From the moment we arrived into the village we were welcomed fully into our Fijian families and the whole village community. Every time you walk through the village you’re invited into the homes of families for a cup of tea and a good chat. It’s incredibly easy to make friends with Fijians, with their amazing kindness and lively sense of humour.
On project the days start early and are pretty busy. I spent most of my time split between the build and Kindi. I loved seeing the building take shape over the weeks and felt a great sense of achievement when it was completed. It’s clear how much it means to the villagers as they came down just to watch us work every day and always thanked us when we finished up for the morning. Kindi is so rewarding because the kids are so excited to learn and are always full of energy. Their English improved so much over the 8 weeks we spent with them. It’s hard to say who ended up having more fun, us or the kids, but one thing’s for sure, everyone leaves Kindi with a smile on their face. The afternoons are spent in school doing House Cup and sports. Everyone throws themselves into things they might not normally, which can be both hilarious and embarrassing, but mostly hilarious. Evenings are spent relaxing with our friends, both from the team and the Fijians. We’ve done quizzes, had movie nights and drank a lot of grog.
The way to get the most out of this experience is to fully immerse you self into the culture and not be afraid to try new things. Some of my favourite memories from my time in the village were our ‘kaviti day’ where we went to the plantation and then out fishing with our family, a trek to up to a waterfall, playing community sports against the Fijians and of course, drinking grog. I can’t say enough how quickly the time goes on project. The last week arrives before you know it and everyone leaves desperate to go back. It’s undoubtedly been the best ten weeks of my life I can’t wait to come back and see my Fijian family and friends again.
Looking back after being here for 7 weeks, I honestly cannot describe how much I have enjoyed my time here on the island I now can call my second home. Before I came, I was daunted at the prospect of being thrown in the deep end, by living on an island that was so different from my life back home. From the moment I arrived I knew that it wouldn’t take me long to settle into the Fijian lifestyle.
For starters, the Fijian people are the friendliest, most caring characters I have ever met. There is just something about their humour and attitude that is so warm. From day one I knew that my Fijian friends would develop into being my Fijian family. However, it is not just the Fijian people that have made this trip so good; it’s also the people in my Think Pacific team. We are all now just like a big family, which is comforting as being away from home can be hard for some people.
The choices on the project are the best thing about being here; you can choose what you want to do each week, which means you will get a lot more out of your trip as you can decide for yourself. I thought I would fully immerse myself into trying everything week by week. So far I have battled through the good weather to face building the community hall in the heat, I have been beaten by the energy of the younger children at Kindi and I have also tackled the language barrier by teaching at the local primary school. The 4 weeks I spent at Kindi will be 4 weeks of my life that I will certainly not forget. We organised activities such as face painting, sand pictures and of course, singing a few classic nursery rhymes such as ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ and ‘the wheels on the bus’. The most rewarding thing about Kindi is that the children’s English improves a great amount. In the last few weeks you see a drastic improvement in the way they speak and the way they react to what you are saying. My 2 weeks on the build were enjoyable; I chose to do the build in the last few weeks which was mostly painting. It is really nice to see the build starting from nothing and ending in the community hall that will be used for many years. School can be challenging at times because of the different levels of teaching, but it has such a positive impact on the children that we are there to help. I spent most of my school time with class 1,2 and 3 and they were all so eager to learn which gives you the confidence to teach full lessons by yourself. It’s the little things at school which make a difference, like teaching them how to write out numbers or to speak the alphabet in Fijian and English.
Being in Fiji has made me realise that it is not about what people have, it is what they make of it and the Fijians certainly do just that. My time here has been incredible and the lay out of the project is one of the reasons I have enjoyed it so much. I cannot believe that next week I am leaving, but it is encouraging to know that I have touched the lives of the children and adults here and managed, as a team, to build a new community hall which will bring the village even closer. I wish to return back to Nairai in a few years, but for now, I am very pleased with the help my team and I have provided to the community.