Rakai never gives up

Epeli Rakai on his way to work. Picture: SIKELI QOUNADOVU

WHEN The Fiji Times contacted Epeli Rakai for an interview, via a telephone call he responded “bula vinaka Sir, yes Sir, I am ready to tell you my story Sir.”

It was his tone and how he addressed himself that depicts the life of a very humble and well mannered young man.

As he entered The Fiji Times office with a him a big smile and he looked so happy, carrying himself gracefully wearing his Marist shirt, long dress pants and safety boots.

But behind the smiles and graceful gesture, is the story of a young man, alongside his two other younger siblings who were single handedly raised by his mother, when his father passed away 15 years ago.

He was still seven’s years old back then and growing up in his village in Suvavou, they have had their fair share of struggles.

While they will always forever be grateful for their many relatives that help them out, life has not been fair for the 23-year-old.

“When Dad passed away it was a very trying time, mom worked as a cashier and she raised all three of us by herself. Sometimes we would just have tea for dinner and if there were many bills to pay, me and my younger brother and younger sister we would walk from Suvavou to Suva Primary School in Samabula and then walk back,” he said with a stuttering voice.

“I remember when I was attending Marist Brothers High School, I would walk from home to school, train in the afternoon because I was playing rugby and walk back home. Sometimes there are those driving by stop to pick me and for that I am forever grateful,” he added.

There were times when he had to go to sleep crying, asking God why his family had to go through this, but as he puts it, they may not have everything but they have family.

“Together me and my younger siblings agreed that we will work very hard so that we can look after my mom. She only reached Year 10, and we have succeeded in our first phase and that is all of have graduated from high school. My younger sister is working while my younger brother is at the Fiji National University.

After leaving Marist Brothers High School, Rakai’s hard work was rewarded when he was offered a Toppers Scholarship by the Fiji government.

He wanted to pursue a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), but was advised that his marks had fell short and he needed to consider another field of study.

“So I tried out a degree in Medical Lab Science, after completing my first year I did not want to look back and loved the field so I decided to continue and after four years I graduated last December. I remember one time I wanted to give up, so I called mom and she encourage me. If there is one thing she taught me and my siblings that is to never let the situation we are going through get the best of us, and this has been my motivation.

“My friend in Medical School also encourage me, he said we are going to graduate and we are going to make it and when we finally did it, when we had our gown on, we hugged each other and just cried because we set out a plan and against all odds we made it.”

However, it was not a bed of roses for him after graduating, he couldn’t find employment as he had to first complete his internship, and that can only be possible if there is a vacancy.

“I am the eldest in the family and I have to help my mom, so I went to RB Patel Supermarket where I was offered employment to work in the Butcher and sometimes also helped packing. I was paid $20 a day, and that helped pay the bills and put food on the table. People laugh at me seeing a graduate working like this. People do not know I am doing this for my family.”

“I was at RB one time when Mr Manulevu saw me and he asked me and I explained my situation and he helped me out to secure a much better job and I am getting more. We are made to be strong and in everything we do, do not give up. I did not I have a lot, but I have God and His greatest gift is my family” said Rakai who now works as a security guard for the Australian High Commission.

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