In the picture Samuela Waka sits at his makeshift home under the market table.
I saw this article in the Fiji Times and thought it strange - with all that land around Labasa this family live in the unhealthy environment of a food market! Does the Labasa Council allow this? What is being done by the Labasa Council to house poor people? Any Hart homes or places like the village established by Rotary out of Lautoka and known as Koroipeta? Where is the sense of community, hospitality, that this family cannot live with relatives?
My market homeTuesday, December 25, 2007
IN order to make ends meet, a grandfather and his grandson have lived in a market the past year. Samuela Waka is 55 years old. For the last 10 years the Labasa market has been his home, literally. It is where he sleeps, eats and sells from. For the last year though life has become even harder as he has had to look after his grandson, Wili Tarika.
Wili goes to school from the market where he sleeps, studies and eats .
"He is in Form 4 and since last year, we have lived together in this market where we sleep, eat and do all our work from. We also use the public toilet to bath and change from," said Mr Waka. Space under a high-table from which market produce is sold serves as their room. Mr Waka says it is comfortable enough to sleep.
"We buy food from the women who sell in the market or eat from cafes everyday and there is no other way we can buy food and cook it in the market because we are both busy and it's too much work for me especially when I am old," he explained.
Under that table, Sam built boards around it and left a space at one end that acts as a door. "My grandson wears his uniform from our small room, under the table where we also sleep. We are fortunate that the electricity supply continues throughout the night which allows the lights to stay on at night so my grandson makes good use of it to do his studies," Sam said.
From their market home, they also wash their clothes and hang in the back area of the market by the Labasa riverside. Living in such habitat is simply because Mr Waka cannot afford to travel home because it is too expensive. He says it chews up his profit from his sale.
"So I order vegetables and rootcrops from farmers around the area and buy from them so I can sell to earn money."
Originally of Naviavia village in Wailevu, Cakaudrove, Sam 55, is the sole bread winner of the family supporting his two daughters and grandchildren.
His wife, Laisana Waqamairabe died 22 years ago in 1985, leaving him behind to solely support their four children who were in school then.
"I remained in the village with my children until they completed their education and at the village school and went onto secondary school in Labasa then to finding jobs where they could support themselves," he said. "My two younger daughters got married but due to marriage breakdown they returned home with their children, they had one each and lived with me in the village," Mr Waka said. That happened 10 years ago and as a result, he decided to become a full time market vendor to help support his two grandchildren and his unemployed daughters.
In January 1997, Sam arrived at the Labasa market with his first lot of dalo, yaqona and vegetables to sell in which he received about $100 within the few days of complete sale.
"I sent some money home to my daughters so they could buy food for their children and buy baby milk also," he said. "I felt it's my duty to help look after my children and grandchildren after their marriage broke down and since taking upon myself that responsibility, I have remained in this market with that in mind."
He has singlehandedly put his two grandchildren two school, from primary to secondary. While his grandson lives with him in the market, his granddaughter, Laisana Waqamairabe boards at the Saint Mary's Hostel and attends Gurunanak secondary school as a Form 6 student. He pays for her board and her food. Mr Waka says it makes more sense to sacrifice rented board so that he can pay for his grandchildren's education. "It's not an easy life but from the money I earn which can be about $50 a day I use to pay for the expenses.
"While I still have the energy to do it and still fit to look after my grandchildren and pay for their education, I will do it, even if I have to sleep from the market area. He said after 10 years he has grown use to his market home'.
"(I) have enjoyed it, really," he assures.