A beautiful journey

Sarojani Michael, second from right, with her family. Picture: SUPPLIED

The altruistic nature of Sarojani Michael knows no bounds.

Her affiliation with the poor, downtrodden and underprivileged started from an early age. Nearly half a century later, she is still displaying the same zest.

Mrs Michael is The JP Bayly Trust’s manager – West and she proudly proclaimed that the iconic non-governmental organisation (NGO) is a part of her life.

“I dedicate my efforts to protecting basic human rights and eliminating human rights abuses as practically as possible,” she said.

Born and raised in Malaqereqere, Sigatoka, Mrs Michael is the fourth youngest in a big family unit.

“I had 15 other siblings; nine brothers and six sisters. My father was the taxi proprietor of Highway Coral Cabs which was quite famous in rugby country, Nadroga, and my mum was the proud ‘boss’ of the household. She ruled with a firm hand.”

The sugar industry has been a pivotal part in Mrs Michael’s life.

“We had a sugarcane farm and a thriving backyard garden with lots of farm animals.

“During the school holidays, we used to work on our sugarcane farm, planting and cleaning the cane fields, without creating any tantrums.

“More so, being a female I managed to change the mindset of so many males that the sugar plantations were not only for the males. It was fun.”

The Michaels of Malaqereqere never bought oil for their cooking.

“We were using homemade coconut oil. I vividly recall on every second weekends we used to scrape heaps of coconuts so that we could produce coconut oil. We never bought cooking oil from the stores.

“Everything was done at home. The boss was very particular about it! I loved it at Malaqereqere. Even though life was hard, we had so much fun.

“We all had our own duties and discipline is one of the most important components that I learnt from my parents.

“I still practice it to this day because if I had not known the way of life I was brought up with, I would have never been able to truly appreciate my life as it is now.”

Mrs Michael’s matrimonial vows at an early age in life to Waiyavi, Lautoka native Philip Michael was a new chapter in her life.

“I attended Cuvu College, until Year 10. At the tender age of seventeen I got married.

“Moving to the Sugar City from a farm oriented lifestyle was a huge culture shock. It was something new for me and I was completely lost.

“It was very hard for me to adjust at first, however, as time flew so did I!

“Settling in a densely populated area like Waiyavi had its fair share of trials and tribulations, but I survived. I still reside at the same place today with my husband Philip Michael.

“I have three grown up children and three grandchildren.”

Mrs Michael’s affinity with the underprivileged started when she made the swift transition after her marital status transformed.

“Soon after I got married, I started to assist my mother-in-law, who had a kindergarten by the name of St. Anthony’s Kindergarten.

“It was located in the middle of Lautoka City next to the old Mayfair Theatre where Village 4 cinemas is located presently. There were only two kindergartens at that time.

“When my mother-in-law migrated, after a few years, I became the sole charge of the kindergarten. I was ably supported by three other assistant teachers. It was a surreal experience teaching toddlers.

“It made me feel like a kid! I really loved it. I was also very much involved with community work and learnt a lot from the Catholic nuns and the amazing work they accomplished at the than Crippled Children’s Hostel, now known as the Sunshine Special School.

“My duty was to cook on Sundays for the children who were staying at the hostel which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was during these years with my close affiliation to the underprivileged that gave me a sense of appreciation towards life. I grew in confidence and began to be independent.”

When quizzed on the reason she changed her career, Mrs Michael stated that it was by chance.

“I was in the teaching field for 24 years. It just happened that one day, I came across an advertisement in
the newspaper for a position of an Almoner for the JP Bayly Welfare at the Lautoka office. I applied and here I am today.”

Entering her new work place, Mrs Michael unraveled a lovely secret that was intertwined with her family’s life.

“After joining the JP Bayly Welfare, I came to know of the founder, John Percy Bayly OBE, and recalled
that the name sounded very familiar, but I was a bit confused also thinking about how am connected to him.

“Then I had a flashback. When I was young my mum used to tell me that the family land belonged to a Mr
Bayly.

“Of course, during those early teen years, everything went over my head, as it was the first time to hear about Mr Bayly. Now, I really know who Mr JP Bayly was and where I spent all my childhood with my parents on his land.

“I really felt if only my mum was alive, she would have been very proud to see her daughter working for aniconic organisation like the JP Bayly Welfare.

“I miss her so much. It is sad that I have lost the most precious people in my life; my parents and seven siblings,” she stated.

Mrs Michael underwent her first two weeks of on job training in Suva before she shifted to the Lautoka Bayly Welfare office.

She used to reside with her brother who was a police officer.

“Every evening he used to sit and talk with me. He used to tell me how proud he was of me. He used to say to me to not let my heart rule me, but rather my mind. He was my mentor.”

Mrs Michael is blessed to be associated with the JP Bayly Trust.

“The people whom I work with perform their duties wonderfully and I am so proud to be a part of the
team.

“I had to learn a lot of things very quickly like practicing my driving skills, learning basic computer
skills, networking and most importantly, better understanding and empathising with the less fortunate
in society.

“This type of work takes a lot out of one’s mental capacity and it really gets me down when I am unable
to help everyone and when I am the one who has to ask all the hard questions.

“I guess I grew up a lot in these early years with the JP Bayly Welfare. I have made so many friends.

“But in this line of work, as with everything in life, I guess one can only do the best one can and it’s up to
the other person to understand.

“I have achieved all these with the great support of my trustees, the general manager, colleagues,
friends and above all the Almighty Father and my husband. It has been a beautiful journey and it still is.
JP Bayly is a part of my life now.”

JP Bayly Trust is an NGO which provides welfare, educational and medical assistance for the less fortunatein society.

“I work for an organisation that is primarily connected with a humanitarian objective, at the national
level, promoting social welfare and poverty alleviation,”she proudly proclaimed

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