This week we said goodbye to Ratu Epeneni Korotakaturaga. He came from Fiji and completed his undergraduate degree in Design with honours at the Queensland University of Technology. We all felt very proud of his achievements. For all students coming from overseas – there are many hurdles and challenges when they come into a country is which truly foreign to them. It is very different to what they are generally accustomed to in their home countries. For Epeneri, he not only overcame these challenges and barriers – he set some very high standards that others can aspire to.
Through the SEE Project, we get to know students. I did not get the opportunity to teach Epeneri but I would certainly place him in the category of students who go beyond just achieving a degree and willingly step outside their comfort zones to tackle new challenges that have a potential to make a difference in the world. Two years ago Epeneri joined us on the outreach project to Sabeto. He was very impressed to see the impact that the team were having on the school children in two Sabeto schools. They were creating new opportunities and sharing new ways of learning. It was during this trip that he indicated that it would be nice if we do an outreach project at Somosomo District School on the island of Taveuni (Fiji). His dad’s side of the family has strong connections with the village and the school. On a hill behind the village is the home of the late Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau – Epeneri’s grandad.
Through the support of the Australian Government’s Short Term Mobility Grant a trip to Somosomo Primary School became a reality in 2014. This where Epeneri’s leadership and his commitment to his community shone through. An outreach project to Fiji (or anywhere in the world) requires months of negotiation and planning. Epeneri’s role was significant at all stages of the project. He not only gave up his time but he also used his own financial resources to travel to Somosomo (long before the team arrived) to seek permission from the community leaders and work through the logistics of the exercise. I never asked him how much the many phone calls cost him.
Epeneri has also been a true ambassador for his country. He was like a big brother to all students who have travelled to Fiji to participate in the activities of the SEE Project. In our pre-trip induction activities – he always led the proceedings to inform his Australian contemporaries about his rich culture. When in Fiji – he was always proud to share the knowledge of his culture and his country.
It is fitting to revisit the trip to Somosomo. It was a great success – and his contribution was highly significant in the whole mission. This video highlights the trip from Brisbane to Taveuni.
This video shows what the team did at the school.
This video highlights the impact of the team’s initiative. This video was shot six months after the team left. The students of the school are sharing their thoughts on how the resources – library books and computers are helping them. They are also sharing how some of the ideas that the team introduced (e.g. creating ebooks) is benefitting them. Needless to say that without Epeneri’s interest and commitment – this project would have never eventuated and the children (in the video) would not have had the opportunity to share their experiences.
This report from Master Mosese Tuimatai – one of the former teachers of Somsomo District School outlines how the resources are used. SDS learning Report
I interviewed Epeneri on the eve of his departure. In this video, he shares his thoughts about the SEE Project and how he intends to remain engaged in order to make a difference for the younger generation back in Fiji.
I think if there were more young (& old) people like Epeneri who believed in making a difference in the world and actually did something about it….the world will change for the better.
From the SEE Team – Vinaka vakalevu Epeneri. All the best as you open a new chapter in your life.