PLUCKED from obscurity and thrust into the limelight, a humble 17-year-old student hopes the trappings of his public heroism will help fulfil a childhood dream.
Waisea Volavola, the young Nadi man honoured last week with a presidential award for saving two children from certain death, says his wish is for an offer to play rugby in New Zealand to eventuate.
His mother Kesaia Qautoka believes the response to her son's selfless act of heroism was all part of "God's greater plan".
"From an ordinary village boy, he was taken to Government House where he met the President, Ratu Epeli Nalatikau. Through the publicity, he was at the Shangri-La Fijian Resort, as the chief guest in their Christmas tree-lighting ceremony," Ms Qautoka said.
"This is a big deal to us. We feel that doors are opening and Waisea is being rewarded for being such a good kid. He is a well-mannered and religious, a boy I am proud to call my son."
The Form Five student of Swami Vivekananda College, originally from Vagadra in Nadroga, was selected to play rugby in New Zealand by scouts based in Nadi.
"We were still discussing finances because the offer meant we had to raise $6000. It was something that was dear to our hearts because we really thought this would be an opportunity to change our family's fortunes but at the same time we knew that being farmers, we would not be able to raise this amount," Ms Qautoka explained.
Shangri La's Fijian Resort manager Michael Monks said Mr Volavola had risked his life and his act of heroism deserved recognition. Following the introduction, guests lined up to congratulate the young man and his family.
Mr Volavola said he was overwhelmed by the attention his life-saving deed had attracted.
"I am not used to this, I have no experience in public speaking and public appearances but I accepted the invitation because I know it is important. It will bring attention to the issue of structural fires and loss of lives so I am more than glad to help create this awareness on the danger of fire.
"It will also serve to remind parents to be mindful and responsible for the safety of their children at all times, that they should never be left unattended," Mr Volavola said.
The unassuming hero saved two children, aged two and three, from their burning home at Korovuto, Nadi, on September 15. A third child, a one-year-old did not survive the fire.
The children's mother had locked them inside the house and gone to visit neighbours when tragedy struck.