Monday, February 11, 2008
Life as a street-kid is never easy especially when one has no other choice but to take on that kind of life.
There are some who live on the streets thinking they will never be able to change the course destiny has mapped out for them.
But change is possible, one who was able to steer away from the downhill route his life was taking is Mesulame Usainaramarama who started living on the streets when he was only 12 years old.
Born in 1975, Mesulame is the second eldest of five children from Totoya Island. He lived in the village with his family and describes the life then as "easy and good".
He said back in the village, they did not have to worry about their next meal because they had an abundance of natural food sources in their village.
Life in the village was a breeze and one of Mesulame’s happiest memories.
He said back then he was always looking forward to the Christmas season.
"I remember life in the village was an easy one. It was good. We didn’t have to worry about food; we just took it from nature."
Then destiny dealt the family a cruel hand and they were forced to relocate to Suva because Mesu’s younger sister was diagnosed with a heart problem that could not be treated on the island. "I attended Navesi Primary School up until Class Six when I came to Suva. I was 12 years old," Mesu remembered.
"We moved to Suva and stayed with a relative in Delainavesi, Lami. My sister’s heart problems were really worrisome and my father had to look for odd jobs just to support us in Suva.
"He found a job but it didn’t pay well. There wasn’t enough money to pay for school fees because we had to use it on my sister."
Financial constraints, forced Mesu to drop-out of school and the young was lad was told to look for a job to help the family.
Even though he was too young to work, Mesu eventually found odd jobs that didn’t pay well. Being the youngest in his work place, Mesu was constantly the target of workplace abuse like being growled and yelled at.
He said his dream was to continue his education but money was always a problem because every cent was used to try and help his sister recover.
His sister eventually passed away.
"I felt sorry for my parents. They were always at the hospital with my little sister. I had no choice but to live on the streets," he said.
"There weren’t many kids on the streets then and those that were there were much older than me.
"Some spent one month in jail or in the village and then returned to street life.
"I used to do really bad things like steal clothes at night time but I never got caught. I was trying to survive and I really had no choice.
"In the day time, I would go with other street kids and take food from shops. I slept under the bridge at Walu Bay.
"I built a little shelter out of cartons and I used to stock up my food supplies. At that time, I didn’t know what was right and what was wrong. I just knew that I had to survive and I had to eat.
"I had no money or anything like that. One thing I dislike doing is asking people for money. I don’t like to go around with my hand out and asking for money.
"Sometimes, when I did get money, I would take it to my mother at the hospital and she would throw it back at me.
"She told me she didn’t want the money I gave because she knew it wasn’t mine and I didn’t earn it."
He said he lived on the streets for almost 23 years from 1987 to 2000. In 2000, the Qarase-led Government came up with an initiative to take street kids away from the life they were living.
Mesu said the Government wanted to change their lives and the Ministry of Youth and Sports instigated a "positive mental attitude".
He said there were more than 150 street kids, both girls and boys involved in the initiative program held for six weeks at Nasau Youth Training Centre.
After taking part in the program, Mesu said most of the kids reverted to their old lives and there really was no effect.
"I was the only one who changed. I went to the Ministry and asked them to help me continue my studies. I wanted to go to the Fiji Institute of Technology but they told me I couldn’t because I only reached up to Class Six. I cried. I told them I wanted to change my life and help others like me. "So, I was then told to get a handbook from FIT and when I did I started praying. I knew that whatever page I turned to, I would take the course or program.
"I flipped open the book and it was Trade Certificate in Graphic Designs.
"From 2000 to 2004 I was given the chance to change my life. I worked hard and in 2004 I graduated with my Trade Certificate in Graphic Designs.
"In June 2004, I helped Andrew Hughes and the Ministry of Tourism to educate and street kids new skills in screen printing.
"I was one of those who taught them how to screen print and layout design.
"I wanted to help them get out of the street life and learn skills they could use to find employment.
"I knew how hard street life was and I’ve done a lot of bad things I am not proud of but I had no choice.
"I just came back from spending two years on Laucala Island in Taveuni and I was shocked to see so many young street kids.
"I just want to help out again like I did in 2004. If I can do that, I can make a difference in someone else’s life," said Mr Usainaramarama who believes his parents were never the reason he took on the street life.