PEOPLE: Earning a decent living

Joji Naidike selling food at the Suva Municipal Market. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

We often hear of the struggles of women and how they are under-represented in the entrepreneurial world.

Today, however, we bring you the story of Joji Savu Naidike, who took a plunge and opened his business at the Suva Municipal Market.

In fact, the 36-year-old Nakaugasele, Nakasaleka, Kadavu native stands out when you enter the area where his stall is located.

You can’t help but notice him.

He stands out because sells his wares from a spot where he is surrounded by female vendors.

Does it bother him? Not a bit.

He believes that adversity gives people the opportunity to discover their strengths and talents.

“There is a reason for hardship,” he said.

It’s no wonder he “fits in the crowd” because this man with maternal links to Namuka-i-Lau is not shy.

And he seems to have a permanent smile on his face that makes him so personable.

He does not mind the wet, cold and windy days outside the market corridor.

He draws strength from the sacrifice and bravery of women from Tailevu, Naitasiri, and surrounding Suva areas who join him every day without fail, in an attempt to eke a decent and honest living for their families.

He said after losing his family, he realised that he could not rely on relatives forever.

That was when he sat down to seriously think of a way out of his miserable situation.

His three sons live with his former wife so he decided to take on the responsibility of taking care of his daughter.

On his table one can find pudding, scones and cooked root crops.

He does his own baking.

“I believe whatever I go through in life provides me with an opportunity to realise the talents God has gifted me.

“The COVID-19 lockdown took a huge battering on my family.

“I lost my job and was left with nothing.

“But in this is life, while you are still breathing, you know that you have two hands.

“You can work your way out from the bondage of brokenness and make something out of your life.”

The former farmer and diver said he had an interest in pastries so he decided to teach himself how to bake.

“My taste buds and interest in baked goods was developed from way back when I first smelled the cooked ones from bakeries and restaurants.

“I was not well educated, I only reached Class 7.”

He says he never felt sorry for himself and did not allow people to pity his “misfortunes”.

“Pity will only draw you backwards.

“Some people are also too negative and say things that does not better your situation or solve your problems.

“So try to avoid those kinds of people. Stick to those who encourage you.”

He said he now took one day at a time and focuses his energy on product preparation and sale — and the welfare of his daughter.

“I wake up at midnight, prepare everything, ready my daughter’s school lunch and I make sure to be at the market before my clients arrive.”

His ultimate dream is to operate his own restaurant.

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