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Mr Yellow Ribbon Project Marika Boserau of Nabukavesi, Namosi poses with staff at the Korovou Prison in Suva.

Fijis Yellow Ribbon Project was launched last year as a means of creating awareness on giving a second chance to offenders and generating acceptance and inspiring community action to support the rehabilitation and integration of ex-offenders.

In their efforts to do something new, the Fiji Prisons and Correctional Service (FPCS) have become a part of the Vodafone Hibiscus Festival 2009 by fielding a Hibiscus King.

Mr Yellow Ribbon Project Ratu Marika Buaserau is standing up for those behind bars by being courageous enough to accept the nomination.

Twenty six year old Buaserau is not a prisoner himself.

The acting National St John Volunteer coordinator, he was recently promoted to Public Events Coordinator for the ambulance services provider and was publicly introduced by Prisons Commissioner Brigadier General Ioane Naivalurua last week in the presence of prisons officers, staff, members of the 2009 Vodafone Hibiscus Festival and the media.

He was thanked for standing up for people who otherwise bear only a burden of stigma. Commissioner Naivalurua applauded him for having the heart to fly the FPCS flag.

Buaserau, better known as Tuma, hails from Nabukavesi in the province of Namosi. He is the eldest of four siblings and spent most of his younger years changing schools because his father, a Hardwood Corporation Ltd employee, kept getting transferred.

For Buaserau, the Yellow Ribbon Project is a symbol of hope, giving a second chance to offenders as well as creating acceptance for them in the community.

Being a strong believer of truth, he says prison is no place for anyone and especially not for the youth.

When you are sent to prison, you become an offender and when you come out, you are labeled as an ex-offender, Buaserau said.

He says people carry this label wherever they go.

He has been on trips to Naboro prison and has had the chance to talk to inmates there.

Most of them have the expression of guilt and it seems they are really sorry for their action, he said.

YRP is like medication; some people will take it and it will heal them, some will take it but would need a stronger dose while others may refuse to take it at all and may never heal.

Taking part in the 2009 Vodafone Hibiscus Festival has become even more special for FPCS with the partnership of Adi Cakobau School (ACS). Naivalurua believes this is an indication of the support for the direction that prisons are headed in.

ACS students will be the pompom girls during the weeklong festival beginning Saturday and FPCS are glad for their help.

Buaserau is thankful for the confidence shown...

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