Legacy Award winner symbolises the spirit of Girmityas

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Fiji Girmit Foundation honours Sulendra Raju

Legacy Award winner Sulendra Raju speaking at the Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand Remembrance Day in Auckland on May 14, 2022 (Picture Supplied)

Thakur Ranjit Singh
Auckland, June 11, 2022

Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand decided to introduce the Girmit Legacy Awards because there has been no such recognition for Fiji Indians overseas who tended to get statistically diluted and lost in the ‘Indian’ and ‘Asian’ categories.

Therefore, only a Girmit (indenture) organisation, vested with taking care of Fiji Indians could really appreciate, value and recognize their gems.

Therefore, Girmit Legacy Awards were launched to recognise the achievements of the descendants of Girmityas for bringing pride, joy, a sense of belonging and social cohesion to what Girmityas have bequeathed us: A distinct Fiji Indian race, with a distinct language, culture and attachment to Fiji, and while rooted in India and Indian ancestry, still being part of a distinct Pacifica people, namely, Fiji Indians.

Girmityas glorified

The only Girmit Legacy Award given this year on Girmit Remembrance Day held on May 14, 2022, was to an individual who mirrored the image of our Girmityas in more than one way.

The great Fiji Girmit historian Professor Brij Lal (who died in Brisbane on December 25, 2021) spoke about descendants of Girmityas, who inherited the legacy of perseverance from them – we never give up and we never compromised, even in tough times. And that came from people who travelled thousands of miles in difficult circumstances and endured.

This is the legacy of Girmit that I think we have been celebrating with Girmit Remembrance Day in the Fiji Indian Diaspora around the world.

The Foundation of Girmit Day in Auckland celebrated the legacy of an ordinary person who did extraordinary things in extraordinary times.

About Sulendra Raju

This very fittingly applied to Sulendra Raju, known as Raj.

Raj is the Director of All-in-One Builders Company Ltd, a successful construction company based in South Auckland. The company builds close to 200 residential houses every year and employs more than 75 people.

In addition, he also proudly owns a number of other businesses such as All in One Kitchens, including Cakes and Fast foods, All About Paintings Ltd, and Priyanka Property Developments and Investments Ltd.

Displaying diversity from his Pacific Islands heritage from Fiji, Raj is married to Mami Raj, who hails from the Cook Islands. They are blessed with eight beautiful Pacifica children.

Born in a dusty village of Savusavu in Nadi to poor market vendor parents, he helped them in selling vegetables and peanuts in the Nadi market. He supplemented his family’s income by driving carrier vans. The legacy of Girmit culture is to have a vision and think big – he wanted to go into the medical field but could not afford it.

Modest beginnings

He came to Wellington in 1995 with only $5 in coins.

Like our Girmityas, he went through great struggles and difficulties in life in a strange new country. But like our Girmityas, he never gave up.

He later moved to Auckland and worked in a gas station where he met Mami, his wife, and continued struggles in life together. He went to Hastings, picked fruits, did other small jobs and ultimately moved to Auckland, started in a small way in painting, and renovations and in 2009 he made the big decision to venture into the building and construction industry.

While working, he pursued studies at the Manukau Institute of Technology to qualify for carpentry. Raj is now a licensed building practitioner and registered with Master Builders Association.

He never forgot his humble roots. He always had a heart for the vulnerable and the less fortunate in the community.

He came into the news because of tragedies and misfortune in our community. When the devastating and damaging Cyclone Winston hit Fiji, Raj provided more than $80,000 worth of building supplies and rebuilt homes in affected areas.

Hero of Tornado Relief

He is best known as the hero of Tornado Relief in Papatoetoe, Auckland last year.

Raj assisted in putting tarpaulins and temporary shelter for the community at a combined cost of over $20,000 to his business.

He provided relief to the poor people affected by lockdown in Covid and spent over $100,000 in providing thousands of food parcels.

He helped the victims of the Tsunami in Tonga, helped vulnerable children in Fiji, assisted in vaccination drives, and assisted numerous other charities and sporting clubs.

He was awarded the Kiwi Bank New Zealander of the Year Medal this year.

While Raj makes us proud, the Legacy Award reminds us to respect and reflect on the heritage left by Girmityas.

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Kiwi Fiji Indian journalist, media commentator and blogger, based in Auckland. He is a third-generation Fiji Indian and grandson of an indentured labourer from Rajasthan, India. Email: thakurjifj@gmail.com

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