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The moment of a lifetime

Margaret Wise
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

FOR more than two years, a 17-year-old girl openly longed for her birth mother's love.

Her persistence prompted her paternal grandparents to arrange a trip to Fiji from Brisbane, Australia, in January where the search for relatives in Suva began.

Reggae Helen Ekwona eventually reconnected with her maternal relatives after separation as an infant — but she also had to confront a harsh truth.

Her mother, Camari Tabua, died six years ago in a tragic drowning incident.

At a dinner last weekend, Helen described the reconnection with her mother's family as wholesome and fulfilling.

"I always wanted to meet and know my mum and the family," she said.

"When I saw my friends in school with their mothers I felt like I was missing something."

Kalolaini Baravilala, who met her niece for the first time last Sunday, said it was an emotional moment.

"Helen was crying when she relayed all these stories to us," Ms Baravilala said.

"It was touching and made us miss her mum. It's a sad thing that her mum is not around.

"As a family, we all tried our best to get in touch with Helen but were unsuccessful because we never knew where they went to — Nauru or Brisbane.

"I remember a few Fijians who worked in Nauru would tell us that Helen was in Nauru but had moved to Brisbane.

"Camari later got married and lived in Lami with two daughters. Wherever she went, she took Helen's photos with her. After she died, we took some of her belongings from her husband's house, including Helen's photos."

She said her family did not persist with the search for the young family member because they knew she was well taken of.

"Personally I was confident that Helen would come back one day and I never worried about her wellbeing. I knew the family could afford everything for her. Her grandfather is a lawyer and former minister of the Nauru government.," Ms Kalolaini shared.

"According to the grandparents they were happy that she wanted to meet her mother's family.

"The grandmum and Helen arrived on the first week of January and stayed in a Suva hotel while they were looking for us. They went to the police stations and elsewhere, thinking people would know our family but it was all unsuccessful.

"They almost gave up to go back to Brisbane and come back later in the year. Then the grandfather arrived two week ago and thought of contacting a Fijian man named Pate Turaga who works in one of his properties in Nauru.

"It happened that Pate knew our family."

Helen has decided to get to know her maternal family better. She has been enrolled at a Nadi school and will live with her aunt.

"If all goes well then she might complete her secondary and tertiary studies.

"She is great and a special gift for me and my family. She is my daughter and I would love to be with her at all times," said Ms Baravilala.

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