FOUR months ago 20 youths from mixed racial and social backgrounds met at the Ministry of Youth and Sports building on Stewart Street in the capital.
These young people had been short-listed for what many of them said would be an opportunity of a lifetime if they were selected.
Two weeks later the chosen 12 from the 20 were formally informed through writing of their selection and asked to attend their first meeting at the ministry.
This lucky group has been chosen to represent the country on the 17th Ship of the World Youth Program, starting on January 10.
The Ship of the World Youth Program is an annual journey organised and fully funded by the Japanese Government.
It is a program that involves youths from countries all over the world to meet and sail on a ship for over two months for cultural interaction and learning new things.
It is goodwill program to foster friendships between youths.
Our national delegation has been meeting every week from the first meeting to prepare for this trip of a lifetime.
They have been selected by officials at the ministry because of their background in youth issues and their involvement in their individual youth groups. The team members are Lavenia Rokovucago, Jourdan Lee, Melissa Koster, Ruth Isimeli, Mela Vaniqi, Sitiveni Vodivodi, Saral Chand, Timoci Nanovu, Zainal Khan, Suli Sarosaro, Jone Baravilala and myself.
We will fly out of the country on January 10 for Tokyo where we will spend the first week visiting institutions and live with our homestay families for three days and two nights.
A week before departure, all the delegations from the countries will undergo a training program to prepare them for the next two months of life at sea.
After this training week, the members will then board the eight-deck cruise liner, Nippon Maru.
The ship will stopover first at Saipan from Narita for refuelling before proceeding on to its next destination Â? Sydney, Australia.
This will be the first port of call for the participating youths for the program and the programs for the visit will be organised by the Australian Government.
On board the ship, members of each delegation will be placed in their respective course discussion groups, which they filled in earlier last month.
Each participating youth chose their course group according to their areas of interest.
The course discussion groups are namely the cultural interaction group, education group, United Nations issues group and the media and information group.
Apart from the discussion groups there are other committees that the youth can join.
There is an English committee where the members guide a participating Japanese youth in learning the language or simply to improve their knowledge of the language.
The youths will take part in all these activities in between the ports of calls.
The second port of call is Wellington in New Zealand where we will be staying for five days.
After this port of call, the ship sails to Fiji, where it will dock for five days.
From Fiji, the ship travels to Guam and sails on to Japan where the youths depart for their respective countries.
The national delegation is studded with active individuals who have all vowed to be excellent ambassadors of the country.
The team's national leader is Lavenia, a youth officer at the ministry and has remarkable leadership qualities.
Melissa is a student at the University of the South Pacific and a volunteer worker at ECREA. She has been nominated by the group to be part of the national presentation committee on board the ship.
Jourdan, who is the assistant national leader, is the group's financial controller and has been very efficient in his duty in keeping the group's income.
Jourdan is always coming up with ways of adding funds to our financial pool.
He recently graduated from the foundation course at the University of South Pacific and was nominated for the trip by the Chinese Youth Group in Suva.
The next participant is Sitiveni Vodivodi who heads his Methodist Church youth group at Delainavesi.
Vodivodi is an avid rugby player who regularly plays for the Suva colts side.
Representing the Rotuman community on the trip is Ruth Isimeli, who was nominated by the Rotuman youth group.
Ruth is one of the most mature members in the group and is part of a volunteer conservation group.
Yasawa lad Timoci Nanovu is from the Raiwai Youth group and has been an active member of the group.
He is a student at the Fiji Institute of Technology and an avid basketball and volleyball player.
Our representatives from the West include Jone Baravilala, Suli Sarosaro, Saral Chand and Zainal Khan.
Jone is a youth officer at the Ba Provincial Office in Lautoka and was nominated by the Ba Province for the trip.
Saral is a very valuable member of the team for her skills in counselling.
She is a counsellor with the Family Support and Education Group.
Suli is a cadet officer with the regional development office in Ba.
Based in Ra is primary school teacher Zainal who does bee keeping for leisure.
Our lone representative from the North is Mela Vaniqi who is a volunteer field officer with AGLOW in Labasa.
With the country's expectations on our shoulders for the trip, each of us have worked tirelessly for the past few months to prepare ourselves for the trip to portray the true meaning of Fiji to the world.
Not a Fiji known for its negative traits but one that screams racial harmony, racial diversity and national peace.
It is our role as proud youths of this country to correct the tarnished reputation left by our elders and mould our Pacific island home into a heaven on earth paradise.
That is the message we will be taking to the world during this two-month trip.
Young People's Media Network - Coordinator
c/o ECMC (European Centre for Media Competence)
Bergstr. 8 / 10th floor
D-45770 Marl - Germany
Mobile: +49 176 23107083
Fax: +49 12126 23107083
Mailing list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/youthful-media