not completely fused.
In such instances, the soft palate at the back of the mouth is often cleft as well. The opening creates problems not only for the formation of speech but also being able to eat food without having it flow into the nasal cavity.
"Seini's twin sister, Makelesi had a similar condition but she passed away a few months before we met Seini," says Patricia Wong, health volunteer in Levuka.
"Makelesi died after she burnt herself with hot tea as she tried to feed herself one morning."
Emele, Seini's mother did not know that Seini's situation could be remedied by surgery.
If Patricia had not visited Seini's village, Seini would have continued with her struggle and grown up without the gift of proper speech or ability to have a meal without having bits of food stray into her nasal cavity.
The ability to identify Seini's condition and others who have various disabilities is a credit to the training provided to volunteers of the Fiji Red Cross.
Training helps them to assess cases and train caregivers to look after children with special needs.
"After I explained to Emele, I contacted the doctor at Levuka Hospital to assess Seini and have her problem surgically corrected," Patricia said.
So Emele and Seini came to the capital on a journey that would change their lives. When they arrived at the CWM Hospital, a team of doctors and well-wishers were waiting for them.
The surgery was performed without incident and Seini's recovery has been smooth.
Seini and Emele's trip to Suva would not be possible without help from the International Women's Association which paid for their travel, accommodation and other expenses. After the surgery, the Red Cross arranged for sessions with a speech therapist.
"Emele tells me Seini is so talkative it is hard to get her to keep quiet," Patricia said with a laugh.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Sunday, May 4, 2008

MEET METUISELA CINAVOU OF DALICONI, VANUBALAVU, LAU

Life as a missionary is interesting and challenging but requires a lot of prayer and fasting, says Metuisela Cinavou who has been serving as a missionary for about 15 years.
He said following Jesus required a lot of sacrifices and commitment.
The 34-year-old man hails from Daliconi, Vanuabalavu in Lau.
In 1995 he attended the Christian Mission Fellowship Bible School, World Harvest Institute in Labasa.
Metui spent one year in Bible school and did field work from 1995 to 2000 when he was told to leave Fiji to serve in Melbourne, Australia.
Metui left in 2000 to serve as a missionary in Melbourne for five years before heading to Cambodia in 2005. He says life in Cambodia is different but he excepted the fact that he was sent on a mission.
He spent the first six months learning their language.
Metui said the only way he could share the word of God to the Cambodians was through learning to speak and understand the language. Metui was accompanied by Ben Ryland.
"When we first arrived in Cambodia, we could see that people living there did not understand English and it was very hard for us to share the word of God. In order for us to get to them we had to learn their language," he said.
"We therefore attended a language class for six months. Within the six months we were able to understand the language."
When they started their mission work, one thing they felt would help them in sharing the word was building relationships with the people within their area.
Metui and his mate made sure they were ready in spirit before they could go out and share the word of God in order for them to make an impact in the particular community.
He said it was very hard to preach the gospel since it was a Buddhist country.
But it was through the power of God and prayers that lives were changed and people converted to Christianity, he said.
"It was really a great challenge for us to share the gospel in a country where everyone was a Buddhist. We made sure we really prepared ourselves well before we went out and spread the gospel.
"For them being Buddhists was like their religion and tradition and for us to change them to become Christians was like taking them away from their tradition and religion as well as their culture," he said.
"We helped out in the community by meeting their needs and helping them in whatever situation they faced. We were able to help provide accomodation for those who were homeless, we gave food to the hungry, provided medical assistance and also assisted students with their educational needs."
"After we'd built a relationship and helped them with their needs, we saw that they really appreciated what were doing and when we shared the word of God with them it was easy because we had this relationship between us."
Metui said within the three years they'd served there, lives were changed and they believe that God had been working through the lives of young people of Cambodia.
He said more than 160 people received the gospel and believed in the Lord as their saviour.
Out of these Christians, the majority were youths and Metui believes these young people could be the main ambassadors of Christ in their country.
He said they'd been working very hard to reach out to those who were living in the interior of Cambodia.
Metui believes where there is a will, there is a way.
"If you have the heart to go forth and take the word of God, God will help you."
He said words and actions always went together.
He would like to encourage young people to take the privilege of what God has instilled in their individual lives and be proud of who they were.
"I am so proud to be a Fijian because we are uniquely designed in God's creative hands. While you have all the opportunity when you are still young, make use of it and try and win as much souls as you can for the kingdom of God."

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Friday, April 25, 2008

MEET ALIVERETI NASILA, OF NAITAUVOLI, WAINIMALA, NAITASIRI

There are many unknown schools in Fiji especially those in the interior far away from urban centres. For Alifereti Nasila, teaching at the Nasikawa Vision College is a memorable experience.
Not only is he savouring the experience of his teaching transition from Ratu Sukuna Memorial School to the Korean-funded college in Sigatoka, but he is also helping the athletics squad improve at the Coke Light Games.
Born and bred in Naitauvoli Village, Wainimala in Naitasiri, Alifereti wanted to be a teacher from early childhood. The thought of being able to help in the development of children in rural areas grow academically is something that has kept his spirits high. While many from the village would describe life there as easy, Alifereti knows different.
Third in a family of six, Alifereti said life in the village is not always a bed of roses. He describes the physical hardships of life in the village as the strength that has enabled him to achieve his dream of being a teacher.
His parents were typical villagers and worked hard to provide all of them with a proper education, something Alifereti is always grateful for.
"I grew up in the village. I was a typical village boy living a typical village life. My parents were Taniela Gonetabu and Mereoni Cagonibua.
"They were also typical villagers and farmers. We lived in the interior and life there was difficult. We managed to survive though.
"I remember collecting firewood and working in the plantations with my father. It was something we had to do to survive in the village.
"Times were hard and we had to sell our produce to earn money. Back in the village, we used all sorts of things that cost money like sugar. So we had to work hard to earn money for this and other expenses like our education. Physically, life in the village was hard especially when there are a lot of things that need to be done in order to survive. This was a good experience for me growing up because it taught me a lot about responsibility and hard work."
He attended primary school at Naivucini District from Class One to Eight.
He then continued his secondary school at RSMS before going to the University of the South Pacific to complete his degree in education. He graduated with a Bachelor of Education. Alifereti was then given his first posting in 2002 to teach at his former secondary school RSMS before being transferred to Sigatoka early this year.
"When I was still in secondary school, I used to play sports and I also used to take part in athletics. In primary school, I was part of the rugby team even in secondary. I used to take part in the 3000 metres and 800 metres races. Unfortunately, I did not come any where but the fact that I tried my best was good enough for me. There is a lot of competition in Suva and even at the Coke Games.
"I have always been interested in the development of students whether academically or in sports. There are a lot of athletes here from Nasikawa Vision College who are very talented. These athletes were placed sixth in the Nadroga-Navosa schools meet.
"They won seven gold medals and that is something very motivating. Most of them do not excel academically but are very talented when it comes to sports. Some athletes might even consider taking up athletics professionally when they finish high school and this is something they can work hard for."
He said this year would be the first time for some athletes to participate in the Coke Light Games. Despite this, Alifereti believes there is more than meets the eye when it comes to these athletes from the 'Sand Dune city'.
He admitted competition at this year's meet would be tough. However, he is adamant there is still that beam of hope for athletes from the College.
"All the athletes are looking forward to the meet and preparations have been positive. Most of these athletes are used to training on grass and coming to the National Stadium before the games is good preparation for them. They will be able to feel what the tracks and grounds are like. It would be nice if the athletes are able to win at the games even if it is a single medal or a win, it would mean a lot for the athletes and the school.
"My advice for athletes participating at the games would be to work hard and strive to excel in every thing you do. I usually talk and encourage the athletes to do their best at the games. It is good also for the athletes to believe in themselves and to always have confidence that they can excel if they put their minds to it. We are all looking forward to the Coke Light Games meet this weekend," he said.


Adapted from Fijitimes Online