From a little Palauan girl of Medakeburs to a bright young woman working with the United Nations, Miss Jodean D. Ongelibel Remengesau has come a long way.
Throughout her educational and professional career, Miss Remengesau accomplished a lot in her young life. She went from participating in a regional spelling bee in elementary school, to moving away from home to Kansas as young girl, to graduating as one of the top students in her high school in California, to learning Mandarin Chinese in Pingtung, Taiwan and then on to attend National Chung Hsing University in Taichung, Taiwan, where she majored in Agribusiness. Two years ago, she became the Palauan national to be employed in the United Nations system at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as an Agribusiness Officer.
However, getting to where she is now, was no easy feat to accomplish. Miss Remengesau mentions experiencing bullying in school and dealing with family problems at home. She sayswriting helped her to acknowledge and process her thoughts so that she can continue to work hard in schoolwork. Recognizing how bright she is, her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Leon and Pia Morei-Remengesau. persuaded her to attend high school outside of Palau with first her Godparents, Mr. and Mrs. Scott and Jacqueline “Queley” Pedro-Magliari and then her brother and his family, Mr. and Mrs. Kedelaol “TC” and Rebecca Valoaga-Remengesau. Despite being away from home at a very young age and moving between two different states, “Ongly” was able to adapt to life in the United States. She said that living with relatives made things easier for her and she was able to excel in school. From her sophomore to senior year in high school she took up Spanish as a foreign language.
At the time when she entered the United States, Ongly was not given an I-94 visa and thus was ineligible to apply for scholarships to American universities. This did not deter her parents though, who advised their one and only daughter to return home and try for scholarships offered to Palauan citizens. As she was still unsure of a subject to focus, Ongly spent a year in PCC as an undeclared major which allowed her to take a variety of courses, including conversational Mandarin. In that year she also spent time with her grandmother, the late Mrs. Tokie E. Morei, accompanying her to funerals and running errands, such as grocery shopping. It was during this period of her life, says Ongly, when she noticed an alarming trend of how the source of increased and early deaths are rooted in the food we eat. She shared her insights with her parents, who further connected her with Dr. Suen “GS” from Taiwan ICDF who in 2012 was supporting aquaculture and agriculture development in Palau. He advised Ongly that perhaps the lack of business development in the agriculture and food sector is the reason for the low domestic production, marketing and sales in Palau.
With her interest in learning foreign languages and passion in study, she was awarded the MOFA scholarship to continue her education. Being away from home did not get easier when she was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Taiwan. As part of her scholarship award, Miss Remengesau chose to study 1 year of Mandarin Chinese in the southernmost tip of Taiwan, Pingtung, where Taiwan’s famous school for aquaculture is hosted and the subject she wanted to study at first. Being the only Palauan student in the most rural part of Taiwan with limited English speakers, she became very homesick. However, she says that through prayer and constant communication and support from her family really helped her out tremendously.
After completing Mandarin, Ongly decided to not pursue aquaculture and instead enrolled in the all English-taught, ICDF sponsored programme of International Agribusiness taught at Taiwan’s prominent agricultural science school, National Chung Hsing University. Students in her programme composed of Taiwanese and international students from countries with diplomatic ties with Taiwan, from African, Caribbean, European, Central and South American and Pacific Island States. Her major she says taught her the fundamentals of sustainable farm business accounting and business law, food safety, product marketing and sales and sustainable land management. After earning her BS in Agribusiness, Ongly returned to Palau in search of work experience in her field. Fortunately, with her parent’s help again she was able to connect with the UN Ambassador Olai Uludong who spoke of career opportunities open to Palauan citizens. Fluent in Mandarin and having worked part-time in the hospitality and service sector since high school, she was able to meet the minimum requirements as a Palauan national to qualify for an interview to the Agribusiness Officer position held in the FAO. Through the Junior Professional Programme, which aims to attract young professionals hailing from underrepresented countries of UN Member States, Miss Remengesau from 2017 to 2019 was based in Rome with the global Agribusiness team in FAO supporting country requests for agribusiness development support, in short terms, how the food business can be a long-term and sustainable form of alleviating people out of poverty.
She says it has truly been a humbling and awakening experience that has reinforced how fortunate and proud she is to be Palauan and come from a caring culture that leaves no one behind. One a word of advice to those pursuing different passions, she says strive to live a life with purpose, focus and vision with trust in God to let him lead you no matter how vulnerable you may feel, trust in him to lead you to your path, so that you may see and act on how you as an individual can contribute to nation-building and doors of learning opportunities will open up to you. (Telbakes Yano)