AS an 18-year-old Uate Tamanikaiyaroi's friends always thought he was antisocial and one even accused him of wanting to be a "high shot". That's because he would not join in their parties, enjoy the latest music or to have fun in general.
He started off fine just like any other teenager but when he hit 18, instead of having the world on his feet, Uate decided to carry the whole world on his shoulders.
"I believe it was after June 2nd, 2007 when I realised life is a giftâ€¦ My mother passed away on June 2nd, 2007 and my life went on a downward spiral.
To me she was my everything, my pillar of strength and comfort. After her passing I couldn't concentrate on anything at all.
"My family realised this and made a decision that I needed time to think about my own life and future. So I took a year and a half off school and just stayed at home. This gave me an opportunity of self-healing and self-growth," Uate said.
Recharged from his self-imposed exile from the world, Uate took up psychology classes at the University of the South Pacific and not only did this help him personally, it moulded him into the young man he is today.
"I started to believe in myself and joined the Psychology Student Association which really opened my perception on youth and community development."
Sadly, tragedy struck again just as Uate was healing from the wounds of his young life-his father died in 2009, two years after his mother passed away.
"I wasn't by his side. This is something that I will have to live with for the rest of my life, but it is also something that made me stronger because he always told me to stand for what I believe in and to always work hard to achieve all that you want to achieve," Uate said.
Instead of cowering from this, Uate quietly but bravely took on the world and in his own way involved himself in youth and community work.
"It was a process that included me having to take an inner journey, to find the answers of the meaning of life, to be self aware of who I am and what I wanted to become.
"With that transitional period I started doing random acts of kindness, every time I would catch a bus or taxi, I would leave a note on the seat with words such as love, courage, hope etc. For me it was my way of encouraging the next person who would catch the same bus or the taxi I was on and it was also of my own way of coping with the loss of my parents," Uate said.
Uate first started work with the University of the South Pacific Peer Support Network and the USP Psychology Student Association to advocate for sexual reproductive health and promote mental health awareness.
His passion for mental health saw him work with the Youth Champs for Mental Health, the St Giles Psychiatric Hospital as well as travelling to villages to promote safe sex and suicide prevention.
He is also an avid environmental advocate and now is working closely with the United Nations Development Program Pacific Centre's Conflict Prevention and Recovery Unit.
"I have co-foundered with program specialist Janet Murdock, who is my peace-building mentor and she is our Voices in Transition's mother of a different colour.
"A peace-building youth group called Voices in Transition which looks at building peace through expressive arts like music, songs and dance and is made up of Fiji's very own vocalists, musicians, and dancers. The aim of the group is to conduct peace-building awareness throughout Fiji," Uate said.
When asked why he give up his social life for these kinds of work even though he is still a young man, Uate said his perception and reality changed when both his parents passed away. He was placed in a situation where he had to grow up quickly and where he had to forsake growing up like any normal teenager.
"It was a realisation that life is short and could be taken away from you at any time, I decided to live my life to set an example for people around me to make a positive change so when it is my time for eternal life, I would be ok knowing that I at least tried to help others around me," he said.
"Also it gave me the realisation that I wanted to help people who have gone through what I went through. It was a period of depression and loneliness, but what got me out, was channelling all of my emotions and thoughts into poems, songs, art, dance. I later joined Youth Champs for Mental Health to advocate for mental health, and one thing I realised was the importance of self care," Uate added.
His personal philosophy is, " Life is simply too short, treasure every experience of it and live each day like it is your last".
And Uate's motto is peace, love and energy.