Sunday, February 3, 2008


BEING strapped to his grandmother's back while she climbed for safety during Cyclone Meli in 1979 was some-what a miracle for 30-year old Aca Gauna Vuli Kau who administers the Disaster Management Programme for Fiji Red Cross Society.

Originally from Salia Village on the island of Nayau, Vuli Gauna as he is commonly known experienced first-hand the destruction and fury of Cyclone Meli when he was only two years old.

Even at that tender age, most people would not remember what happened to them.

For Vuli, he was fortunate to have his grandmother relate the events of the natural disaster that changed the life of people on Nayau. However, Vuli's interesting upbringing is another fascinating phase of his life and the foundation which shaped his values and principles.

Born on May 18, 1977 in Suva, Vuli is the second of six children and they lived a typical village life where nothing was ever easy.

His mother was a housewife and his father was an average villager who cut copra to put food on the table.

However, food for them was plain tavioka and tea without sugar most times.

At that time, sugar was hard to get because there was a shortage or it was too expensive. He said being the second eldest he was left with the responsibility of caring for his two young sisters when his father went to the plantation or when his mother went fishing.

"In most families, the eldest or youngest child is always considered the family favourite and being the second eldest meant shouldering the responsibilities of the eldest child," Vuli said.

"I was not strong physically or tall.

"By contrast, I was a slim, short and weak boy.

I was not athletic and did not go with my father to the plantation because I could not hold the knife with a steady hand.

"I was what they called malai or weak but I didn't mind. My older brother was strong and favoured and I was like a girl in the family.

"I had to shoulder the responsibility of looking after my two sisters when my parents were away.

"I had to wake up in the morning to wash the pots and dishes, a chore for girls and women but I was given the task of washing the pots in the morning.

"I guess at that stage of my life, I learnt life's values and responsibilities."

Vuli moved to Suva in 1990 to attend secondary school and the changing lifestyle was a big challenge for him.

The cultural shock was almost too much for him but he managed to complete Form Six.

Several factors contributed to Vuli not doing well in Form Six, including behavioural change but by chance, he signed up to work as a volunteer for the Fiji Red Cross Society.

He worked his way up the ladder to where he is today and now, well established in his line of work, Vuli said he could not have asked for a better calling in life. His past experience and the adversity of village life have made him realise how life can suddenly become meaningful and full of hope for a bright future.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online