Archive for the ‘Jan 2013 (Waitoga)’ Category

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Nairai Island 5 week team – Vinaka to our volunteers and Waitoga village!

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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;

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Nairai 5-week team – volunteering and adventures in paradise

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As the sun continues to shine in Waitoga, we are all left wondering where the first week has gone. Saturday saw the team venture out on an adventure to a peak overlooking the whole of Nairai. It wasn’t too long until the heat and terrain kicked in but with some slight coaxing half way up everyone who set off, slid and scrambled their way to the summit. The trek led the team through plantations, rivers, waterfalls and provided some unforgettable views at the top.  As we had conquered the peak, it seemed only right to erect a TP flag as a mark of our achievement!

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The weekend continued with the team enjoying a day of relaxing with their new families and friends. Everyone has thrown themselves into this project wholeheartedly so the team definitely deserved a day to unwind and enjoy ‘Fiji Time.’ The Waitoga Church Choir also provided a humbling welcome for the team, showing how much they value each volunteer as a part of their tightly knit community.

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There were no Monday Blues in Waitoga as the team hit the ground running. Kindi is now in full swing with the kids desperate to get going, a far cry from the first few days as tears were shed as parents wished their kids goodbye at the kindi door. The energy and motivation from the team has clearly rubbed off on the children who have adopted the same passion during Kindi with the volunteers. Kindi has seen the introduction of ‘mini Olympics,’ ‘limbo dancing’ and ‘three legged races’, which the kids have thoroughly enjoyed. This massive turnaround is a reflection of the first team of girls we sent in so to Laura Beasty, Cat, Phoebe and El, a massive hats off to you! The new challenge will be to keep up these high standards.

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On Monday night our first team of spear fishermen and women, Lucinda, Cat, Laura Bevan (Bev) and Rob, ventured out into the Pacific Ocean armed only with a snorkel, spear gun and a very handy Fijian or two! Their haul was bountiful and even included some rather large lobsters thanks to Bev! Rob may need a tad more aiming practice with the old spear gun on the other hand. Not to worry though fella, we all still love you even though if it was down to you we would all starve! The spear fishing trip helped supply lots of fresh fish ready for Bev’s birthday and the whole team got dolled up and got ready for a good old Fijian party to celebrate Laura’s 19th birthday, a day she’s sure never to forget.

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In school, Ella has become an instant success with classes 1 and 2. Combining learning with fun games, Ella has helped the children improve their maths and English skills. A natural teacher! And controlling 5 and 6 year olds isn’t easy work. In class 3 and 4, Eleanor has been in there working alongside the Head Master and sculpting the young minds that are no longer just full of snot, sugar and smiles. In class 5 and 6, Rose D has been there holding down the fort and has made quite an impression as she was handed farewell cards from her class on the last day. Then we get to the ‘cool’ teacher that is Mr Alex in class 7 and 8, handing out words of wisdom, far too many quotes and a fair few songs. The last day combined the talents of all the TP teachers in a big sing-a-long with the whole school.

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The team have continued to impress on the build this week. Racing through the schedule, our Guru building manager Semi has been blown away by the team’s efforts and his in own words, the team have ‘smacked it!’ There’s been no stopping these guys! With Spice Girl day just one of the ways in which a Fijian build site is like no other (Sam you were definitely scary spice). Good craic, dodgy music, hammering contests all go hand in hand with the hard graft. When Josh, Rob and Sam have been doing heavy lifting and backbreaking work in the sun, where are the girls? Chilling in a hammock you say! No, our girls are not to be outdone by their male counterparts and are always able to match if not outdo them! So thanks to Sophie, Rosie F, Liz and Lydia (girl power!).  All joking apart the build has already grabbed the attention of the villagers so a vinaka vaka levu to all those who have put in big shifts.

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The team has also put their creative skills to the test in designing an array of fun and effective sports coaching initiatives. This has provided structured, fun training that many of these kids will never have had before. This has varied from building on their love of sports like rugby and netball, to introducing new activities such as dance and frisbee.  With all this sport it’s hard to believe that there is time for anything else. However, the house cup has also kicked off this week with the four houses in the school competing against one and other in art and photography. The team have been outstanding in helping the kids produce some cracking displays.

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Waitoga have certainly gone the extra mile for the team, and again have shared their skills and knowledge in showing and getting the team to make their own “belos” (a cup for drinking grog), making it an unbelievable atmosphere in the village. From ‘geooorge’ the kitten, named by the girls in the ‘ghetto,’ to making samosas with their mums, the team have well and truly become part of this beautiful community.

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Nairai Island 5 week team – Volunteering and village life

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After spending their first few days relaxing it was finally time for our January 5 week team to make their way out to their project island of Nairai and Waitoga village.

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Having been briefed by our Government partners and given a more in-depth account of what exactly to expect from their time in a Fijian village, everyone was extremely excited to see what would become their home for the next four weeks. The team were met on the beach of Waitoga village by almost all of the villagers and quickly whisked away to their new homes to settle in and meet their new Fijian families. Although it may be thousands of miles from their real homes, it really is a credit to the villagers how quickly they make our teams feel relaxed and at home.

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That first afternoon was spent doing a traditional sevu sevu (welcome presentation) to the village elders and a chance for the team to sample grog for the first time. After that most of the team could be seen being dragged around the village by the kids who were only too happy to help them explore their new surroundings. On Tuesday morning it was time to take the 20 minute walk along the beach to Waitoga School to meet the teachers and see the classrooms we would be assisting in.

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On returning to the village our new building manager, Semi, showed the team exactly where they would be building the community nursing station that will cater for both Waitoga and Vatuna villages. Although there is already a nurse stationed on Nairai, it is a boat journey away for the people of these two villages, which is why this is such an important project and top of the Ministry of Health’s list.

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The afternoon was then spent planning, which element of project everyone wanted to take part in for the first Rota. Laura B, Kat, Phoebe and Ell chose Kindi, Alex, Ella, Eleanor and Rose where in school and Rob, Josh, Sam, Lydia, Laura Bev, Rosie, Liz, Lucinda and Sophie where first to start on the build. Later that night the team were spending quality time with their new families and waitoga didn’t hold back. Almost every family built a shed to have dinner and grog in and the laughter could be heard echoing around the village.

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Wednesday morning was finally game time and the day the whole team has been waiting for since they first applied to come on this project many months ago! The build got off to a flying start with all the holes dug for the foundation posts and then concreted into place. Bearing in mind this is all done the traditional way with no such thing as cement mixers or diggers, it was a huge effort.

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Days 2 and 3 were no different either with the floor bearers all fitted, walls erected and the roofing trusses fixed into place before the end of the day on Friday. At this rate of going we will have the build completed with time to spare.

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Kindi can be quite a daunting experience as the kids; aged 3 to 5 don’t have much English. But with the help of two of the ladies from the village our guys soon got them settled into a routine, with circle time in the morning and then some number and color lessons before finishing off with a few outdoor games.

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As this is the first time Waitoga have ever had a kindi, the kids were extremely excited and could be found spending more time using our volunteers as climbing frames that paying attention to the lessons. But already after three days it is clear to see the sort of impact it will have and confidence it has given them. With ideas for making masks, and outdoor learning the next few weeks look to be very promising.

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With such high standards set on the other elements of project or teachers didn’t disappoint either. Even though the teacher for class 1&2 was absent, Alex, Ella, Eleanor and Rose got stuck straight in with some of their own ideas as well as doing some one to one with a few of the kids who are struggling in subjects such as English and Math’s.

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Fijian kids have an unrivaled eagerness to learn and this was clear to see in how quickly they responded to our volunteers challenging them in a different way than they might be used to. With themes such as ‘If I was President for a Day’ bringing out some great stories it’s exciting to thing of the progress that can be made over the next 4 weeks.

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As if the day’s activities on project followed by sports coaching in the afternoon wasn’t enough for our team, they then took to learning more about the traditions and customs of the people they have already come to call family. So Wednesday night was the turn of the village to teach, showing how mats, bracelets, fans, bracelets and even rings can be made from the leaves of various plants and trees.

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As with most social gatherings the grog was also in full flow and the night only ended when heads began to drop and eyes began to shut from tiredness. Saturday then saw the team take a trek up one of the many peaks on Nairai to witness some stunning views before making their way home for lunch and spend the afternoon fishing with their families. It’s safe to say Sunday will be a welcome rest day for everyone before the fun and frolics of project begin again on Monday morning.

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Nairai five week team – More photos from Leleuvia

Here are a few photos from the past weekend on the castaway island of Leleuvia.  Following the project briefings by the Fijian Ministry, the last few days have allowed our January 2013 five week team chance to get to know each other and acclimatise – Snorkeling, surfing, volleyball, quiz nights, rugby, yoga, beach games have all been enjoyed! The team have now traveled across to Nairai Island and their traditional Fijian village, and it’s time for the project and experience to really begin!

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Nairai five week team – Expedition briefing

Here are some photos of our January 2013 five week team, who started their expedition just a couple of days ago…

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After the long journey to our castaway island base, it was great for the team to finally be able to kick back and relax and get ready for all of the unique experiences which await them on Nairai Island. Gathered in a thatched hut by the beach, Think Pacific’s Project Director, Harry, and our expedition leaders, Rob and Euan, briefed the team on all aspects of their project ahead and the life that awaits them in the traditional villages.

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Ratu Komai represented the Fijian Ministry and gave an inspiring presentation on the long term objectives of the project and the immediate infrastructure, youth and sports development aims, which the team shall be achieving over the coming weeks.

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We feel it’s always so vital for every volunteer group to have a personal presentation by the Fijian Government and learn all about the background to the initiatives which Think Pacific teams achieve. It’s often not until this moment when the team really appreciate just what their presence and funding means to local people and their ambitions for sustainable development, and how excited the villagers are to finally have them arriving onto their island.

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Very soon, the team will be sailing across to Nairai, to meet their new Fijian friends and family and it’s time for TP’s first five week project of 2013 to make an impact! We have so much to accomplish, it’s going to be a hugely rewarding few weeks ahead!

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

January 5 week team begin their expedition!

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Just a message to let all friends and family know that our January five week project, and our third expedition of 2013 is officially underway!

Many of the team arrived in Fiji a couple of days ago and have been enjoying some beach time at Smugglers Cove resort.

Those who flew straight from the UK were met at Nadi Airport a couple of hours ago. The team are all together and currently traveling on route to Leleuvia Island resort (picture above) and the start of their Think Pacific orientation.  It’s a lovely 28 degrees and beautiful sunshine.

Our volunteers will spend the next few days on this stunning tropical island, getting to know each other, acclimatising and being briefed in detail about their project ahead from our staff team and the Fijian Ministry.

After so much excited anticipation, it’s fantastic to have finally begun their Fijian adventure!