"When I saw him [Avikash Reubens], I asked him how much do you have and he said he only had $60 left. Then I asked him, 'can you take life at boarding school?' and he said, 'yes'. Then I asked him what he wants to become in life and he said he wanted to be an accountant, run his own company and return to look after his mother. So I said to myself, 'here is potential, here is a kid who has big dreams and he deserves our help'. So I asked the principal to grant him a space in the boarding facility...I don't doubt him. I know he will achieve his goal because I see his determination and even at home he has been a blessing in disguise to my five sons as he is helping them with their education and teaching them" Jone Tuiono
"Mr Tuiono is like my father. He is my guardian and he is my angel"
The Fiji Times
Monday, June 12, 2017
CHALLENGES, trials and tribulations can either make or break us. For it is in these times of struggles and pain, that great men and women are born.
The late American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr, once said "human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals".
When Avikash Reuben left his home in Field 4 Lautoka in January 2016, he had only $80 in his pocket.
It was his savings coupled with assistance from his friends.
He was only 18 years old then, and this trip away from home was the trip of a lifetime. He was searching for a better life for him and his family.
His father, who was the sole breadwinner in the family, passed away a year earlier and it was a really tough time for the family. His mother did not work and was left to fend for her three children.
"When I was in Year 12, it was a really hard time because we were facing financial problems," said the 19-year-old.
Seeing their struggle as his mother tried to satisfy their daily needs, Avikash sought employment at a canteen while attending Natabua High School.
But he did not want to be working in a canteen all his life. He had a dream job and that was to be an accountant and run his own firm.
After successfully completing his Year 12 examination, he wanted to enter boarding school because through this, he said, there would be enough food for his mother, brother and sister.
Attending boarding school meant his mother would be able to save enough money to meet their family needs.
So he started looking for a boarding school and found Nasinu Secondary School.
His mother was informed of his decision so in an emotional farewell he left his home for the first time in his life with only $80 in his pocket — $20 was for his fare to Suva and $60 was for his boarding fee.
"I believe in him and I have a lot of faith in him. I knew it was not a mistake to let him go because I know he is a very determined boy," was all his mother Jyotika Naidu could say.
Jone Tuiono, who was the Nasinu Secondary School's Parents, Teachers and Friends Association president, stepped into the picture to lend a helping hand.
"When I saw him, I asked him how much do you have and he said he only had $60 left. Then I asked him, 'can you take life at boarding school?' and he said, 'yes'.
"Then I asked him what he wants to become in life and he said he wanted to be an accountant, run his own company and return to look after his mother.
"So I said to myself, 'here is potential, here is a kid who has big dreams and he deserves our help'.
"So I asked the principal to grant him a space in the boarding facility."
Mr Tuiono, who is also a board member for the Foundation for the Education of Needy Children in Fiji (FENC Fiji), saw that the determined teenager had travelled to Suva with a bag of clothes and no education materials.
"So through FENC Fiji, we bought and supplied his uniform, sandals, books and everything to meet his education needs," Mr Tuiono said.
Entering a new environment all together, and being the lone Fijian of Indian descent in the hostel was always going to be a challenge.
But soon, days turned to weeks, months and before he knew it, he had gotten through one term.
Before long, a whole education year was done and dusted.
"People thought I would run away, that I won't be able to eat the food and do the work like weeding but I stayed in the hostel and quickly made friends with the students. I stayed there until the end of the year," he said.
Through the support of the Nasinu Secondary School's fraternity, FENC Fiji and sheer hard work and determination, Avikash passed with flying colours topping the school's Year 13 external examinations.
During the Christmas holiday last year, Avikash worked as an office boy for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before giving up the job to pursue his studies at the University of the South Pacific.
Today, Avikash is one of 630 recipients of Government's National Toppers Scholarship program.
He is studying for a bachelors degree double major in accounting and financial management, with the dream of opening up a firm for himself.
"I don't doubt him. I know he will achieve his goal because I see his determination and even at home he has been a blessing in disguise to my five sons as he is helping them with their education and teaching them," said Mr Tuiono, who has since taken in the 19-year-old while he pursues his studies at USP.
"Mr Tuiono is like my father. He is my guardian and he is my angel," Avikash said with a hint of gratitude.
Avikash left his home in search of a better life. And while he is yet to achieve that, his achievements so far, dedication and perseverance will help him fight tooth and nail to achieve his goal.
His perseverance reminds me of a poem by British poet Edgar Guest's "Don't Quit".
When things go wrong as they sometimes will
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns
As everyone of us sometimes learns
And many a failure comes about
When he might have won had he stuck it out
Don't give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow
Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt
And you never can tell just how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.