A devoted champion for the environment for many years and a familiar face in the community, Epeli Lalagavesi is a green warrior.
Originally from Wainika in Cakaudrove, Vanualevu, the 24-year-old enjoys the little things in life and finds joy in volunteering and helping people.
“My labours of love include volunteering, sailing, stand-up paddling and cycling, to name a few,” he says.
“I was and still am passionate about working as a student buddy at the University of the South Pacific disability resource centre from 2018-2020.”
Lalagavesi says this has helped him to be inclusive and accept diversity.
“I also get to witness firsthand the struggles persons with disabilities face,especially in trying to attain education at any level, not only here in Fiji but across the Pacific as I worked with regional students.
“I am also passionate about environmental protection and ocean stewardship.”
Lalagavesi acknowledges the influence and role that the late Captain Jonathan Smith played in his life..
“Since the passing away of Uto ni Yalo skipper Captain Jonathan Smith, I see there are big shoes to fill.
“He taught us the importance of the environment and the Moana as it is crucial not only to our survival but as an integral part of us people of Oceania.”
An undergraduate from the University of the South Pacific (USP) in journalism and linguistics, Lalagavesi says he started volunteering and doing advocacy work at 16.
“I wanted to do a holiday job, but then I was too young to work so I joined small organisations such as Red Cross, Youth Champs for Mental Health, Uto ni Yalo Trust and Alliance for Future Generation.
“The experience has been humbling and you get to witness life from different perspectives.
“In the future, I would like to work with students with disabilities.”
Lalagavesi says he’s currently working on a couple of projects and hopes people will join him in this initiative to reduce rubbish in the environment. “I am currently doing an adventure with a purpose.
“As an avid adventurer, I love to see nature but then always get mad at how these places are filling up with trash, so any place I go I try to pick up trash whether I am hiking or going out to sea.
“I am also participating in the cancer stand-up paddle (SUP) challenge and hoping to go the extra mile and pick up garbage as I SUP.”
Lalagavesi is a big believer that respect is earned and everyone should learn to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as they can.
“I live by Ben Ryan’s words from his book ‘Sevens Heaven’ which is “The standard you walk past is the standard you become”.