Sai's story: DIY daddy
A year ago, Sai Naisua would not have seen it coming. A reliable truck driver who hadn’t missed a day of work since his working life began, Sai knew well the value of commitment and routine. Sai’s life, a year on, barely resembles what it did then. For this Fijian ex-pat who made Australia his home in 1989, a weekend in April 2008 turned his stable working life upside down. Sai’s ex-wife dropped off their five children (ages one to five) for the weekend as she regularly did. She didn’t return to pick them up.
The following week Sai decided he had to leave his job—not an easy call to make for this loyal truckie—and declare his now unemployed and sole carer status to Centrelink. It was a difficult yet somewhat liberating turning point in Sai’s life. His loyal spirit and strong work ethic deplored the fact that he had to give up his job but his father’s heart relished the prospect of being able to dedicate time and energy to his children. “I was forced to leave my job,” says Sai, “but in a way I was so happy that I was given the opportunity to look after my children. This is the moment I was waiting for.”
But Sai still had to think quickly about how to sustain his new-found role. Unable to continue paying rent on the place he was in, Sai also found himself facing the grim likelihood of being homeless with his five children. He put in a call to Wesley Noreen Towers where the children had previously been living with their mother. Would they be able to move back, this time with Sai? “I waited and then they called me back,” Sai said. “We were accepted back here and I was so happy! This worked out well for the kid’s education because they went to school here too.” It was the answer to prayer Sai needed. Now, he would be able to provide at least a roof for his children, get the routine going, and be given time to adjust to full-time parenthood. Wesley Noreen Towers provides accommodation for homeless families and is unique in that it offers mid-to-long-term residence options rather than the more readily available crisis accommodation for families.
Ten months later and the Naisua clan are well into the swing of things at Noreen Towers. And Sai, it seems, was born to be dad. He has thrown himself headlong and heartily into the role. For Sai his children come first. He immerses himself in all aspects of their physical, mental and spiritual development, tending to their needs with firm and gracious care. Mornings are spent preparing his two eldest children, Melania (now six) and Susan (five) for school and the next two, Sai Jr (four) and Niko (three) for pre-school. His youngest girl, Alisi, is currently in the care of her mother. While the children are at school Sai tends to the household—washing, cleaning, cooking, ironing—in anticipation of the whirlwind that will descend on him when the day finishes for his youngsters. Sai sees the benefit a good education can be to his children and is deeply committed to helping them achieve all they can at school—both intellectually and socially. He helps with homework and arranges for the children to practice their public speaking in front of the ‘audience’ of their family. Everyone has a turn at introducing themselves and talking on a topic. Sai explains why he does this: “I want them to feel comfortable talking to people, so if they have any problems in school or anywhere they live, they’re able to speak up. I want to communicate a lot with my children.”
Embedded into the rhythm of day-to-day life for the Naisua clan is spiritual nourishment. They read and study the Bible together and pray as a family. For Sai, it is his faith that has sustained him through hard times. “The thing that stays with me a lot is my complete reliance on God, my trust in him. It gives me hope and comfort and encourages me to fulfil my responsibilities and gives me motivation to love my family. It helps me to rely on my creator, especially with looking after the children. I know it’s hard and that people don’t know where to look for help and guidance. With the support of my God that I’m serving and also the support from the place where I’m living, now is really good.”
In Sai’s favour is his humble approach to parenting. It is this willingness to learn from others, to follow good advice, and to take up the offer of help when it is given that makes Sai a unique and tremendous dad. He is immensely grateful for the resources he has received through the Wesley Noreen Towers network of services.
He is quick to admit that although he is a single parent, he is surrounded by supportive people. He believes this support has made all the difference to how he copes with the heavy task of parenting his young kids. He’s even quicker to praise the staff of Wesley Noreen Towers who love and care for him and his children each day. They claim that watching Sai in daddy action is pure joy, and rare. They say the children have blossomed under his care. “This would be very hard if I was living by myself now but because of the services provided and support I receive, it makes it easier for me. It is hard work. It is very hard to bring the family up but to me, it’s very precious.” And it is this community spirit, this love of family and this strength of faith that makes life for this former truckie, do–it yourself daddy so complete.