Bridging the gap

Vinaka Fiji marine conservation officer Gabriel Waqaiquma. Picture: SITERI SAUVAKACOLO

GABRIEL Waqaiquma was a step away from achieving his childhood dream of becoming a medical doctor when he opted for a different career path.

He left his village of Tunuloa, Cakaudrove to pursue his secondary school studies in Suva with his parents’ hopes that he would complete his education and establish a life-career to financially assist them in the village.

Being an island boy, the ocean was always his favourite hangout so he decided to enrol in the Fiji National University’s marine studies program.

“When my name was published in the newspaper that I was accepted into the Fiji School of Medicine, I had to think twice and decided to do a course that would just take me a few years to complete,” Mr Waqaiquma said.

“I had thought of my parents back in the village who are relying on me so I took up marine studies and finished my course in three years before I moved down west and started working for a few companies.”

The Vanua Levu native is a marine conservation officer with Vinaka Fiji, the charity arm of South Sea Cruises, which aims to improve the provision of basic needs and amenities, often taken for granted in modern society mostly in Yasawa.

His work includes travelling to villages on Yasawa and Malolo to implement projects that will help conserve their marine environment.

Meeting challenges are part of a marine conservation officer’s daily life, however, perseverance and dedication has helped him achieve a lot these past four years.

His work revolves around coral planting programs and other marine conservation programs that are always taken to villagers so they are able to understand the importance of conserving their marine environment.

“Vinaka Fiji bridges the gap and our volunteers work closely with communities and assist the community in awareness and the importance of conserving their environment.

“I usually take myself down to their level to help me achieve my mission. Whether it’s a grog session or a mat weaving session, I always believe this is the right time to go to them and convince them on the importance of working together.

“It is quite hard to work with rural villagers at times and convince them to understand what we do and it takes time for them to understand the important message of conservation for the sake of their future generation.”

Mr Waqaiquma said this work had taught him a lot of life-lessons especially patience, respect and humility.

He usually takes his break twice a year and this is the only time he looks forward to travel home to Vanua Levu and spend time with his parents.

More Stories