With a law degree under her belt, Varanisese Rogoimuri is young, ambitious and ready to make a difference. In the last 12 months, she’s graduated from university, established a nonprofit organisation, been an advocate for domestic violence victims and young Fijians, and most recently, founded her own small business. It’s hard to imagine that as a child, Varanisese and her siblings often went without food, as her parents struggled to provide for their young family. She says she often looks to those childhood memories as motivation, and hopes that above all, her story inspires at least one person to push forward to achieve their dreams.
We’d love to know more about you. Who are you, where are you from and how did that lead you to your work?
My name is Varanisese Nalewadamu Rogoimuri, I’m the eldest daughter of Emosi and Bulou Suguta Rogoimuri. I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia but my heritage is from the village of Daku, Tailevu in Fiji. I’m a woman of strong Christian faith and have been nurtured and taught from the day I was born that God must always come first in anything I dream to do in life.
Last year I graduated from university with an Associate Degree In Law (majoring in Conveyancing). I had a strong interest in law when I was only 16, and as I grew I became passionate about the law of conveyancing. I’ve been blessed with the guidance of my employer, who really pushed me to finish my degree. There were many temptations on my journey through university, and after five long years, I finally graduated. I hope one day I can build my own conveyancing firm and make a name for myself in the law industry.
As a young child, my parents signed me up for sporting teams in our local clubs. I’ve played netball, grass hockey, touch footy, and more. Last year, I established a nonprofit organisation, The Australian Fijian Oz Tag Association (AFOTA). What started out as a group of friends playing tag once a week, grew into something bigger.
I had two full squads in Sydney’s Blacktown and Parramatta areas. A lot of people saw my posts and photos on social media, and I guess it attracted them to the game and inspired them to join one of our teams.
I was then approached by Oz Tag Australia, and worked closely with oz tag founders, Bill Harrigan and Perry Haddock and the founder of Fiji Tag, Greg Trail, to form and co-ordinate teams to represent and participate in the ITF World Cup Tag Tournament 2015.
My journey with AFOTA has opened my eyes to many things. I saw this nonprofit organisation as an opportunity to reach out to our young people. I feel blessed that I attracted a lot of young Fijians to the game, and connected with a lot of our players on a personal level. Some of our players came from broken families, some had lost siblings, and all saw my work as a stepping stone for themselves. I even had to help one of our players with a court case they had going on, and he used my work as reference to show that he was trying to better himself and was staying out of trouble, and I feel so blessed that I could contribute to a positive change in someone’s life.
AFOTA also helped a victim of domestic violence speak out! The board members of AFOTA knew we had to do something about this. AFOTA currently is an ambassador for the White Ribbon, raising awareness for domestic violence against women. AFOTA has given our people a place where they can connect on a personal level and know its safe, while also enjoying tag.
AFOTA has such a great support system, not only from my family and my friends, but also my church community. For me, the organisation will always go on. I look forward to the next world cup in 2018, and I hope our young people will get involved and be part of this great experience.
Last month, I launched my online business, Veeh’s Party Hire. I enjoy organising events, whether it’s a family event, a fundraiser or a corporate event for AFOTA. It honestly is the best feeling to see people enjoy your hard work. I decided to start off with an online “party hire” business, and have a goal to eventually venture into catering services as well, and then potentially an event planning enterprise. So far, business is going really well and I am looking forward to where this new journey will take me.
Why is this work so meaningful to you?
I wasn’t raised in a wealthy family. I always look back to a time when I was in primary school. It was a hot summer day and I went to school with no breakfast, recess or lunch. When the lunch bell rang that day, I remember breaking down and crying. My parents just didn’t have any money for food, our cupboards were so bare – so much so that my siblings and I cried to my mother numerous times because we were so hungry. Some nights we would go to sleep without food. My mother couldn’t work because she wasn’t a citizen here and Dad was the only one working and trying to stay on top our bills.
I remember walking to the bubblers in the girls bathroom while all the other kids were outside playing handball, and I said to myself, “I can’t wait to grow up, get a job and have money to never ever feel like this again”. That moment constantly replays in my mind when I feel exhausted or stressed, or whenever I feel like giving up. I always look back and remind myself I don’t ever want to feel that way, or for my children to feel that way. Those experiences really motivate me every day to sacrifice and work hard to better the life for my children, and their children.
I know my story is nothing compared to those who are less fortunate, however, its moments like this that I will treasure forever. I will tell these stories to my children, as a reminder to them of my struggles, sacrifices and the efforts towards creating a better future.
What difference do you hope to make through your work?
Overall, I hope I can inspire at least one person out there. I hope my work so far will make a difference in somebody’s life. Whether it be the opportunity to expose someones talents on the field, or whether I inspire someone to go get a university degree or even start a business. I hope people see the potential in themselves, and I hope they believe they can do anything they want, if they put their mind and hard work into it.
What kind of misconceptions do you come up against through your work? How do you address them?
There have been misconceptions with AFOTA. It isn’t easy being the one who makes final decisions on the club’s future, and having opinions clash. It always comes down to what I was taught as a young child, I always prayed every time I had such a situation and when I had time alone. I would just pray and it brought a lot of peace and hope that it’ll always work out. Also, communicating, being open minded, and having a positive mindset (even when there is no sign of hope).
Because I am just starting my online business, there haven’t really been any misconceptions in that area, however, I think one of the misconceptions down the track might be that this is an easy business to work, in but the truth is, it isn’t. I work full time Monday to Friday and I’m doing this on the side, because it is something that I enjoy. I want my customers to enjoy the service that I provide and I’m working really hard for a good outcome.
What have been the most challenging experiences in your journey so far?
My most challenging experience would be trying not to over commit myself to so many things. Along with my full time job, I also have a part time afternoon/weekend job, I’m studying business finance and now have my new online business along with AFOTA, family commitments and church commitments.
Along with all the success comes negative opinions, but I never open my doors to that drama. I treat it as nothing more than just motivation for me to get out there and make things happen.
The most challenging part of my journey is making sure that I give everything I’m involved with the best of me, and making sure that I’m giving it all 110%, which is not easy!
What advice do you have for Pacific people who might be thinking of pursing something similar to you?
We live in a world that offers us equal opportunities. Be confident and have a positive mindset! Believe that everything happens for a reason, and what’s meant to be will eventually happen!
It’s up to you to start today and not in 5 years time. If you have a passion or a strong interest in something, you have to get out of your comfort zone and gain the skills and knowledge you need. If someone tells you that you can’t do it, get it together and prove them wrong!
How can we support you and your work?
My website for Veehs Party Hire is currently under construction, and will be launched in the next month. In the meantime I have various platforms, where there are regular updates of upcoming events for AFOTA and new products and stock for Veehs Party hire. If you’d like to show your support, please like and share these pages:
We’d like to thank Varanisese for sharing her story with us. If you’d like to get in touch, email at [email protected] or [email protected]. We wish Varanisese all the best for the future and look forward to cheering her on as she continues to reach new heights in her career!