Sekonaia Kotobalavu could not hold back his emotions as he moved into his new home in Kalabu, in Nasinu, yesterday.
Funded by the Viti Spinal Injuries Association of Fiji (VSIAF), the home was built by the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces (RFMF).
The $24,108 home is a dream come true for Mr Kotobalavu.
Mr Kotobalavu, 36, of Tovu, Totoya in Lau has been living with a spinal injury for over 14 years in a squatter settlement at Wailea, Vatuwaqa, in Suva.
As he arrived in Kalabu on Friday to officially receive the keys to his home, Mr Kotobalavu said he could not wait to move into his new home with his parents, who have been supporting him since his injury
“It is a joyful day for me and to tell you the truth, last night I only slept for two hours because I was really excited to come to my new home today (yesterday),” he said.
It was in 2002 that Mr Kotobalavu went swimming during the festive season with his sister in Macuata.
He had dived into a river and hit his head on a rock.
In 2008, his right leg was amputated. He has a dislocated hip and has been confined to bed since then.
His family has been taking care of him.
He lives with his 66-year-old father Isireli Niu and 65-year-old mum Tailasa Moria.
Mr Kotobalavu said the move to his new home has taken a while but he had been patient.
Mr Kotobalavu said he had contacted a number of businesshouses, government ministries and NGOs informing them of his struggle but there were no responses.
“I struggled a lot in seeking help, most of them made false promises, they said they would contact me but nothing happened.”
He said it was in 2016 that he contacted VSIAF for assistance citing his daily challenges when living in a run-down one-bedroom makeshift house.
“When I received the news of a new home, it was like a dream come true for me, because I have been struggling for so long,” Mr Kotobalavu said.
“I was overwhelmed when the news arrived that the house has been completed. I salute everybody, especial VSIAF, for its contribution, love and care,” he said.
Mr Kotobalavu also acknowledged the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) engineers for the construction of his home.
Over the years, Mr Kotobalavu has been facing the full brunt of flash floods in the flood-prone Wailea settlement.
He said after his father had retired as a fisheries officer based in Labasa the family then moved to Wailea.
Kalabu landowners, outside Suva, then gave some land on which the new home is built.
VSIAF president Paul McGoon said the new house was the first project of its kind for the foundation which previously focused on renovations of homes to ensure wheelchair accessibility.
The association was optimistic that the new home would be the beginning of a new chapter for Mr Kotobalavu and his family.