Peni Dobui

Client: Fonterra (Anchor)
Company: Pasifika Communications Limited
Role: Writer
Year: 2017

As part of the Anchor Pre-Launch Campaign in Fiji, I wrote articles about the inspiring locals that were used as advertorials and social media content. This story is about Peni.

Keep moving forward. Never look back

Even after losing both his legs in an accident, Peni Dobui overcame all odds and strived to make something of himself. He didn’t let his disability limit what he could achieve and became a farmer, entrepreneur and an inspirational role model in his community.

As a boy, Peni had dreamed of joining the army. It became his passion, so straight after high school he enlisted with the Royal Fiji Military Forces and joined the Territorial Force – who are only called upon by the army when needed. This involved travelling overseas for peacekeeping duties and returning home when the mission was completed.

In 1990, during his first week back from a mission, his cousin Manoa Suguta, asked Peni to work with him at a local construction company contracted to the cement factory in Lami. Little did Peni know, that job would alter his life forever.

October 8th 1990 is a day he will never forget. It was only the second day on the job and tragedy struck Peni and Manoa as they were involved in a devastating industrial accident. They were working underground when an unknowing co-worker turned on a machine that cut through the ground, killing Manoa and severely cutting Peni in seven different places on his legs. Peni was lucky to survive the gruesome accident, but his cousin wasn’t so fortunate.

Losing his cousin was hard for Peni to bear, but losing his legs and being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life was the hardest thing that he had ever faced.

Peni was admitted into CWM Hospital for 6 months, enduring pain and discouragement as he dealt with his injury and uncomfortable stares, before he was transferred to the Tamavua Hospital to begin his rehabilitation.

Peni describes his rehab experience as, “…three long, long years of my life.”

It was difficult for him to get used to his wheelchair and he had lost all hope until a Japanese physiotherapist at the hospital encouraged him. The physiotherapist taught him how to shower, use the washroom, travel in a vehicle and swim, even without the use of his wheelchair and only his bare hands.

While in hospital, Peni met the woman of his dreams, Vasemaca, who he eventually married and moved with to his village, Nasigatoka in Rewa, to start a family, a farm and eventually a business.

In the village, Peni had to put all that he had learnt during his rehabilitation into practice. He never once asked for help and used his bare hands to start his farm. “When my nephews saw what I was doing, only then did they come and help me,” Peni said.  Peni’s farm prospered over the years and he has even managed to open up a local shop and a water taxi business.

Besides his entrepreneurial achievements, Peni has always had a big, generous heart. Every year he sponsors the local secondary school’s big sports tournaments and the community’s Vunitavola Rugby team. He also mentors and personally tries to inspire others living with disabilities.

One example he gave was an Indo-Fijian man from Nausori, who at first lost his toe to diabetes and eventually lost both his legs below the knee. Peni visited the man and challenged him to be strong. Peni would always encourage him, “If I can achieve all these things, why can’t you my friend?”

Today, that same man has his own farm, drives his own car and owns a profitable watermelon farm with Peni in Lakena, Nausori.

All his success and hard-won triumphs Peni proclaims to God. He believes that his faith gave him the strength to keep moving forward and blessed him with a beautiful family.

“Whatever difficulties you face in life, always be ready to tackle any obstacles that come your way because it will enable you to keep moving forward,” Peni says.

Peni’s journey is an inspirational one, which proves that regardless of being disabled you should never limit your dreams or discourage yourself from having faith that you can achieve and do great things with your life. If you don’t believe this, just ask Peni Dobui. 

The shortened version posted on Facebook organically generated over 1.3K Comments and 18.1K Reactions.