From Fiji Times Online (28 April 2010)

Family first

Anthony Apao
Anthony Apao

WHEN he dropped out of school after Form Five, it was to work and earn money so he could financially support his younger siblings to school.

It was 1999 and Anthony Apao, pictured left, was 15 at the time.

While some would be of the notion that such acts of sacrifices are more associated with elderly people, greater sacrifices for education continue to be made by young people in this day and age.

In the usual scenario, sacrifices for children's education are a task better known to be borne by parents.

Not so much in Anthony's case who was not the eldest child but the sixth of 10 children.

"My father passed away when I was six," he shared.

"My mother worked as a project co-ordinator for the National Heritage Park in Bouma and never remarried but brought us up alone.

"Eventually her income was not enough to support us so I left school to work and finance my younger brothers and sisters' education."

His first job was as a warden of the marine-protected areas in Bouma. This involved conducting annual surveys on areas under his care.

"It was a new initiative for Bouma and I was proud to be part of it. It was funded by the New Zealand Government and this was where I first became educated on the importance of marine life and making it sustainable," he said.

Although born to a Rotuman father, Anthony rarely associated with his paternal side after his dad died.

He was raised by his mother at her village in Waitabu, Taveuni.

His ambition was to be a boat captain and while he has achieved this to some extent on South Sea Island in the Mamanuca Group, where he is employed as an environment project officer, he now has hopes of becoming a marine biologist whose expertise and knowledge stems purely from experience.

Reflecting on his past, Anthony says he has no regrets about the path his life has taken.

"It has been a difficult journey, especially so with having to give up my studies but it has been worth the sacrifice," he said.

"I have helped to put one sibling in cadet engineering and another is enrolling for catering school," he said.

His mother passed away in 2006 and Anthony said he makes every effort to spend as much time as he can with family although they now reside in different parts of the country.

"On my days off, I travel to Suva to be with my siblings. I am satisfied with where I am today but one day, when the time is right, I will move on to explore what the future holds for me," he said.