Submitted by Kalivati Volavola, Manager and Chief of the Fiji Village, Polynesian Cultural Center and member of Tailevu USA.

During the Labor Day weekend (September 1 – 3, 2023), we had one of the largest Fijian gatherings seen in Hawaiʻi. In the past 15 plus years that I have been on O‘ahu, this is the largest Fijian gathering little over 200 people.

The activity was organized by Tailevu USA, a non-profit community organization established in 2012. It served as a fundraising event for scholarships specific to students of the province of Tailevu, which is found on the eastside of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island.


Province of Talilevu

The Province of Tailevu sits on the east coast of Viti Levu, Fiji.


The Fijian community in Hawai‘i were honored to serve as the hosts. It was a phenomenal event. Even though the scholarship benefits Tailevu specifically, there were people from all over Fiji who contributed, and many Fijian communities throughout the US that attended the event. These attendees enthusiastically contributed to the fundraising efforts. Honestly, just to show up to Hawai‘i for such an occasion is already expansive …. and then to give hundreds or even thousands of dollars is incredible.

Attendees came from across the US – including Santa Rosa, Sacramento, different parts of the Bay Area and Southern California. There were also those from Seattle, Washington, and other parts of the country. Some came all the way from Pennsylvania.


Day 1 – General Meeting 

The 3-day event began on Friday evening with an Annual General Meeting held at the HRI (Hawaii Reserves Incorporated) conference room at the Laie Shopping Center. During the meeting Tailevu USA’s Chairman Inoke Qarau gave a report on how the organization is accomplishing their goals by benefiting the youth of Tailevu.

At the AGM we were also honored to have had the presence of Dr Akanisi Kedrayate the former Dean of the faculty of Arts and Law at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. She heads both the Adi Samanunu Cakobau Talakuli Scholarship from the US along with the Tailevu Provincial Scholarship in Fiji.


Two of the presenters at the Conference.

Dr. Akanisi Kedrayate (l) and Inoke Qarau (r)


One of the meaningful thoughts shared by Chairman Qarau was that this scholarship fund has already helped 24 students to successfully graduate from college. It has also benefited hundreds of other students throughout the Tailevu Province on the eastside of the main island of Fiji.

We learned that in 2023 alone, 20 scholarships have been awarded, 5 of which are going to students in Technical Skills Certification. On August 31st, 2023, we were celebrating our recent graduate, Alex Vuloko of Kaba, Bau, with a Bachelor of Arts in Social and Environmental Management from the University of the South Pacific.

The Tailevu Province has created a database of all of these graduates to assist people find qualified help for their projects.


Day 2 – Welcoming Ceremony, Fundraiser and Dinner

The main fundraiser event was held back at Kakela Beach Park on Saturday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The Oʻahu community, as hosts, provided breakfast and lunch. Fuganimapa, a member of the royal bloodline, was the chief guest. He is the grandson of Prince Tu’I Pelehake, the brother of King Tupou the IV of Tonga.

group of Fijian volunteers in a park

Kelera Tuinakauvadra and Moana Taito presenting the lei to our chief guest, Fuganimapa Veikune Tu’ipulotu.Seated by his side in the green shirt is Tailevu Scholarship Patron and High Chief Ratu Josefa Celua.


He expressed gratitude to the Tailevu USA community for their continued commitment in ensuring better education of the youth of especially from Tailevu.

A formal welcoming ceremony and a cultural performance were then presented. Most all of this was organized and presented by the Fijian students here at Brigham Young University – Hawaii. Many of our students also work at the Polynesian Cultural Center.


Fijian man at a food ceremony in the Fiji Village

Quarase presents the magiti (food ceremony) for the chief guest which consisted of one whole pig and approximately 20 taro.


Our guests admired our students’ passion and commitment to culture. They loved their presentation. Of course, there are large scale cultural performances held on the mainland, but the fact that our humble students were able to present such an honorable and expertly performed ceremony truly impressed all of our guests. We received many compliments on how well the Fijian community in Hawaiʻi had hosted the event. A big part of this is that even though we are few in numbers, the students really came through. The elders here on Oʻahu just had to guide them. They recognized the significance of this activity, and really took hold of it.


Sharing of Kava Ceremony

Atunaisa Seruvakula presenting the kava ceremony to our chief guest, Fugani Mapa.


The rest of the day focused on fundraising. They actually raised close to $40,000. It was an amazing event because even though the scholarship only impacts these kids from Tailevu, there were people from all parts of Fiji that came here and/or contributed donations.

That evening we enjoyed a beautiful banquet on Saturday evening at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. As usual the food was amazing coupled great music and good company. People did not want to leave the Tapa Tower ball room at the end of the banquet because they were having so much fun.


Group of men smiling at the Hilton Village

Left to right -Gentleman Ratu Josefa Celua Cakobau (Tailevu USA patron), Ratu Jioji Lewenilovo, Ratu Inoke Suguturaga, Inoke Qarau, and Taito Vuniwai at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.


Day 3 – Service of Thanksgiving and Closing Dinner

Sunday, we had a Service of Thanksgiving at the United Methodist Church in Kahuku. It was another successful event which ended with a dinner that evening. Pastor Tikiko Lesuma, who officiated at the service, emphasized on the vital role of being good stewards of our God given blessings. He complimented the events that took place the day prior. He also reaffirmed that this was an example of giving back to God’s blessing by educating and empowering our people to be great stewards.

Tailevu USA Hawaii committee members and their spouses attending the Sunday events.


During the service Ratu Inoke Suguturaga was also given an opportunity to share his words of gratitude to the leaders of Tailevu USA and all that supported and were in attendance for this year’s event. He also acknowledged the slim but supportive Tailevu community in Hawaii to include the students from BYU who worked tirelessly to make this event a success.

After the Sunday Service and dinner chairman Qarau brought a delegation for a thank you presentation to Ratu Inoke Suguturaga and his wife and the rest of the Hawaii community for the great job they had done as hosts of the 2023 Tailevu Day.

In his presentation Lepani Verebasaga the spokesperson stated that the Tailevu Province doesn’t have resorts, nor do they have mineral resources that residents can benefit from financially and get wealthy. But what they do have is its people who are well educated. Our visionary leaders think about their people and how they can inspire them to thrive in education and in their profession. That is Tailevu’s biggest asset or wealth of Tailevu.

This attitude of giving became very obvious from this event. People came from different Fijian communities from across the US. All of them live so far away from this little province, yet they came out and contributed to this effort. That is because of the relationship we’ve established with one another and because we recognize that our people are our greatest asset.

I am very honored to take the opportunity to share this experience because I have never seen such an example of selfless service. This is my chance to share the beauty of this event.

There is no greater fulfillment than this type of service. It is the giving of not only one’s time, but one’s resources. This weekend was the greatest fulfillment that I have ever witnessed. Most of the time we are into those things that we can personally gain from. Labor Day weekend, 2023 gave us all the opportunity to improve the future of our youth from the province of Tailevu.

Bula Tailevu USA, for helping us all to rise above and beyond our individual lives and to show our love for our heritage, our culture, and our people. And congratulations to our students for their humble commitment and excellent representation.

Note: The Siga kei Tailevu 2024 event will be in Santa Rosa, California.



Bio of Kalivati Volavola, Guest Blogger for the Polynesian Culture Center


Kali was born and raised in the town of Navua on the island of Viti Levu. He moved to Lā‘ie, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i in 2008 and graduated with a degree in business management at Brigham Young University in 2011. He has served in various roles and positions including management and now serves as the Chief and manager of the Fiji Village at the Polynesian Cultural Center. He has also served in the US Army Reserves for the past 10 years and is currently an infantry officer. Kali and his wife of 12 years, LeeAnn Mapu Volavola, have four children.