"I’VE LEARNED THAT THERE ARE THINGS MATTERED MORE in this life than just living in a life of luxury".
My name is Victoria Vaipulu. Growing up in a financially stable family is like a bittersweet disease that eats you from the inside-out. I was born an illegitimate child to the eldest son of a pretty prestigious household in Vava’u, my mother was from a humble home and her up-bringing very much differs from that of my father. While my father was a boy who’d prefer the city life over an average village life, my mother spent her days playing in the fields and farms of her father along with her brothers and sisters. They went on to get married few months later after I was born and thus the birth of my family. The family that never rests.
I began my studies as a young girl at Malanata kindergarten at the age of 4- moved to GPS Fangatongo and then to Vava’u High School. Throughout this whole time period I was heavily bullied and constantly tortured emotionally by the kids and even some of my teachers. I was called all sorts of names and was discriminated for the features I was born with but most of all, my family name. I had only one friend and one friend only and she too eventually left. Overall, school was not a place I liked to be and to make matters worse, home was starting to feel like school.
I was spoiled to the core by my family, most especially my grandparents. The finest things you could get for a baby girl in the 90s, I was given. From doll houses and dolls to mini drivable cars. I can even say that they would’ve given the world to see me smile. It was because of this love they had for me that created the girl that I was. I was not forced to do chores like other girls my age, my only responsibility was to have good grades at school, not complain (have no voice at all), sit, look pretty and smile. For years this went on, it became a lifestyle and as a young, naïve little girl I believed that this is what the rest of my life would be. I had become a “weak and feeble girl” that was reliant and dependant on others for everything, I was never able to defend myself against others who had wronged me because I was taught to believe that it was normal. To be weak, to be silent and to be silent.
After high school, I moved here to Tonga to continue my studies at the University of The South Pacific (USP) and from there I was accepted to further my studies as a scholarship student at China. I was. Two years had passed, and my sister and I received a call from home telling us that our beloved grandmother has fallen very ill. I grew very homesick and felt the need to be by my grandmother’s side through this very hard time. Eventually my parents were able to fly me back to be with my grandmother in her last hours of living although the rest of my family disagreed on the idea for fear that I might lose my scholarship. Even if I had stayed behind the guilt of not being able to bid my goodbyes to the woman whom I love and admire most would’ve eaten me up inside and eventually I would’ve lost my scholarship anyways. My family grew more and more disappointed that I ended up losing my scholarship, but I had just lost someone who was just like a mother to me. I did not want to continue my studies and come back to the woman that birthed me on her death bed as well.
After my grandmother’s passing, my whole family fell into a dark spiral of drama. It became a warzone at home. A war for power, for money and for glory. A war that our grandmother alone could have prevented. Everyone’s selfish desires came to light, snakes came out of their nests and wolves were lurking around in sheep’s clothing and I was stuck in the middle of it all. Having to turn a blind eye to a lot of things in order to please my family, do things I was never able to do in order to grow not just as a woman but as an individual. I never imagined my life to result to this, but this is the reality of it, and I have accepted it.
Everything ended up with my mother, brother and I moving out to live apart from the toxic environment we once called home. We moved to Ma’ufanga and that’s when the “hard life” really hit me and my brother. My brother and I were never used to the lifestyle we were introduced to at our new home. Doing other people’s chores, babysitting other people’s kids, cleaning other people’s mess, even cooking. We had to learn how to live and survive the hardest way I can possibly imagine. I was forced by my own guilt to find a job to help out my mum with the bills and to put food on the table for my brother and I. I found a job working in a café but eventually gave up due to my little stamina and lack of will and trust in myself. Even at the lowest point of my life I still doubted my strength and potentials.
Over the years I finally start finding myself again, I start reinventing myself. I have had many failures but that will NOT stop me from succeeding in life. Although having to work is hard, having no work to do is harder. Unemployment life affects an individual’s physical, mental, emotional and of course spiritual well-being. On the move, I decided to stop and make a change, put an end to my frustrations, fear of failure and hunt for an opportunity. I’m willing to learn, I’m willing to sacrifice for the things that matter most in this life.
Throughout my journey, I came across this organisation called TYEE. They helped youth providing job opportunities and supporting youth entrepreneurships. I’ve been to so many workplaces but no other employer like TYEE’s director Lusia Jones has the discernment spirit and a caring heart to recognise and see through the potentials that I have. As an employee of TYEE, I’VE LEARNED THAT THERE ARE THINGS MATTERED MORE in this life than just living in a life of luxury. I have a purpose, responsibility as a Tongan. Each and every one of us has a higher calling greater than what we expected. Our pain, our sorrow, our story mattered. Our vulnerability can become our strengths.
Seeing Tonga’s economic situations, delivering our people to NZ and Australia for labour hits deep right into my heart questioning, why can’t we employ our own people to support our economy? Why can’t we help provide more job opportunities and supporting small businesses and enterprises exportation of our own products instead of exporting our people overseas for labour? Every change starts from changing your mind-set. If you want to change the world and add value to your country, you have to change yourself first.
A group leader's perspective: "for they have become part of something bigger than their own selves".
Experience huh, I must say this was a remarkable and a very fun experience. It all started with 10 individuals from different backgrounds and experiences coming together on training by TYEE with one common goal of seeking for Employment. I have to admit that being in a course with 9 other individuals who were 4-8 years younger than me was a bit of a challenge yet very interesting. As we kick off the workshop, everyone was very quiet for they were still in their own comfort zone. Some were still having fun and yet to be serious about the training yet about life. They were all very shy and uncomfortable which is why mingle was a bit difficult for these young adult. Some just did not have the confident to communicate to communicate face to face with another individual.
Day one came and gone and everyone was still in their own shell. We were introduced to the walls of barrier was still there and we were still on the stranger’s zone. During the training we were to discuss and identify our strengths and weaknesses. By doing so it encouraged them to face their fear and their weaknesses. Only then I saw some of them stepping out of their shells and getting to know each other since they have identified their limited beliefs. Little by little each one of these very shy beings came out of their own zone and find comfort in communicating with others. Before we know it our Work Readiness training came to an end and each one of us were all out of our own zone. And that’s when we started to make noises in TYEE and like the saying “Great Things never came from comfort zone”.
After the training we had to prepare for the Go Green program and it was a SWAP with the Theme of “Our Home, Our Future, Our Responsibility”. I have to admit that this was the icing on the cake of my experience, when these young adults decided to appoint me as the group leader. Of course we were out of our comfort zone however it was quite a challenge to get 9 young people to agree on one point and to get from point A to point B. Which is why I came up with the nickname of “Sharks “for our group since their stubbornness attitude towards everything was exactly as of the Sharks. Everyone had a hard time to agree on one point since each person didn’t want to put aside their own ideas for the program. To get these young people to put down their guard and listen to someone else’s idea was just like running a marathon back and forth to be honest. However we tried and tried and hooray we got through the wall of stubbornness and agreed to get things going.
Time flew in a glimpse of an eye and it was Go Green Day with our SWAP program. This day that everyone was so nervous about at first, ended up the only day we were eager and looking forward to. Looking at how keen we all were about the assigned tasks we were given for this day was just enough to say that we were no longer 10 individuals from different background but we were a family that was ready to lend a hand for the betterment of the group whether it was big or small. Since the commencing of the SWAP we worked together and looked out for each other so when help was needed either checking in our participants or allocating them to their seats, someone was there to assist. At this very moment we saw every single individual dancing, mingling, laughing, and shaking off their fears and their own shell away for they have become part of something bigger than their own selves.
Isn’t it amazing to witness the potential that our young people have and the enthusiasm they have knowing that the sky is not the limit, but their mind is! When we started with this program, we were strangers but, in the end, we were a team, and I must add a very loud and active team. And better yet, we became one big family for United We Stand Divided We Fall. To see the enthusiasm in these young people about working was the change that I always wanted to see in my own generation. At the end of our SWAP day it was amazing how we were all out of our comfort zone I could say they were no longer Sharks they were now young adult ready to face the Sharks out there as the challenges in life and whatever may come at them. That was how amazing this experience was because we commenced as different instruments with different sounds and on the finishing line we were a One Band One Sound.
When I learned about TYEE's Temping Job option, I thought this is something new to me, and would love to give it a go. My first Temp Job was a Babysitter/Nanny for three weeks. I enjoy working with children and I was keen to try it out. When I found out who I was to work for, a diplomat couple from overseas with their two beautiful young girls, I already wanted to start my Temp job.
TYEE: Lesila, can your please explain what your experience was like after taking the three weeks Temp job?
Lesila: My experience was from the learning I gained on the job. I learned so much from this job. I know that a lot of youth view babysitting or nanny as a low job and they do not want to do it. But my experience is very different. At first, I thought it would be hard. But when I started, I quickly learned to build my relationship with the girls and their parents and I enjoyed it because I like meeting new people. Being a nanny requires a high level of trust, honesty and accountability. This job required me to communicate well in English, respectful, reliable, organised and to manage my time well on the job. I also learned a lot form the parents - they are structured and organised and I love seeing their attitude to work. The parents are friendly and the home environment made me feel safe.
TYEE: If the same Temp opportunity will come through tomorrow, would you do it again?
Lesila: Yes! Most definitely. I like the flexibility of the job and meeting new people in short time.
TYEE: Do you have any comment you wish to share with the youth who are still looking for work?
Lesila: My experience with TYEE has been wonderful. I want to thank Team TYEE for making me feel welcome and for their ongoing support and the opportunity to work. The training work-ready workshop really helped me to understand myself better, be confident, work hard and know that this is the start to my new journey to be trusted and independent.
I thanked the girls' parents for trusting me with their home and their daughters. My job required a lot of trust, honesty, reliability and good communication. I have never worked for a foreign high level family and home environment before. My experience and skills learned from this job is amazing. I enjoyed the Temp job because it gave me lots of flexibility and the people I worked for were good to me and I feel blessed.
My message to the youth, a job is a job if that is what you are looking for. There is no low jobs or high jobs, that is just you and your mind thinking. What is important is that you are able to prove to an employer that you are the best person for the job and you can be hired for a job. If you want to achieve a goal, and not to rely on your parents for everything, this is one way to do it.
I also learned that I need to start at my job, and be good at my job to deserve my pay. I am more confident now, I have additional new skills and experience in this level of service.
Temp job is good for learning and developing oneself. If flexibility, new skills, experience and earning an income are what you are after then the Temp jobs at TYEE is the way to go.
Since 2018 after returning to Tonga, Lauaki has submitted his job applications to various government departments and other local companies. With only two responses and no satisfactory outcomes, he decided to go through TYEE for support. Lauaki completed a week Work Ready Training Worskhop at TYEE and now ready and confident enough to give the job market another go before considering other plans.
Lauaki is one of our university graduate youth member portfolios that we work with in his search for employment. We help to connect him with promising employers for a meaningful career not only here in Tonga but also around the region.
We know that when our youth work, our economy works!
A Call to Action
This is an opportunity for interested employers to request an appointment to learn more about Lauaki and to discuss any IT related employment opportunity within your organisation. Please contact TYEE direct as follows:
University Graduates Youth Member Portfolios
TYEE Office, L2 Fifita House Building, Mailetaha.
Office: +676 8425259 / 7706340
Youth Real Talk
Those two years of hardship was actually something I’m glad happened to me. Because it reminded me of my parents and the hard times they went through for my family. Dad worked at the kava plantation while Mom weaved mats. And I thought to myself, if my parents can do what they can with the jobs they have then I should be able to do more. This is why I’m looking for a job, to help my parents and to prove I am the daughter they can count on.
You understand people better by placing yourself in their shoes.
Written by Mr N. Ha'apai
Youth Real Talk
Tonga Youth Real Talk
Having a career in sports is sometimes a person’s only option but it is always good to have a backup plan, most youth don’t realise it until it’s too late.
Written by Mr N. Ha'apai
“The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth” - Erasmus
Of course, no one wants to get their hands dirty and get sweaty but not every organisation or employers can be able to provide every youth job seekers with an office job so that they can stay comfort and clean. It is clearly shown that hospitality is not really the industry that most youth would prefer to work in. Their desired jobs are barely available in the industries here in Tonga because employers always preferred someone with lots of skills, experience, good qualifications which are features that most youth do not meet.
There is lack of employment and job training provided by the businesses to employed youth which will be a burden to us and our customers of trying to find the right candidate with the skills and experience to fill a position.
Sometimes employers require experience from youth, but how can we offer them staff with work experience if they are still looking for a job to gain work experience. As an HR and part of our recruitment team, it is part of my duties to investigate every youth to identify how both parties’ expectation can be achieved. It’s very challenging because we may find the candidate with skills and experience that will fit the job but the youth is not interested in that job. Some youth are interested in that job offered but they do not have the qualification, skills and mostly experience to meet the requirements of the position.
It is our traditional way of life, to just say something to please someone without expressing the truth behind it, or what they really want, because they might get mocked or turned down by people around them. Of course youth do not like to feel rejected either. It is these issues that we are facing with the youth when we offered them a job. They would say, "any job" but when we offered them with any job they reject it. Some youth are not completely honest with providing us with their information.
However, businesses who requested for male staff is also a challenge for us as there are less male registered seeking for job because majority of them are taken for the seasonal work scheme abroad offered by the government. At the same time, most unemployed male nowadays are just relying on women or girls for financial support. Young women are now also stepping up to take the role of being the head provider of the family which is a fact that should be taken into account.
Some youth are facing complications at home or they’ve experienced unstable housing such as growing up in a broken family with lack of knowledge about the perspective of being in a workplace environment. In today’s overview, there is qualification inflation and some graduated youth who were interviewed for a job opportunity do not somehow reflect their qualification. This can leave a question in our minds and that of the employers; “What have you been studied at school?
I would highly recommend that youth should be motivated by program to give them clear ideas of how important and what’s it like to be in a job and in a work environment. [This is where the TYEE Work Readiness program fits in as proven here in Tonga for the youth since 2016. Without the appropriate funding support - it is almost impossible to cater for the mass and the growing needs within].
From what I have observed, businesses should work closely together with youth how can they both be an asset to both parties through us linking them. Young male should also be empowered through giving them opportunities to express what they have been through in their own lives in order to provide them support.
People in general and employers always tend to judge youth without studying the reasons behind it so there is a need to look beyond why youth is acting the way they are before judging them. From that - we can figure out ways to support them through educating them to be professional in what they do in order to be employed and to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.