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Carving for a better life

Sikeli Qounadovu
Thursday, September 14, 2017

IN the Christian parable of "The Prodigal Son" as highlighted in Luke 15: 11-32 of the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ shared how the younger son of a wealthy man took his inheritance to enjoy the world.

After everything had been spent lavishly and the son was left with nothing and nobody, he landed at the doldrums.

It was here he decided that he must return to his father, where he will be well fed and well looked after.

His father accepted him back and held a huge celebration.

The parable is about self-reflection and finding life's purpose in the worse circumstances.

It teaches us that we are allowed to go through trials and tribulations as a means of making people stronger and more determined with more meaning.

Such was the life of Tomasi Salaiwai who had to go through the worst in life before realising his true potential.

It was within the four walls of confinement at the Natabua Corrections Facility in 1989 when he finally came to his senses, and realised his purpose.

"A relative visited me and told me I did not belong there.

"It was his words of advice that made me realise that I had wasted a lot of time on useless things and making poor choices," said the 47-year-old.

When he got out, he was more determined to fend for himself and make use of his potential.

From that day onwards, he has never looked back. His determination and hard work has seen him raise his young family and send his four children to school.

He managed to do this through a traditional gift which was passed down by his forefathers.

It is a gift that he once did not appreciate and accept. Little did he know, it was a gift he was going to fall back on.

Originally from Ogea in Lau, Mr Salaiwai was raised in Namuka. He comes from a family of traditional woodcarvers.

"Back in the village everyone was a woodcarver. My father, his brothers, their father; they were all very skilful woodcarvers.

"When I was young, I did not like woodcarving because it was a dirty job.

"Every time the men in the village would be carving something, I would run away most of the time to the sea to fish," he said.

In his early teens, he travelled to Suva for a better life but was caught up with peer pressure and alcoholism, the latter was the reason of his incarceration.

"People ask me why I carve so good and I tell them I don't know and that all I know is this is a God-given talent," he said.

His first handiwork was a cannibal's fork, which took him three days to carve.

"In my first week, I netted about $60 income and today I am earning much more than that," added Mr Salaiwai.

For the past 14 years, Mr Salaiwai has been selling his handicraft products at The Naviti Resort.

What he once considered a dirty job is now putting food on the table and meeting his family's basic needs.

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