Time is flying by and somehow we reach the final installment and update to Waitoga team story! Immense achievements have been made and new friendships formed as we end of first volunteer project of 2013, it’s a sad goodbye to the Fiji Islands! Here’s an update from a tremendously rewarding two weeks;
Saturday wasn’t just any old Saturday in the Lomaiviti Province this week, as all 3 TP teams came together at Waitoga School for the “Think Pacific Olympics.” In the morning all 3 TP teams were merged together creating new mini teams with members from each group, as well as the unbeatable force that is the combined leader team!
Each mini team came up with a new name and team chant/haka to perform in a little opening ceremony. Then the very serious matter of Olympic events started. All those seen last year in the 2012 Olympics featured, such as wheelbarrow and leapfrog races. After a brief interlude for lunch, it was time for the Netball and Rugby to commence, supplying the afternoon’s entertainment. The girls kicked things off, with a few games of netball our girls showing off their skills with some inspirational play. All with the added obstacles of the crab holes on the court! The whole of the village came down to cheer on the team, creating a lively atmosphere throughout the day. The boys had a dazzling initiation into the world of Fijian Sevens as the men of the villages took no mercy on the boys. Big hits and slick hands were the order of the day in this affair.
Then to project, the real reason we are here (and yes work is done out here not just fun). In kindi the good work from the previous week continued, just with some new faces and a rota change, so up step Rosie F, Sophie, Ella, Rob and Rose D. Not to be outdone by the immense efforts of the week before, the team continued more kindi Olympic events as well as some great new songs and games for the kids. The team also got the kids’ creative juices flowing by making sock puppets as part of the kids’ arts and crafts. There was also an appearance of a multi coloured parachute, which the kids loved playing cat and mouse under, as did all of the big kids supposedly in charge!
This week saw the build still flying along with the finishing of the walling and flooring. Phoebe and Eleanor, the ‘Walling Queens,’ even climbing onto Semi’s shoulders to get the extra little bit of height needed to reach the last few boards. El and Cat dived straight into their first week on the build, seeing them rattle through walling until our two most vertically challenged members of the team couldn’t reach any higher and had to move inside and continue flooring. Alex, our final fresh face on build, dived in too and brought plenty of… Err.. Hmm… Enthusiasm. Only joking, “lad” you always put in the hard graft. All of this being supervised by our now basically qualified (Fijian style) builders; Josh, Lydia and Sam, who are always on hand to pass on their experience and new found skills. And here we are, the final haul that is painting with the priming of the timber starting this week too.
Laura Beasty had a step up in age from the previous week in kindi but only just. She had her hands full with the rug rats of class 1 and 2 but took it in her stride making full use of their excessive energy with fun learning games. Lucinda impressed in class 3 and 4, so it’s no wonder she wants to go on to a career in teaching as she had an instant bond with the kids in the classroom. Even getting the kids doing what may have been there first ever word search. In class 5 and 6, Bev helped any way she could, from taking her own lessons to working with small study groups who needed that little bit of extra help. Always on the lookout and keen for going the extra mile during her time in school. Liz in 7 and 8 took a lesson or two on her own as well and in one such lesson taught the kids about the UK. Did she focus on British Culture? British History perhaps? Oh no, Liz went for what she considered the most integral part of British life… a Sunday Roast (and who can argue with that!)
This week saw the House Cup include singing and public speaking. House singing brought out the best of the team and included an eclectic selection from Carly Rae-Jepson’s “call me maybe” to a MEGA Mash up! The team are also helping the kids with their public speaking so there is lots of practice going in this week in preparation for the final performances next week.
Lucinda was lucky enough to have a birthday while in Waitoga so of course the whole village put on a big celebratory meal for her. It’s always humbling to witness an entire community put so much effort in making a TP volunteer feel so special on their birthday. Monday night saw us perform our first ‘Meke’ practice, a traditional Fijian dance we are going to learn and perform in front of the village on our final night. And our 2nd group of spear fisher women went out as well and Rose, Sophie, Eleanor and Ella came home with some fish and a very large Lobster ready for the pot. The week finished with a short boat trip to a secluded beach on Nairai. The heavens may have opened and made the team feel like they were back on British shores, but this didn’t dampen out spirits and in true Fijian style, we ate freshly caught barbequed fish under a canopy of palm leaves put up by Semi and the Waitoga boys.
As we head into the final week in the village, our Waitoga team are making sure they make the most of every last moment here. Our emotional farewell church service set the tone for the final few days on project and in Waitoga. This TP team have been outstanding from word go so it’s only fitting we finish how we started! In school this week, lessons have been diverse and creative. Josh and Lydia got the ball rolling with a lesson on first aid. This even included some practical demonstrations on dealing with minor injuries. The impressive efforts continued with Cat and Sophie, who helped make some fantastic posters in class 7 and 8 about different senses. The guys this week have been intuitive and insightful in putting their own stamp on things so a massive well done to our last teachers, Josh, Lydia, Cat and Sophie.
In kindi, the artistic vibe is now in full flow. The kids have been treated to finger painting, crown making, and flower chains, to name but a few activities. These have all been done with the ever enthusiastic energy from the kindi kids. At this stage our guys have adopted the kindi mentality of throwing yourself into everything wholeheartedly (The TP way.) So thanks to; Laura Beaty, Eleanor, Bev, El and Ella, our final team in kindi. In just 4 weeks, the whole team have done wonders in kindi and we finish knowing everything is in place for the Fijian women to continue this great work!
We had our third and final birthday of project this week, where Laura Beasty showed us that age is just a number after celebrating her 30th. Due to Laura’s Fijian dad being the Ratu of Waitoga, she received an appropriately sized celebration! Once again, great food was followed by plenty of grog.
The build is all but done, with the team adding those finishing touches. The TP builders may have been covered head to toe in paint this week but the results have been superb! Whether it’s Sam, Lucinda, Phoebe or Rob painting the roof, or Alex and Liz tidying up downstairs, the guys have been smashing. Rose has even made it up on the roof, conquering her fear of heights to contribute to making this an epic build! The build obviously wouldn’t be finished without a TP logo so up stepped the artistic displays from Ella. Ella completed our TP logo with little more than some leftover paint and pipe cleaners, creating a Fijian-style masterpiece! (Bravo Ella). Everyone has made it onto the build at some point throughout the project, so we have to say a massive thanks to all who put the effort in. From hot sunshine to tropical downpours, the guys haven’t been fazed and always worked hard with a smile on their faces, making the build a great place to be during project.
So project as far as kindi, school and build go is over but there’s still plenty of work to be done in Waitoga before we leave. We made our final trek to school to hold the House Cup finals day as well as a fundraiser thrown in. The morning saw the team and the kids warm up their old vocal chords and smash out a song each with a unique Fijian take. The guys didn’t hold back and sang songs fit for the radio! This was followed with some public speaking from classes 3-8, with a nominated speaker from each age and house. Lots of the village came down to cheer on the team and the children in a great day. An early finish for lunch and some sweets, juice, and bracelets sold to raise extra cash for new equipment for the school then saw our attention turn to an afternoon of sports. The kids kicked things off with a dodgeball tournament. This has become an instant favourite and it could become the new national sport the kids love it so much! Some relay races followed and our eventual house cup winners Yaka crowned overall champions in a very tight competition.
Our girls then took on the Fijian ladies in a light-hearted game of volleyball but were no match for their Fijian mums. A quick game of sevens followed for the boys, again played in good spirits. Alex, Josh and Rob becoming very comfortable on a Fijian rugby pitch. Then home for a final family night before a mad final Fun Friday to finish, and the mother of all parties.
The final day started with an official opening of the hall followed by a classic Waitoga cake break and then the Waitoga marching band appeared to parade around the village to celebrate. Our team grabbed anything from empty paint tins to sticks and wood and joined the Fijians in marching around Waitoga, a sight never to forget. An impromptu ‘dance-off’ even featured during the opening ceremony! In the afternoon the fun kicked off with more cake, a coconut shy, smack the rat, and a treasure hunt that even the men of the village were hell bent on finding. And like that the last day is done! An incredible final night began with our team finally performing our Meke to the village, and even treating them to the delights of the ‘Macarena.’ Lots of grog and dodgy dancing were the foundations to a great night. The term ‘dancing’ is used loosely in this sense as most the team adopted… err… ‘alternative’ dance moves, but as the old saying going, “it’s one thing to dance with your feet, it’s another to dance with your heart.” Laura Beasty was also our latest volunteer to avoid the ‘robo-cop’ haircut by staying up all night.
And on that note, we reach the end of our amazing time in Waitoga. An emotional goodbye on the beach saw us set sail off into the pacific. Waitoga will always hold a special place in our hearts as will our new Fijians family and friends. Its been an incredible adventure so a vinaka vaka levu to our team and Waitoga!