Sera and her grandmother, Salaseini Tivi pictured at their home in Narokorokoyawa Village in Sabeto. Photo: ANA SOVA.
By ANA SOVA
Imagine at only 14 years old, you have the enormous responsibility of caring for your ailing grandmother who suffers from stroke, alone.
Yes, you could only think how unbelievable for a child that young.
For Sera Vosailagi this was the reality destiny forced her to shoulder, looking after her maternal grandmother, Salaseini Tivi, after her mother, Ivamere Vosailagi passed away in 2015 from heart disease.
Her only sister, 19 year old, Sala, has since moved to Suva for tertiary studies and her father residing in their village in Dravo, Tailevu.
Sera’s maternal grandfather, Isaia Nadule had passed away some years ago.
She is only in Year Eight at Sabeto District School in Nadi and is the young carer of her 65 year old grandmother, whose severe post stroke condition has altered her ability to speak and her muscle movements, she can’t stand up nor move around unaided.
This means her granddaughter has to clean the house, do their laundry, cook, bathe, clothe her and take care of her hygiene, etc. apart from trying her best to continue attending school.
This has been Sera’s life for the last three years, her grandmother being her priority above everything else.
They live in a lean to corrugated iron shed in Narokorokoyawa Village and Sera does her best to keep the modest place neat, with plastic carpet mats covering most of the floor and a single straw mat spread out in the middle of the room.
In one corner, a curtain is hung to make a makeshift bedroom for the two of them. In another, stand an old cupboard and their kerosene stove with little else.
Life has forced Sera to grow up too quickly, evident in the way she talks, speaking wisely for someone her age.
Her childhood has been inevitably compromised by the caring activity she undertakes.
She said she envies the freedom and social life other children her age enjoy but she wouldn’t trade looking after her grandmother for the world.
“I wish my life was normal like other children, they have it easy but I love my grandmother and would never walk away to abandon her,” Sera said.
Her normal routine she said would start with waking up at 6 o’clock in the morning to clean the house, prepare both their breakfast and lunch before bathing and dressing her grandmother. Then she would get ready herself then have breakfast with her grandmother before leaving for school.
In the afternoon as she arrives back from school, she washes their dirty dishes and laundry, cooks dinner, bathe her grandmother again before she enjoys a little playtime with the children in the village then hurries back home to prepare their dinner. After dinner she makes sure to study before she goes to bed.
“If I’m late to school, the teachers they’re not hard on me because they understand my situation,” Sera said.
Although, she said some of her fellow students would sometimes tease her.
“I would take it despite how painful”.
Sera shared there are a lot of challenges they would often face.
“Our only source of money is the monthly assistance from the Ministry of Social Welfare, a $50 food voucher and $50 in cash,” she said.
Sera said the assistance is not enough to sustain them for a month.
“We run out of food and laundry detergents to wash our clothes. Other villagers would sometimes bring us food or I would have to go around and ask for certain things but often I just get too embarrassed to ask,” she said.
Sera added the worst for her is when her grandmother runs out of diaper.
“She cries and that hurts me”.
Her school supplies she said are provided annually by a couple from the Bahai Faith, a religion that her parents had been a part of.
I asked her if her father contacted them, Sera’s only reply was, “vakavudua” which meant hardly. In contrast, she said her sister would often visit.
Struggling to speak and through her tears, her grandmother said Sera was the best granddaughter.
“She is the only one willing to look after me,” she added.
Mrs. Tivi revealed after getting married to her husband they were not able to conceive. Pointing to a photo of Sera’s mother on the wall, she said “we then adopted her and another baby boy”.
She said like Sera’s mother, her adopted son had unfortunately also passed away.
Sera said she’s ambitious about becoming a doctor, “I want to care for and help sick people”.
She adds her mother had gone through a hard time in her life and marriage, a path she was determined not to take.
The whole time we spent talking, Sera’s beautiful smile rarely left her face, one would never have guessed the hardship she goes through.
Meanwhile, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa said she would be sending a team to see what steps that needs to be taken and other assistance that could be provided.
“I want to find out why only this child is looking after her grandmother and what could be done,” she said.
Ms Vuniwaqa said she would probably also have to seek the support of non-government organisations or other Government agencies to provide aid for Sera and her grandmother.
Anyone interested to assist Sera and her grandmother, they can be contacted on 9630005.