From Fiji Times Online (17 April 2008)

Confidence makes Maxine

by Geraldine Panapasa

Maxine Inia
Maxine Inia

PUBLIC speaking is something most people refrain from. Some prefer to develop the skill privately while others have taken the initiative to practise and improve on their communication and leadership skills in groups.

For 23-year-old Maxine Inia, joining the non-government organisation Toastmasters has helped her grow into a confident and mature individual.

Toastmasters is a group of individuals working to help each other be more confident and competent in front of an audience.

Born and bred in Suva, Maxine is from Itu'muta on the island of Rotuma and had always wanted to be an air hostess. She has a younger brother. Her parents Marika and Mareta Inia had always been supportive of what decisions she made in life.

She said life growing up was like in any other average family.

"There are two of us in the family and my brother is a year younger than me," she said.

"My father is a rugby referee and gets called in now and then to officiate at games. He is also a retired teacher. My mother used to work for the Ministry of Education but is now at home.

"I wanted to be an air hostess because an aunt of mine was in the industry. I kept that aim until I was in Form Six. I just went with the flow and my mind kept changing but I kept wanting to be an air hostess."

Maxine said her family faced difficulties like any other family.

It was not until she reached Form Six that she decided she wanted to work in an office.

"Like all families, times were hard but we managed. I went to Suva Methodist, spent the first term of Form One at Dudley before my father was transferred to Richmond High School on Kadavu.

"I didn't want to go. I was enjoying high school in Suva and didn't want to leave but my grandmother sat me down and told me to go with my family.

"She insisted it was best for me to go with my family."

Life in Kadavu was different from what she expected. Having her father teach at the same school they went to was hard.

Maxine said they were not given special treatment. Instead, they were given a hard time especially when they were expected to follow school rules and not get into trouble. She said even though they faced this at school, it became a disciplinary advantage for her and her brother. They stayed in Kadavu for two years before returning to Suva.

"Life was different then. We were like tourists but we were not given special treatment. Just because our father was a teacher did not mean we could do what we wanted or break the rule.

"They were strict on us and eventually it did us a lot of good. It taught us a lot about life's values, discipline and responsibility.

"After high school, I went to catering school in 2003. At the same time, I had a part-time job at the Enjoy Restaurant, now called Maya Daba.

"I couldn't cope with studies and the job so I let go the job. I then worked for a while at Daikoku restaurant and it was an educational experience. I learned a lot while I was there."

She joined Erasito Consultants as a receptionist in September 2004, a day after her birthday.

She said it was difficult at first to deal with clients over the phone and even her communication skills were a bit rusty.

However, she was determined to make the most of life. She was introduced to Toastmasters, an international NGO started in 1924 in the US.

"Toastmasters is compulsory at work. When I first heard about it, I was like hell no' because I saw the participants had to give impromptu speeches. So I sat, listened and observed what was going on and I thought it was really helpful.

"When I was young, I could socialise and communicate with other people but not formally.

"Before, when I used to communicate with clients, I used to eat my own words. I spoke so low that even the person next to me could not hear what I was saying.

"So the experience was an eye-opener for me and I've never regretted doing what I am doing now. I am more confident and can communicate more formally than before."

She said the organisation met every Tuesday and there has been a lot of interest from people as young as 14 years old.

With new-found confidence, Maxine has her sights on working for the United Nations in development or social work.

Like all kindhearted beings, Maxine strives to help those in need.

Her advice to young people is to enjoy life to the full and make the most of what you have.