Journey over Hills and Valleys – Poasa Koroitamana
Mr Koroitamana hails from the village of Matuku in the province of Lau. Born into a chiefly family of the Tuiloma tribe, he experienced a fully traditional upbringing. When he was old enough to attend primary school, he would travel by foot over three mountains to the closest school, a couple of villages away. So the “journey over hills and valleys” for Mr Koroitamana was both literal and figurative. Given that their island was more than 100 miles away from the capital city of Suva and that the only form of transportation was a boat that arrived once every two months, many of the villagers hardly travelled or experienced life anywhere outside their island. For Mr. Koroitamana and his friends, reading the National newspaper “The Fiji Times” after every two months was one of their greatest pleasures because they could catch glimpses of the“glorious”capital city through the pictures. The bright city lights of Suva caught their attention and en-kindled their imagination. He decided he was going to be a sailor growing up so he could go to all those places in the capital city that he had only been able to see in newspapers. Excitedly he told his mother of this dream but she had other plans for him. Perhaps it was her motherly instinct to protect her son from the risky sea encounters of a sailor’s life or perhaps she was afraid she would see less of her son if he took this path, whatever the reason she encouraged and managed to convince him to be a teacher instead. The chance for Mr. Koroitamana to travel came sooner than expected when he was accepted at a secondary boarding school on the mainland. During his secondary years at Queen Victoria School (QVS), he encountered a lot of tough times; going through school with the bare necessities and sometimes less than that. A common struggle faced by students coming from the outer islands to attend boarding schools like QVS at that time was a lack of adequate resources like stationary and food. He persevered on and was able to complete his secondary education. Mr. Koroitamana then furthered his education with a Bachelor’s Degree in History Politics and Management at the University of the South Pacific (USP). Before completing his degree in USP he attended the University of Papua New Guinea for a year through an exchange student program. He also went to the University of Ballarat in Melbourne for some additional courses, after he graduated from USP. These different cultural exposes really broadened his perspective in life and inspired him in unimaginable ways. He did follow his mother’s wishes and became a teacher but did not stop at that. After teaching for a few years, he went on to become the assistant manager for Human Resource at the then Native Land Trust Board (NLTB). He moved on and became the Manager of Human Resources (HR) for the Fiji School of Medicine (FSM). Whilst serving here, 7 specialized tertiary institutions merged into one and became Fiji National University (FNU). Mr. Koroitamana became the first HR Manager for FNU and was managing around 3,000 employees. The transition from teaching to holding these esteemed management positions was not a hard one for Mr. Koroitamana as leadership was something that was inculcated in his upbringing (as leaders of their tribe) and is ingrained in the fabric of his habits, belief and attitude. When asked about his weaknesses, he calmly responded “laxness”. Mr. Koroitamana says he has a tendency to be over friendly with his subordinates after hours, which they interpret as being given leeway and flexibility in the work environment. He explains the demarcation that needs to be drawn with the nature of relationships inside and outside of the work environment as being a constant challenge and a very common and important phenomenon that needs proper addressing.
The 2006 Military coup created an unstable and unfair working environment in Fiji and after being unfairly dismissed because of his political affiliations, Mr. Koroitamana moved to the USA with his family. Upon arriving in the States in 2015, Mr Koroitamana stayed with a relative of his who had provided a home to 10 people in a 2 bedroom apartment. Mr Koroitamana, had to take up odd jobs like care-giving and construction work. Having worked as the Human Resource Manager in the second largest University in Fiji (FNU) and holding other managerial posts before that; the transition was far from being easy or comfortable. During this transition, Mr. Koroitamana began to pursue a different path. He realized that as he was nearing retirement age, it would be best for him to start his own business and generate a passive income stream that could support him after retirement. Moreover, he wanted to help his own people by providing employment. It was no easy task but Mr. Koroitamana managed to start his own care-giving agency and he acknowledges the strength of networking, advice and encouragement from his Old Boys in the USA. A typical day for him begins at 4:30am with a prayer and a trip to the gym. The end of the day also sees him closing off with a prayer. His only regret is that he had spent too much time being unproductive with his friends when he could have spent more time with the Lord. He believes that one of the greatest challenges that hinder Pacific Islanders from thriving in business is poor time management ie. the island time or Fiji time mentality. Today his agency has about 10 employees, rakes in around $30k a month in revenue and is pretty well regarded in the elderly community in Sonoma County.
After having gone through cycles of highs and lows Mr Koroitamana offers this piece as a nugget of advice and wisdom.
“When we reject the bad in life, and resent our circumstances, we ultimately reject a higher purpose for our life that can be used to help others. When we attempt to get through a trying time in high speed, we miss out on some of life’s most amazing lessons, lessons that can change you. Lessons that give you a depth you did not realize you had. Lessons that can catapult you to a new level of greatness you did not even know you had in you to reach.”
His three main success habits; time management, have big dreams and seek advice
Mr Koroitamana is the Owner of Divine Fijians Homecare.
Visit his website – Divine Fijians Home Care