There is life after stroke

VITILA Vuniwaqa graces a cheerful personality despite the challenge she faces on a daily basis.

Having suffered a stroke in 2010 and losing her job as a flight attendant, the 42-year-old now has a thriving organic farming business in Sabeto, Nadi.

After 16 years of travelling around the world, the Lovu, Gau, native firmly believes her challenge is a blessing.

“I initially wanted to become a pilot but flying school was expensive so I became a flight attendant instead,” she said.

“It’s amazing you know, that I have been to so many places but when I get back home there is a sense of relief that comes over me, telling me this is where I’m supposed to be,” Ms Vuniwaqa said.

On a typical day off on February, 2010, Ms Vuniwaqa met up with a few of her friends over a cup of tea when she collapsed and suffered a stroke. She was 36.

For close to two years after that, most of her time was spent in hospitals, rehab clinics and at home where she persevered with exercising herself back to good health.

“The stroke changed my whole life.

“I have a lot of good memories of my life back then but I’m grateful each day that I am where I am now.”

It was in 2013 that she conjured up the idea of starting a business that paved the way to what is now Vee’s Organic Farm.

“The original plan was to make a business with selling the seedling of eggplant, however, on May 27, 2013, my aunt Lite and I were experimenting with all kinds of ways to cook all the eggplant spilling out of our home garden, when we stumbled on a unique recipe for jam which we thought would be good to share with our friends.

“We were inspired by the interest and decided to make a business of it.”

Two years after that Ms Vuniwaqa found herself looking for land having sold her car to be able to finance the 30-year-lease she gained.

“I searched for almost six months from Lautoka to Sigatoka before I was informed by a friend that a 12-acre piece of land was available at Sabeto.

“I stood at the corner as you enter the farm and thanked God. I knew this was it.”

With the help of her cousin, Ms Vuniwaqa grows eggplants, tomatoes, and pawpaw. She plants sandalwood on a portion of her land and has a beehive from which she extracts honey on a regular basis.

“It’s good money. I earned a lot in July when I sold cassava. I also sell jam and honey on a regular basis, there’s a regular inflow of money.”

It hasn’t always been all about work for Ms Vuniwaqa. Like a lot of other young women she also had dreams of one day getting married and having children. She decided against the idea, though, after the death of her boyfriend in 1999.

“Elwyn Smith was a pilot. We had been dating for six years before he died in a surfing accident. I was also a surfer and was there when it happened and it was so very painful. He was the one I had made plans with and after what happened, I decided I didn’t want to get into another relationship and was content with everything I had.”

In getting through the hardest hurdles life has thrown her way, Ms Vuniwaqa said she would always be grateful that she continued to live and hoped to inspire people.

“I have had to draw on my innermost strength to face up to my predicament. From self-doubt , hopelessness and questioning why me, I knew God had saved the best till last.

“I just had to find it.”

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