Joe the ranger

AS a young boy, growing up in his village of Yanuya in the district of Malolo, in Nadroga, Joeli Vadada was always reminded by his late parents of the importance of being hospitable and welcoming to everyone in the village and those who visited the island.

While his dad Lepani Vadada, died in 2008 and his mother, Miliana, five years later, Joe as he is commonly known is now living up to the teaching of his parents.

I caught up with the 35-year-old father of three at his village when I accompanied Jone Niukula of the National Trust of Fiji who was on a site visit to Monuriki Island conservation project.

Monuriki Island in the past few years has been frequented by the National Trust and Birdlife Fiji, working on the protection of Fiji’s endemic species more precisely birds and the crested iguana.

The way he greeted the team gave us a sense of ownership and the nervousness for being a first-timer was gone.

“I am used to greeting visitors, because it’s a way of making friends, so when I go to the mainland, I usually meet them and they always invite me.”

Educated at the Namamanuca Primary School, Joe later attended Ratu Navula Secondary School but opted out at Year 11 to stay at home and help his parents.

Surprisingly in 2000 he was one of the local crew that assisted in the movie Cast Away starring Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks was later nominated for best leading actor during the 73rd Grammy Awards.

In addition Joe was also part of the local crew that assisted during the shooting of the American TV series Survivor.

Other than that he has also worked as boatman for the Beachcomber Island Resort and the Tokoriki Island Resort of which the people of Yanuya are traditional owners.

In 2010 he started volunteering for National Trust as its ranger. His duty included the protection of the crested iguana, security and cleaning up of the island.

His hard work had not gone unnoticed, as during this site visit, the National Trust of Fiji confirmed that ranger Joe would be a full time ranger.

“It’s a good feeling to be paid because I can now fully support my family and my children since my two elder daughters are in school.

“For me working alone in this island — I never feel lonely because every day when I go to the island I admire its beauty and I know that I am doing something worthy.”

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