People: Here I am, a lawyer

Naomi Bukalidi a determined 30-year-old from Visoto Village. Picture: IAN CHUTE

Naomi Bukalidi was one of the 758 airline workers who were terminated from their jobs at Fiji Airways on Monday, May 25, 2020.

The 30-year-old from Visoto Village on Ovalau flew with the airline for five years.

“I flew with them until that fateful day, the termination,” she said.

Back in 2009, she completed her secondary education and went to study law at the University of the South Pacific in 2010.

She had but one semester of law school left to complete her degree.

“While I was flying, I finished my degree and I graduated in 2017.

“I continued flying and I planned to end that career after five years, but then it was so hard. You know that vesumona kind of job with all the free travel.

“Behold Corona happened and exactly on my fifth year, I was terminated.”

Being the person that she is, she decided to swim not sink and moved her family back to the village.

“Terminated was one of the biggest things that happened to me because I was married and my husband was not a citizen, and he couldn’t work and of course, my two boys, so financially everything depended on me.

“I’m the kind of person that doesn’t immediately process something bad when it happens. If I do I’ll get depressed.

“So I just picked up my family, paid the last month’s rent and moved them to Ovalau.”

Having a place to go back to was one of the biggest cushions to the blow of the termination.

“I know a lot of my former colleagues who were also terminated didn’t own land, they were just renting and didn’t have close family anywhere nearby. Some of them fell on their faces.

“I was lucky that I had my village to turn back to, a home and family, and they were just so welcoming.”

Naomi had planned to leave flight attending but was not financially ready at the time. When she, her husband and her two sons got to the village, she immediately went into survival mode and did whatever she could to provide for her family.

“I just did whatever I could, making popcorn and bean to sell, anything to pay for diapers anything at all and then I realised I had bigger dreams and that I had to come out and do something else.”

So she enrolled herself into USP’s Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice (PDLP).

“When I went to do PDLP, I went by faith. “It was the next and obvious step into something I had already started, but when I applied to the tertiary education loans scheme my application was late.”

With the help of her family and company in her village, she was able to complete her PDLP program and was admitted to the bar of the High Court in November last year.

“So my studies, right down to everything I am wearing, was fully paid for.

“I have been so blessed through my whole educational journey and here I am, a lawyer!”

She also said that she had a support system in her colleagues doing PDLP.

“It was more of a team effort than an individual thing. This lot of PDLP students have got to be the most supportive lot ever, even our lecturers.”

She was filled with emotion when she took her oath.

“Every word meant something to my whole being. It represented the hard work, no sleep and my whole life journey so far.”

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