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Disability is no barrier for Mere

Ana Madigibuli
Sunday, March 04, 2018

PARALYMPIC and table tennis player Mere Rodan is changing the way people perceive disabilities in Fiji.

Mrs Rodan believes in tackling challenges head on in life without letting disability barriers rob her of her happiness in achieving her goals in life, especially as a sportswoman who proudly represents her country in international, regional and local sporting events.

Today Rodan's name is well-recognised in the sporting fraternity in Fiji, the Pacific and internationally with a trophy cabinet full of medals and awards to prove it.

Rodan says challenges, such as living with a disability, make life more interesting for her as she had to quickly adjust from someone who could walk to someone confined to a wheelchair.

"For me, life challenges didn't come after I had my disability. It was something that I grew up with in Suva with my father being the sole breadwinner for the family," she said.

"At a young age, I witnessed my father work hard to make ends meet at home with what he planted in his plantation and we survived with what little earnings he made daily from selling his produce.

"Life lessons learned from those hardships pushed my family members to become independent and strong.

"Even though we had a hard life growing up, I learned lessons and was able to analyse the details of what life was about, what people go through, how to get through things and to be content with what you've achieved in life."

She worked in many organisations before her disability — including being an employee of Asia Pacific Management was one of her best experiences.

"I can never forget the experience I had of working at Asia Pacific Management. I was given the freedom to learn new things and I learned a lot from Colin Philip during my time of employment there. You can only get that kind of opportunity when you're honest with your work," she said.

"If I was given a job to do, I don't look or ask about what I would be paid. For me, it was important to do the work and be happy with the opportunity I'm given, even if it meant me cleaning something, I would still be content with that because it's work."

In 2006, Mere's life changed when she was diagnosed with a paralysis called paraplegia. Paraplegia, according to, is sometimes called partial paralysis, a form of paralysis in which function is substantially impeded from the waist down.

"Soon after I had paraplegia, I was at home trying to adjust to my new life and my family was so supportive during this phase of my life even when it was hard to adjust especially in my living environment. Even though it was sudden, I didn't give up because it was a time in my life where I had a strong relationship with the Lord," she said.

"I told myself that this is me now and God doesn't allow things to happen for no reason. During this sudden change, it gave me time to think about the things that I needed to do now with my life especially adjusting to my living environment that wasn't wheelchair accessible at the time.

"My husband cried the first time he ever saw me cleaning our home because I was on the floor and I tried my best to be strong for them because if I ever showed any sign of weakness my family would feel the same. For me, life was filled with a lot of struggles, but if we didn't have these struggles life wouldn't be interesting."

Today, Rodan is one of the highly recognised sportswomen in Fiji who holds executive roles with the Spinal Injury Association in Fiji. She is a mother of six, a grandmother, a para table tennis player who represented Fiji in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil, a 2017 Pacific Mini Games gold medallist and one of two women in Oceania to be ranked in the world's women's Class 5 category.

She was also the only female in Oceania to have met the requirement for pre-qualifications for the 2016 Summer Rio Paralympics — a big accomplishment for someone living with a disability in Fiji.

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