Fijian Youths in the UK
I wont lie. This has got to be the hardest thing I've had to write or introduce to date. I'm usually quite relaxed when i have something to write about. Well not entirely relaxed, but an uncomfortable sort of relaxation where my mind likes to tell me i have things to do but my body likes to lounge around till my procrastination dies, due to the urgency of "last minute". So here goes. This whole week, i kept telling myself, i was going to put this out early. Then all of a sudden im greeting Friday morning and still, NOTHING! Completely blank! What those professional writers like to call "writers block". It was more then just a block for me. It was a BLOCKAGE! No amount of coffee and tea i pumped into my body did anything. Even all my soul searching was needing a search party. Partly because i know the subject of the story very well and mostly because i have lost all touch with my "youth brain" since i pushed out my 3 blessings, so to speak. Thanks to my 20 year old tavale, who became a blessing yesterday morning when she invited me to a little coffee break at the camps Costa, this story is finally coming to you. She told me "Introduce it just like that, that you don't know what to write because you're no longer a youth". Ah! A tavales remarks! Said with love and laced with sarcasm, followed with fits of laughter and a few choice words. Im happy to announce to everyone, that anything below 35 is still considered a youth in this country. I'm safe. I hope you are too.
This story focuses on Keasi Moina Gonewai, a 19 year old who hails from the village of Korotogo in Nadroga. Keasi is currently on her second year, doing a BA (Hons) Airline & Airport Management at the University of West London. I've known Keasi since she was a little girl. I've watched her grow into a strong, successful young woman, always so determined to achieve her goals. She's lived in this country most of her life and while adapting to the way of life here, is still so passionate about her roots and eager to know more about her identity and culture. Many a times she has rolled her eyes at her Mum and I when we begin the dreaded conversation about how being brought up in Fiji is so different from being brought up here, but we'll keep that story for another day. In this story she talks about some of her undertakings. Perhaps the pinnacle of her young achievement is being awarded the gold for the Duke of Edinburgh Expedition at the Buckingham Palace and also representing the Fijian youths at the Strasbourg Youth Convention earlier this year. Read Keasi's story below.
"I started my Duke of Edinburgh journey back in 2014. I was completing my Bronze award with the 2267 Brize Norton Air Cadets. I did my volunteering section at a local rainbows group for 6 months, and my physical & skill sections lasted for 3 months. This is was the first time I had to commit to something for a long period of time alongside my studies. My expedition took place in Bourton-on-the-Water. It consisted of 2 days walking and 1 night of camping. I completed this award and received a badge and certificate. This started my interest in travel and expeditions, challenging myself physically and mentally, and making many memories along the way.
The next expedition I undertook was a 2 week one to the Greek islands with my classmates and teacher, Mr Broadhurst. Before we could even go, we had to fundraise. One of our events was finding sponsorships from family and friends to complete 50 miles on Ridgeway Path. It is an ancient trackway described as Britain’s oldest road. We started at 6AM and finished early the next morning, some of us who had completed our bronze DofE were used to this and we helped our peers. After raising enough money to partake in this expedition to Greece, we booked our group and were very excited. Within these two weeks we helped at a turtle sanctuary whilst camping next to the beach, and spend a whole week kayaking around the islands.
I still wanted to do more adventurous expeditions but had to take a break due to sitting my GCSEs. I did complete a month of NCS in the summer of 2016 where I learnt how to surf, paddled in canoes and participated in rock climbing. Also, by this time I had resigned from the Air Training Corps, and focused on my ALevels, as these grades would determine my future such as, which universities I would be able to attend. However, the Gold Duke of Edinburgh award had been introduced to us year 12’s, and I had decided to put my name down and participate. I don’t know why I decided to do this. After missing out the silver award, I always told myself that Bronze was enough as the expedition was too difficult due to carrying around 55-65L of equipment, clothing and food on our back, and this time it would have to be over 4 days in the northwest of Wales. I’d also have to commit more time to complete this award. Nevertheless, I paid the fee and started to attend fortnightly meetings where we were planning our practice expedition route, refresh of how to be sustainable campers and what kit to bring. Long story short i ended up completely surprising myself and scooping the top award. Receiving my gold medal at Buckingham Palace earlier this year and just having such a great experience.
The latest venture that i undertook was being a Fijian youth representative at the Council of Europe Enter! Youth week held in Strasbourg, France in July. During the week we had vital group discussions to contribute to the draft recommendations that will be taken to the Council of Europe. These include increasing youth engagement through centres and developing member state policies for disadvantaged young people. We had other productive conversations about mental health, bullying, racism and discrimination amongst young ethnic minorities across the world, as well as current and future solutions to combat these issues with the Programme Manager of Youth Development and Commonwealth, Sushil Ram, a fellow Fijian. The bonus was exploring the beautiful area and learning about its history.
From my experiences so far, I have observed certain things about our Fijian community here in the UK, how we operate and how we positively or negatively influence each other. Ive picked up on certain hindrances around the way we communicate things that we could better ourselves in. For me personally, one big obstacle of growing up as a Fijian in the UK was being a minority during primary school, secondary school & sixth form. I focused on fitting in too much that unfortunately I lost the knowledge of speaking in my own language (for me personally). Also not being able to see my close family such as grandparents as often as I would’ve liked, proved to be challenging at times. Also finding the perfect balance between the Fijian and English way of upbringing becomes a sort of issue since there are clashes with how you view things and how your parents view things.
I have also observed that there’s so many opportunities available for us youth, from scholarships, courses, travel , apprenticeships, work experience , however sometimes we aren’t all exposed to these opportunities due to not enough knowledge about it. There’s not a lot of courses such as learning the Fijian traditions , how to make lovo, how to address people from different areas in Fiji etc.
We need to have a platform where we can showcase various Fijians, have information available. More conversations between families should take place in order for us youth to be proud of where we are from and not just about our ranking on the rugby table.😂
We're very lucky to now have platforms such as MAUK, and Fiji Youth UK Instagram & FB pages which is linked to the High Commission. Through these platforms we will be able to reach most of the Fijian youths in the UK. "