Will to survive

Leba Maria at the Suva Municipal Market. Picture: JOHN KAMEA

LEBA Maria was still in primary school when she lost both her parents.

With no one to support her, she dropped out of Class 8, while many of her classmates at Drekeniwai District School continued their education.

“At that age and with no one to advise and support me, I had absolutely no dreams,” Leba said.

“All I knew was to leave school and help the family survive and this wasn’t easy because there were 14 of us.”

What helped the siblings survive was the love and care they had for each other, values that their parents instilled in them.

“Each one of us had something to do and each was expected to do it to the best of his or her ability,” she said.

“I had seven sisters so we decided to try out yaqona planting. Money from that helped us survive on a day to day basis for many years. It was kind of fun because we did it together as a group of sisters.”

In 1982, Leba travelled to Viti Levu to visit a relative who lived in Namara, Tailevu and never went back to Cakaudrove.

She met her husband who gave her the love and care she missed from her parents.

They got married and now have two teenage daughters.

“Raising a family without a full time job was a challenge. Luckily, we lived in the village, had land to plant on and didn’t have to pay rent like people do in towns and cities.”

“When my daughters started secondary school, I decided to sell seafood at the market to help my husband and supplement the family’s income. I’ve been doing this for eight years now,” she said.

Leba believes children should take care of their parents when they finish their tertiary education and find secured jobs.

“One of my daughters wants to be a nurse so I am doing everything I can to make her realise her ambition. I want them to be successful and find well paid jobs. I don’t want them to struggle.”

“I also sacrifice for education because I know one day I will grow old and retire from active work. I would want my children to look after me and not end up in an old people’s home.”

Leba buys seafood from women of Waiqanake in Rewa and sometimes the ladies of Namuaimada in Rakiraki.

She sells her produce at the Suva Municipal Market.

“I have two priorities. Number one is church and two is my children’s education. With whatever I get from selling seafood, I am able to take care of my family and pay for church and educational expenses.”

“My husband farms and sometimes I also sell root crops and fruits. I believe in what the Bible says about working hard and that is to do my absolute best with whatsoever I get my hands on. I may be just a small time seafood vendor but I’m doing extraordinary things with whatever little I have. That in itself is a blessing.”

Leba sells at the Suva market five days a week, from Wednesdays to Saturdays.

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