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Following in grandad's footsteps

Repeka Nasiko
Friday, June 15, 2012

FOR more than 18 years, dedicated and committed social worker, Soluchna Sharma of Vaqia settlement has been a staple of kindness and free giving spirit for the people of Ba.

Her hard work which spans over two decades will be recognised by the Ministry of Health for the second year in a row in Labasa this weekend.

"I will be given the award for blood services organising officer Western Division," said Mrs Sharma a day before she was set to fly up North.

"I never really expect any reward for my work because I've always had a passion for serving the needy and the poor."

The 40-year-old social worker has been a volunteer for various non-government organisations including the Red Cross.

"I started volunteering at the age of 18 when I was at the Fiji Institute of Technology in Ba. The main reason why I entered into this field is because of my grandfather," said Mrs Sharma.

That maternal grandfather was none other than former Justice of Peace and Fiji's one-time centurion, the late Bechu Prasad.

"I'll never forget his teachings when I was growing up as a young girl. I would visit him in Sabeto and he would take me to the places and communities that he visited," Mrs Sharma recalls.

It seems that her late grandfather laid out a pathway for her passion in community work.

"He always told me that he wanted me to be a social worker. He wanted me to live for the people and to always dedicate my time to those that needed our help. That was the kind of man he was and it was hard not to follow his path," she said.

Today, more than 35 years since the days she accompanied her renowned grandfather - and since his death in 2005 aged 105 - Mrs Sharma has become a leader in her own right. She regularly organises blood drives for the Lautoka Hospital and claims to have collected over 3000 pints of blood during her stint as a Red Cross volunteer since 2000.

"I'm also an advisory councillor for Vaqia and Korovuto among other settlements in Ba for the past 10 years.

"Sometimes it would be hard for me. I'd get calls from residents wanting help, counselling and advice and I would just want to put the phone down but I can't because I just can't turn them away. My grandfather would always tell me that we should always help people in need and that's something I've always lived by."

She also credits her commitment to her work to her husband, Umesh Prasad Sharma.

"At times when I felt that I couldn't do it anymore, he would just remind me of what my grandfather would say. He always encouraged me to keep doing my social work."

On June 1, the couple celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary.

With their two children, the couple have not only become prominent charity workers in Ba but also within the business community.

"We have a bee farm and we mainly supply honey to all New World Supermarkets in the country."

Apart from their bee farm, the couple also own a goat and sheep farm on their three-acre land. She says she hopes that she has made her grandfather proud with her achievements. "I wouldn't be here without his influence and all I wanted to do was follow in his footsteps," she added.

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