Sunday, October 17, 2010

What it Means to be Fijian

In touch with his Fiji roots

* adopted from Sydney Morning Herald - Monday, October 18, 2010
PETERO CIVONICEVA is a Maroons and Kangaroos hero, but as he prepares to represent Australia at the Four Nations tournament, he knows just how much his success means to people in his native Fiji.
Civoniceva was born in the capital, Suva, but when he was young his parents moved to Brisbane after his father was made an offer to play rugby.
However, Civoniceva still has family in Fiji and regularly sends back money to help out the community.
"I send money back home to my family about once a month and then, through them, things get done," the Panthers prop reveals.
"My grandmother is very prominent in her local church and she does a lot of things with the money I send.
"I don't have a direct hand in what gets done with the money. I just know that it gets used well.
"'A lot of people have come to Australia from other countries to try to make a life for themselves and I think in the back of my mind there's always a sense of gratitude that I've been lucky enough to come to this country.
"I've been very fortunate. Australia has provided so many wonderful, unbelievable opportunities for me and my family.
"I don't think there's a day that goes by that I don't feel some sense of how lucky I am. Through the success that I've had here I have the chance to give back and this is my way of helping my family back home."
There has been a strong Polynesian influence at the Panthers for some time and the players regularly put together shipments of playing gear and equipment which they send to South Pacific communities or local charities.
"It's a good thing we've got going at our club," Civoniceva says.
"A lot of the guys who come from the islands send stuff back to their families to help out. Frank Puletua sends stuff back quite often.
"You'll find that a lot of the boys from Polynesian backgrounds try to do a bit to help out. The rest of the team is great like that, too.
"I try to do as much as I can, put things together and send money back home and put little packages of football boots, shoes and clothes from the boys. All those things help.
"We have a bit of a get together here when we get all our gear from home that we don't need any more and pool it together and give it to Aboriginal communities or other people who could do with it.
"Each couple of months now we pick out a different charity or destination to send out stuff to. It might be to Fiji, or Samoa, or maybe Tonga."
Whenever Civoniceva plays, he has in the back of his mind the knowledge that he's making people happy in Fiji. ''I think they get a lot of pride from watching guys like Lote Tuqiri, Jarryd Hayne or a Wes Naiqama playing well," he said. ''The standards of living aren't the best in Fiji. It's amazing that it doesn't faze them too much, they are still the most beautiful people you could meet."

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