It was truly emotional for Luisa Nasome when she was presented with a certificate of appreciation from the Pacific Leprosy Board for spending the last 31 years of her career as an administrator looking after people living with leprosy.
In a small get-together held at the P. J. Twomey Hospital in Tamavua on Thursday, Luisa was given the certificate by the New Zealand-based Pacific Leprosy Board relations manager Lala Gittoes.
In the presence of the doctor, nurses, general staff and patients of the Twomey Hospital, Ms Gittoes handed over the certificate and a personal gift to Luisa as a thank you for all those years of service.
"The work of caring for people living with leprosy makes people loyal and want to stay with it and this is one trait that we seen many people working in this field have, because leprosy patients have nobody else.
"And I would like to thank Luisa for her loyalty and her understanding of all the leprosy patients in Fiji and her work has made their lives better for them," Ms Gittoes says.
"I always feel humbled to meet people in Fiji who have less than what I have but have more spirit," Ms Gittoes said.
Luisa first started off as a typist in 1981 at the P. J. Twomey Hospital in Tamavua where she worked with the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary, who were looking after the lepers at Twomey.
She admitted that she had no prior knowledge of leprosy then and she was terrified of the conditions of the leprosy patients there but that was a fear she managed to overcome after working with them for so long.
Following the eradication of leprosy because of advances in modern medicine, Luisa started her work with the Leprosy Trust Board.
And now, 31 years later, she is still working hard, ensuring the welfare of people living with leprosy and their children are taken care of.
Speaking at the occasion, Luisa said she was overwhelmed when she brought in the cake that was to mark her long journey.
"As I was bringing in the cake, I was so emotional because it brought back many memories for me. These numbers signify a lot for me because I started off here as a young girl, then I got married and now I am a widow," she shared.
"I would also like to thank all the people whom I have worked with throughout the years, looking after the leprosy patients and to the patients themselves who have also touched my life in many ways," Luisa said.
Up until last week, Luisa was constantly travelling the country helping her patients build their lives by setting up welfare programs.
Even if it meant riding on horseback and crossing rivers and streams just to get to her patients.
Much of this included travelling to patients living in rural and remote areas of the country where she supervises with the help of the Pacific Leprosy Foundation, build homes, start-up businesses and income generating activities apart from paying for her patients' children's school fees.
Luisa has to travel to all 35 registered leprosy patients around Fiji.
"It takes your heart to do this work, especially doing social work where you have come to learn about people and also learn to love them. That is something that allows me to continue," Luisa said.
Ms Gittoes said the occasion was also special because the P. J. Twomey Hospital was named after the Pacific Leprosy Foundation founder Patrick Twomey, and that Tamavua was the beginning of their work after Makogai Island.
Makogai Island was the sanatorium in which people living with leprosy from all over the Pacific were housed in.
But for Luisa, the work continues straight after the morning tea, meeting up with some of the children of patients of whom the Foundation sponsors their education.