Taniela Balenaikorodawa

A brief history of your career since leaving the University of Birmingham

The Methodist Church in Fiji appointed me to its theological college as a lecturer in Christian Education and Mission. After two years, I was appointed Registrar of the Davuilevu Theological College (DTC). During the six years of work at DTC I was also appointed as an External Moderator to the Theology Department of the Fulton University College. Furthermore I became member of the Accreditation Committee of the South Pacific Association of Theological Schools, and Programme Evaluator with the Fiji Higher Education Commission. This is body for training church leaders and other committees in the church for programmes such as UNAIDS.

Skills and knowledge from your postgraduate degree have you used in your career so far

Critical thinking is an important skill for dialogue with people about the issues they face. Also the skill to recognise the contexts that influence people, and an understanding of different cultures, is vital for helping and empowering others.

Main work activities in your current role

I am presently researching an indigenous Fijian concept called "sosolevaki" (collaboration or working together) that I wish to implement as a pedagogy to transform and sustain Christian education programmes and ministries amongst the laity in the Methodist Church in Fiji.

A typical day in your job

My typical day involves channelling and reflecting on the ideas of great thinkers so as to determine my path. A large part of my research and mission consists of how indigenous cultural philosophy can be used to effectively liberate our church members (laity) while also transforming them inwardly through the process of "sosolevaki".

Main challenges in your role

It can be a contest with the side of “self” which undermines my own culture, values, philosophies, and ways of knowing. I have to remind myself of the power of ancestral knowledge and wisdom on a daily basis, which I think has helped to transform and empower our local lay members of the Methodist church.

Why did this type of work appeal to you?

There is currently an upsurge in social issues such as crime, deviance and delinquency, and it seems that large members of society, particularly the youth, are hurt, angry and empty. They feel the system has betrayed them, and that the onslaught of modernization has put so much pressure on them, that they are now blinded and lost.

Advice for students looking to enter this area of work?

We need to pay attention to the muddy ground ("soso"-in my Fijian language) where the ordinary people (or grass-roots) live. It is messy but has great potential for growth and transformation. Concentrate, listen, observe, touch, feel, persevere...