Semisi Tauheluhelu of ‘Utulei is a man of many talents. He is a primary school teacher, a fisherman, a farmer, and a very active member of the community in which he lives in Vava’u. He also lost his leg through an accident some years ago.
Semisi participated in the outboard motor maintenance and repair training facilitated by Tonga Skills in 2018. As a result, he can now repair his boat’s outboard motor when he is out at sea gathering fish for his family’s consumption or to be sold at the market.
Semisi described the skills he gained from the training as vital, saying, “It will be an extra loss of money to pay for a mechanic to fix my outboard motor if ever damaged. Major damages are always caused by cyclones and hurricanes. Fishing is my family’s major source of income and food. If my boat breaks down, there will be a financial gap and less on the table for the week or maybe a month.”
Semisi shared his perspective on the challenges he faced as a person with disability. “They are not things that I would say are negative but rather they strengthened me and my faith. I believe in humanity, despite what challenging forces life throws my way. I fall and rise back up and live like any other. Whenever I encounter some sort of either verbal or physical approach that may sound like stigmatisation or discrimination against my disability, I count my blessings.’
He shared that whilst he enjoyed farming work, he finds it difficult to do since losing his leg.
“I tend to fish, because it is easier for me at sea, to just sit on my boat and gather fish for my family or to be sold. I earn that money and it buys us food and covers all our other financial expenses. Farmers buy my fish. I buy their produce,” explains Semisi.
He strongly recommended the training saying,
“I can now fix any damage that could happen to my boat’s outboard motor. That is one step forward for me as a person with disability. Beforehand, it would always be a person without a disability that had to come and do this sort of work, but I silently am proud of myself for being able to do it.”
Arieta Tominiko is a student at Kiribati Institute of Technology (KIT). She spoke with Tammy McGowan from Maven about being female in her country and the power that opportunities like KIT can provide to support women with disabilities to achieve their goals.
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