‘Doing something better than nothing’

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Vonosia Raibuluwai at the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort in Korotogo, Sigatoka. Picture: WATA SHAW

It is better to be doing something and earning money for the family than doing nothing at all, says Vonosia Raibuluwai.

The 49-year-old can be found selling handicraft along the walkway between the accommodation and dining facilities at the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort in Korotogo, Sigatoka.

She is among the many women who ply their trade at the whim of the unpredictable flow of tourists in and out of the beachfront property.

Many of her compatriots are from nearby villagers in and around the Korotogo area and some have been selling the creative pieces at the resort a number of years.

Ms Raibuluwai said her journey into the world of designing and creating artisanal handicraft began after she learned from other skilled women.

Each morning she is up bright and early to make her way to the resort.

“By 8am I am here at the Outrigger setting up my stall,” she said.

“I leave home at 7am by carrier with others who go to the market to sell their produce or who are going into the city for work.”

Originally from Vutuna, Nairai, she has been in the handicraft business for more than five years and specialises in handmade shell necklaces, bracelets, grass skirts for dolls, shell earrings and handbags.

“Many of the tourists that stop by my stall admire my pieces and I tell them I make them myself.

“Many of the necklaces and anklets I make by hand at home, and I make them because it keeps me busy.”

Ms Raibuluwai said she started selling pieces at the resort to tourists to earn money for her family, particularly her five children.

“The money I earn is used to buy food and other necessities that my family needs. “I thank the resort for allowing me to come and sell my pieces over the past five years.”

She said her day usually begins with chatting with hotel staff and fellow handicraft sellers and as the tourists venture out of their rooms, she meets new people from exotic countries.

“My day can be spent catching up with the other ladies who also sell their pieces along the walkways.

“I love meeting new people especially those that come to Fiji for vacation and share a little about Fiji with them.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Raibuluwai said many of the ladies were not able to sell their goods at the resort because of the closure of the international borders.

“During COVID all of the ladies that were selling handicraft with me had to stop selling at the resort.

“Many of us depend on our sales to feed our family so it was hard for all of us.” Raibuluwai said she was fortunate that her husband was able to support the family from the money he got from selling his crops.

“My husband is a farmer, and we were lucky that the food he planted we were able to earn some money from it.

“My son is also a farmer and helped out at home so we were able to survive from our plantation.”

She said she was ‘over the moon’ when she heard news of the resort hotel staff returning to work after the pandemic.

“How much I earn depends on how booked the resort is so I was happy to be selling my creations again.

“When there are a lot of tourists I can earn just over $80 a day but if the hotel is empty then I can earn $30.

“But any money is good money because it goes back to my family.”

Her message is to members of the public is to “fully utilise your skills”. “Many women, especially the youth can learn new skills to earn a living.

“There are many opportunities out there, you just have to go out and look for it and make something out of it.”

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