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My home is yours

Sikeli Qounadovu
Monday, March 12, 2018

HE was the first person our team got to know when arriving on Koro Island three days after Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston hit the country on February 20, 2016.

On a third trip last month, the team from this newspaper made sure to visit Tevita Vunileba, more commonly called Tamai Vunileba.

It's his personal goal to be the first host to every person that is a visitor to the island. He proudly says he has hosted people from all walks of life — from government officials, to church ministers on Koro Island and everybody in between, he has hosted them all.

"My father was one of the first group of drivers on this island and he always shared with us, our home is to be open at all the times. We will accommodate anyone who comes to the island.

'This is how I was raised.

"For me it's always a pleasure to see visitors come to our island. I am always extremely excited when government and non-government organisation officials come to the island and I will always want to be the first to present my sevusevu to them and to host them.

"I always loved to travel with them around the island, because they have been chosen by God to come and help us, and I always feel it is my duty to support them and be with them whenever they are on the island," said Mr Vunileba.

From a family of nine siblings, Tamai Vunileba was educated at the then Nakodu Fijian School from 1972 to 1976. He then moved on to the then Koro Junior Secondary School and moved to Suva to attend Nasinu Secondary School which was under the leadership of principal Ratu Manasa Seniloli.

Tamai Vunileba then furthered his education at Ratu Kadavulevu School.

"I was still at RKS when I was called to join the then Post and Telecommunications to work as a linesman.

"I worked for a while for P&T (Post and Telecommunications which later became two separate entities; Post Fiji and Telecommunications Fiji Ltd or TFL), but my heart always wanted me to return to the village."

He returned to the village at the age of 19 and was selected in the Koro rugby side for the island zone, then made the cut in the Lomaitivi provincial side.

With maternal links to Lodoni, Sawakasa in Tailevu, Tamai Vunileba was married in March of 1990.

"Over the years I know I made the right decision by giving up that job, I know it was the right decision to leave my job at P&T and return to the village. I know I have done my part in trying to uplift the standard of living in the village.

"All my children are now working in Suva, I am now a lay preacher for the Methodist Church, so if you are ever thinking of coming to Koro island and you have no place to stay, you let me know, you can come and stay at home.

"I am currently 54 years old and have one more year left before I retire," he said with a laugh.

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