From Fiji Times Online (13 May 2008)

Jokapeci finds joy in helping others

by Geraldine Panapasa

Jokapeci Masi
Jokapeci Masi ... passionate about helping the less fortunate

Volunteering is never an easy job but Jokapeci Masi believes her passion for helping others is the most important part of her work.

The 23-year-old is a full-time volunteer with the Fiji Council of Social Services in Suva.

Originally from Lovoni, in Ono-i-Lau, Jokapeci had always wanted to be a social worker.

Her father, Apolosi Qata, was a school teacher while her mother, Lavenia Masi is a self-employed business woman. Although born in Suva, Jokapeci's first language was Rotuman.

Third in a family of seven children, her father was a teacher at Malhaha Primary School, on Rotuma.

She said life on the island was fun and exciting.

Her father's postings to schools meant a lot of travelling for Jokapeci's family.

But life was not always a bed of roses for her family.

"My father was posted to many schools so this meant we moved around a lot," she said.

"We lived on Rotuma when my father taught at Malhaha Primary School.

"In fact, Rotuman was my first language.

"It was a hard life back then. There were many of us in the family but my parents both worked very hard to provide us with a good life.

"When I was younger I always wanted to be a social worker.

"My dad wanted me to become a teacher but I had this passion to help others, especially the poor in society.

"I realised that some people go through a very hard life compared to the life we live and this is what makes me want to help them.

"Moving around was a bit hard, especially having to leave behind friends and making new ones instead.

"But I learnt a lot of things like different cultures and lifestyles."

She attended primary school at Malhaha before going to Naitasiri.

Jokapeci then completed her primary education at Lawaki, next to Queen Victoria School.

She then came back to Suva to attend Gospel High before completing her secondary education at Suva Grammar.

The next step for her was tertiary school where she did business studies at the Fiji Institute of Technology.

Not long after, she switched to studying hospitality at the Training and Productivity Authority of Fiji in Nadi.

"I still haven't completed my studies but I am planning to complete it.

"I then decided to look for work somewhere. "I wanted to show my parents that I could be independent so I started work here as a volunteer.

"I was getting enough to be independent and help look after my family, especially when there are seven of us. Before I joined FCOSS, I used do community work with a church group Gideon's Cry.

"It is a group of young people spreading awareness on abstinence and issues like teenage pregnancy around Viti Levu.

"I first learned about FCOSS from a friend who was working there.

"I then decided to help out as a volunteer for their volunteer youth network.

"I was then asked to be a full-time volunteer for FCOSS.

"My work involves helping out with community service, workshops and troubled youths in the community.

"I have learned a lot as a volunteer, especially about different people in society who need help."

Jokapeci still has her ambition to complete tertiary education but in the meantime, her passion for helping others is something she has built her life around.

She said working with poor families was fullfilling and rewarding, especially knowing she had helped make a difference in some-one else's life.

Apart from that, Jokapeci believes she has been given the opportunity to gain more experience in the field of social work.

"I am planning to save so that I can complete my studies.

"However, I am happy with the work that I am involved in, especially helping other people in need.

"I believe that if you are a healthy, have two legs and two hands, why not go out and do something good.

"Why not go out and help make a difference, a change for the better.

"Being a volunteer is rewarding ... I find it very rewarding and satisfying," she said