For the good of others

Holy Cross Parish mechanic Suliano Dravu. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

IT is not about the money.

That is what Taveuni mechanic Suliano Dravu believes in.

He has not given up hope despite earning very little in the past 20 years.

“Working is not about earning a lot of money. It is about doing something you are passionate about and being satisfied with what you earn.”

As Wairiki Parish’s mechanic he gets a small fraction of what his peers in the private sector get.

But through sacrifice and commitment, his meagre wages have supported his family for two decades.

“I work for the church and it is about sacrificing time and energy for the good of others and whatever little I earn I give thanks for the opportunity given to me.”

The 63-year-old from Buca Village, Natewa in Cakaudrove, left school as a primary school student of Kama District School in Buca Bay.

With no dreams of pursuing his education and career, the responsibility of supporting his retired parents fell squarely on him. Life was not easy and finding a job without any qualification felt impossible.

He decided to do a few courses at Tutu Training Centre on Taveuni, or Tutu as it is commonly known.

Tutu was established by the Society of Mary on Taveuni in 1969 tracing its origins to a Sydney monastery that ran a Marist Brothers training course for Pacific Islanders and which was transferred from Sydney to Taveuni.

The Society of Mary in the Province of Oceania owned 480 hectares of freehold estate at Tutu on the Garden Island. Over the years, Tutu has been flexible and, to some degree, experimental in its approach to rural training.

This has enabled the Centre to develop more effective programs to prepare for rural self-employment.

The courses on offer today have evolved significantly from the original courses.

They include young farmers, married couples, young single women, parents and village courses.

The Tutu “experiment” has been highly successful in equipping young people to be successful farmers on their own land and has shown that rural youth can earn good livelihoods from farming of their own land Suliano is one hardworking and proud product of Tutu.

He entered the institution in 1976 as a 21-year-old hoping to find his way in the world and left in 1987. He stayed in the village for a while before being scouted to work as a novice mechanic at a coffee estate in Naiyalayala, Taveuni.

“I worked at the coffee estate for four years until an opportunity came up to work for the Catholic church mission at Wairiki. I grabbed the opportunity even though I knew it would not pay well.

“I have stayed with the church for 20 years. I see that vehicles used by priests for church work are serviced and kept in good condition. This includes one Ford and one Mitsubishi vehicle, a tractor and some other tools such as chainsaws and brush-cutters.” Suliano said his first wages was $2 a week, which he got in the form of a cigarette allowance.

“That speaks volumes of the struggle I went through. Now my four children have all grown up and my last one is with the Fiji National University. The hard work I put in has paid off. “I thank the church for employing all these years. If I was working for government I would have been sent on retirement. I also thank the priests I worked under and the church for giving me a piece of land to plant dalo and yaqona in order to supplement my wages.” Suliano plans to retire at the end of this year and move to his village where he hopes to build a house and spend his retirement with his family and relatives.

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