Mother and father to forgotten children

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Mother and father to forgotten children

Post  Pastor on Sun 04 Jan 2009, 4:28 pm

She spends her days and nights caring selflessly for her loved ones – children of all ages, races and colour – who need constant help and love. And for this woman, The Fiji Times Person of the Year, life with children is as intense at the age of 70 as it was 21 years ago. GERALDINE PANAPASA tells her story.

OLOVIA Kauroto Nataniela was born 70 years ago on November 3, 1938.

Youngest in a family of seven, she wanted to be a nurse but God had other plans for her.

She was going to be a Florence Nightingale all right, but her patients would be younger, more vulnerable and completely helpless.

When her father died, her grandparents took charge and instilled values and virtues that have helped shape and mould her into the person we all know as Deaconess Olovia Nataniela.

When her grandmother became ill, a young Olovia left school at Class 8 to care for her.

"My grandmother and mother were caring women," she recalls.

"Through her (grandmother), I learnt to love and care. She also taught me to love the church."

When her grandmother died, she came to Suva and worked at a clothing factory.

She was still heavily involved in church work, taught scriptures at Sunday School, joined the choir and attended Bible studies, and was president of the Rotuman Methodist Youth Fellowship in Suva.

In 1965, she went to a youth convention in Western Australia and met Deaconess Litia Rabuku.

When she returned, her mind was made up it was to join the Deaconess Order in the Methodist Church of Fiji.

She studied for three years - from 1967 to 1969 - did two years probation in Rotuma and was ordained in 1971.

"I enjoy just being a servant of the Lord," Deaconess Olovia said.

She first set foot in Dilkusha Children's Home in 1967 when she had to complete a one-month practical.

She remembered the work there as being hard because everything was done manually.

But the children captured her heart and the missionary sisters at the home taught her a lot.

From 1978 to 1979, she was given a scholarship by the church to study child care in New Zealand.

Before she finally settled at Dilkusha Home in 1987, Deaconess Olovia travelled to places she never thought she would visit.

She joined Youths With a Mission in Hawaii for a year, then was off to Asia, the Holy Land, Nairobi and Geneva.

Her experiences broadened her knowledge and deepened her faith and love for the church.

"I saw that to know the Lord, you have to work with people all the time. You have to work with faith too," Deaconess Olovia said.

"I thought when I came to Dilkusha, I couldn't travel anymore.

"But because God has done so much for me, I said it was time for me to serve.

"I've never regretted coming here.

"It's very rewarding and I think if I retired, the home is well established.

"I really want to thank the Deaconess Order, the Government and the Department of Social Welfare, my helpers here and the community for supporting Dilkusha.

"Without them, I may never get anywhere.

"Maybe this recognition is a testimony and encouragement to look after your own families and for me it has to be the Lord."

FACTFILE

* Deaconess Kauroto Nataniela was born on November 3, 1938.

* Her mother, Akesa Vafo'ou, is from Losa and her father, Nataniela Veriangtir Maoi, is from Haroa clan in Motusa.

* Her father was a church catechist.

* She likes to eat taroro, rourou and seafood.

* Her favourite drink is coconut juice.

* She was one of two co-ordinators to lead youths on an exchange scheme to Canada in 1975 under the Ministry of Youth.

* She was the secretary for Women's Fellowship in Fiji and Rotuma for the Methodist Church from 1984 to 1986.

* She's a recipient of the Paul Harris Rotary NSW Award from Australia for community service.

* She's a recipient of the Ambassador for Peace International Award.

* She's a recipient of the 2008 Westpac Community Service Award.

The Fiji Times Online

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