Saturday, June 28, 2008


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.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008


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


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


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.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


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


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.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008


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."


Tuesday, June 3, 2008


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.



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.