17 March, 2022
Life began at 45 for Raymond Nawalu.
“I know that is quite late, but this is the reality for me and it has taken me this long and some bad experiences to finally realize how important hard work and honesty is.
Now at 47, Raymond Nawalu who was once a habitual offender going in and out of Prison, has been offered a second chance in life and is grabbing it with both hands.
The father of three was released back home in 2019 to an empty house in the village of Burebasaga in Rewa. His wife had left him and his children had an uncertain future.
“It was hard but I had to accept that my circumstances was my own doing, because I was lazy and dishonest,’’ Nawalu said.
“But I soon realized that the Yellow Ribbon Program is not only us trying to get the community to accept us back, but it also about us ex-offenders showing that we can contribute back to the community – especially to those we have hurt.”
“I pay tribute to my village community and my family for their support, all we need is acceptance – but it also requires hard work.”
Months after he was released, he sought the help of the Fiji Corrections Service by applying to be assisted via the Poverty Alleviation Program. He was given a brush cutter and equipment worth $1,200 to help him earn an income and he has not looked back since that day.
“It was during my last stint of 8-months in prison that I finally went through some programs at Suva Prison which really helped me a lot and made me take stock of my life. I have been going in and out since the 1990s.
“I am not ashamed to talk about my story because I have a duty to play in letting youths in my area know that a life of crime is no life at all.
Through his brush cutting and landscaping business Nawalu has managed to re-unite with his children, found a new partner who he has married, renovated his home and also set up a food business where he sells food parcels to offices from Suva and Nausori.
“Its’ hard when you are an ex-prisoner because people look at you differently, the only way to prove them wrong is to work hard and be honest that is what I did to earn the trust again of my family and community.
Nawalu said, he has had to learn to control his spirits and attitude the hard way by getting in touch more with his spiritual side. “the first thing you have to prepare is your own spirit and attitude in order to accept whatever people throw at you and to lay your trust in God to show you the path but you have to work harder than everyone else.”
A few months ago, with the little money earned from his business he ventured into dalo and cassava farming and today has in the ground already 4,000 dalo to be harvested in July and 3,000 cassava plots which will be ready by August 2022.
“With the money I earned I paid for a digger to clear our family land and started planting, we are lucky because we have the land but we just too lazy to use it and often resort to crime.”
His brush cutting business sees him cutting grass and cleaning compounds throughout villages in the Rewa community and also as far as Kiuva.
“I also now help in maintaining the school compound in Burebasaga as part of my community work effort – I do it for free.”