"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.