If you ask Relvie Poilapa what her greatest success is in her professional life, she will say it is working with VAN2017. “It was a group effort,” she insists. “It was only afterwards when the Pacific Mini Games was over, that I felt like, ‘Phew. It worked. Cool.’”
As the Community Relations and Events Coordinator for VAN2017, Relvie’s job was to “to basically build the momentum towards the Games.” This ranged from coordinating programs such as the primary school Champion’s program to organizing side events to launching Em Pawa on FM107, Vanuatu’s first show focusing on empowering women.
“People don’t realize how stressful it is when you are tasked to do a mammoth job with a limited budget, time frame and manpower and lots of criticism,” Relvie says. “Mobilizing people and maintaining that energy to lead up to the Games is not easy.” Shrugging her shoulders casually, she smiles, “But I enjoyed it. Yes we could have done things better but I am proud of what we did and learnt a lot.”
The mother of four children, who range from ages 4 to 17, says she has always enjoyed working and feels blessed that her family is supportive. “I would not be who I am today without my family’s love and support,” Relvie says. “I have the freedom and flexibility to contribute towards the development of my country especially in areas that are close to my heart, such as the empowerment of women from all walks of life.”
Since her role has ended with VAN2017, Relvie has returned to her passion in development, which she says is her greatest motivation. Prior to VAN2017, she worked at Peace Corps for 10 years and since early 2018,Relvie has taken up the position as Senior Program Quality Officer for World Vision.
“I am in a cool and exciting space,” she says, her eyes lit up. “I get to work closely with people with disabilities and I am learning so much. It really excites me because I am passionate about empowering people and seeing what we are able to do together. I see myself continuing to work with people with disabilities in the years to come.”
Relvie’s energy for her work has seen her spend a lot of time away from home and while her understanding husband gives her the flexibility to grow, she admits that her biggest challenge in life has been managing the balance between her work and family.
“If work takes me away from my kids, I’ll take my kids to work. In fact my son’s first work experience was at VAN2017 and my daughter was the poster child for the Champion’s Program,” she says. “I don’t treat my children as babies – I treat them as young adults and try to build a constructive and open relationship with them.”
It’s not just her family that she is committed to – Relvie is also involved in other leadership areas, including hockey. In fact, she was the first female president for the Vanuatu Hockey Federation. So how does she manage it all while still maintaining her humility and humour?
“My secret is accountability in all things. I know my limitations, weaknesses and strengths and I’m open about that. I let people know who I am from the beginning,” she says.
For young people who are trying to find their career pathway, Relvie’s advice is to always be yourself. “Be true to yourself. Don’t try to be what society says. Learn to take criticism constructively. Take time out to self reflect but don’t beat yourself up. If something didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. Keep moving forward.”
Yasmine Bjornum wrote this article that was originally published in the April edition of Vanuatu Life and Style magazine “WOMEN TO WATCH”. Please click on link to see other amazing women on the list!!