Feature

18 Years Later: Timorese Thanks Fijian Soldiers Who Bought Him a Bicycle, Helped Him Learn to Speak English

Now a post-graduate student pursuing his masters, he came to Fiji to show his appreciation
26 Sep 2019 16:17
18 Years Later: Timorese Thanks Fijian Soldiers Who Bought Him a Bicycle, Helped Him Learn to Speak English
Agustinho Dos Reis De Fatima and retired soldier Orisi Baleitavea Rokovosa.

Eighteen years after Fijian soldiers helped a young boy in once war-torn Timor-Leste, he came to Fiji to thank the soldiers who helped him turn his life around.

For Augustinho Dos Reis De Fatima, while the country was rebuilding itself two years after a popular referendum won them independence from the brutal 24-year Indonesian occupation, 2001 was still time for war and violence.

Mr Fatima was only 11 when he first met the Fijian contingent, serving under the International Force East Timor (INTERFET), who showed him a glimpse of just what childhood ought to have been.

Now a post-graduate student pursuing his masters, he came to Fiji earlier this month, to show his appreciation.

What happened

The Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) troops were based in Suai located south-west of capital Dili where Mr Fatima lived.

He befriended the RFMF soldiers and recalled their contribution.

“My English was not that good. I could string a few words together and then struggle to make a sentence,” he said.

“I always wanted to be able to speak English. I used to go to the camp where the RFMF soldiers were based. They helped me study and I practised my English with them.”

Orisi Baleitavea Rokovosa, Tadeo Nariva, Niumaia Tagilala, Isefo Namarua and a few others were part of this batch.

Mr Fatima cannot recall the names of others but he remembers their faces just like yesterday.

As an 11-year-old, Mr Fatima used to walk long distances to school and it was then that Mr Rokovosa went a step further and bought him a bicycle.

Upon completing their mission in Suai, the RFMF soldiers gave their contact details to Mr Fatima and from there communication continued via social media.

Mr Fatima made a trip to Fiji this month and spent five days with Mr Rokovosa and his family.

“Meeting them again was special to me. I wanted to thank them for their generosity to me and their great contribution to my country,” he said.

“Without the Fijian soldiers, my education would not have been possible.”

Mr Fatima has now completed an Undergraduate degree of Bachelor of Earth Science at Adamson University in the Philippines and is now undertaking postgraduate studies in New Zealand.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

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