Archive for the ‘April 2013 (Tovulailai)’ Category

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Volunteer stories – A look at Fijian life from Ally, Ellie, Christina & Chloe


The moment we left the airport all those weeks ago we all knew we were in for an amazing experience, one which we would never forget. From arriving at Nairai and preparing to join the community of Tovulailai, until now as we prepare to leave our Fijian family and new friends, we have been non-stop.

Daily project life can be challenging, yet extremely rewarding. During Kindi the children have flourished, from learning A B C and 1 2 3, along with singing and dancing. The hokey cokey was a classic favourite among the children and us volunteers. Their excitement and eagerness in the early mornings were all we needed to get us raring to go. Watching the twins, Kili and Josh excel has to be one of the most rewarding moments of the trip. In the beginning they only left their mother’s side to eat, but by the end they found their voices and their feet, always kept us on our toes. Despite the tantrums and tears, we can definitely say everyone has all learnt a lot from the experience. It was not surprising that the final day in Kindi ended in floods of tears. While Ally and Ellie were drying off their tears (Alice not so much), Christina and Chloe were hard at work doing the final touches of the community hall.

After watching the gradual progress since the beginning, we can honestly say blood, sweat and tears have gone into it. With Chloe and Steve’s logo design, the hall is now finally ready. There was never a dull moment, whether there was a mud or paint fight or watching the boys cheesy dance moves to S Club 7, every minute has been highly entertaining.

Our walks to school were sometimes a death trap but always enjoyable, the children’s smiling faces greeting us daily made it worth it. A combination of both house cup and sport filled our afternoons, bringing out the competitive streak in all of us (especially Harry). Some of our favourite moments were Christina leading the Dolphins to a public speaking victory with the Owl and the Pussy Cat, along with Ally and her Barracudas clenching first place in house singing. Busted would have been proud!

Our evening activities are always varied, ranging from movies, quizzes and traditional bracelet and basket making. Inevitably, they all ended in a grog session! When arriving in the village, we all immersed ourselves into Fijian life and culture. This ranged from sampling the local food (Chloe had her fair share of cassava), to spending the day fishing and visiting the local plantations with our family; Chloe getting the biggest catch of the day, Ellie. A highlight of our time here in Fiji was spending every Tuesday night with our family, our most recent family night was spent on Sucuni Lailai, a small island just off Nairai. The evening involved lots of singing, we all welled at Christina’s rendition of Caledonia (even Ally!). Of course no family night would be complete without plenty of grog and a massive bonfire for Christina to gaze at. Yet again we found ourselves performing the ‘cow meke’ which had our family in fits of laughter, although we’re pretty sure they were laughing at us!

We couldn’t have asked for a better team and especially not a better house. We’ve bonded through the hard times, such as rats and giant spiders in our rooms; good job Ellie isn’t scared! And even through our nits (the only downside to Kindi!) which Ellie has painstakingly picked out of our hair each night. But of course the good times outweigh the bad and now we couldn’t be much closer. Everyone’s made friendships that will last for many years to come. One thing’s for sure, we’re looking forward to a house reunion in Dubai. Look out Coleman family!

The time we’ve spent in Fiji has been the both rewarding and inspirational, and we couldn’t have asked for anything more. We leave in a few days, yet it feels like we only arrived yesterday. We’ve learnt so much from everyone here and their kindness and warmth is something we’ll never forget. Their ability to share what little they have with others and the gratitude they’ve shown us throughout our time here has been virtuous. We leave here feeling accepted and as members of the Tovulailai community. We hope to return one day, and know we will be welcome with open arms.

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Nairai – The final week of a unique gap year in Fiji

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Reaping the rewards for their hard work our volunteer team rode the emotional roller coaster that is the final week of their gap year project as they sang, danced and cried arm in arm with the villagers. The first half of the week was concerned with wrapping up our daily elements. Of which included the final decorative touch to the build, wrapping up our time in school and celebrating the end of an extremely successful Kindi programe. Following that the team had a crammed schedule of momentous events to attend with the school prize giving, Van’s birthday, the opening of the hall, the farewell Church service, fun day and hop hop party.

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A cameo appearance from Eddie and Steve on Monday got Kindi off to a flyer, whilst Imogen, Becca, Alice and Ellie took it upon themselves to throw a worthy finale for the first feature of project to come to an end. In doing so, they called upon the classics – playing musical statues and musical bumps. The kids had a ball, true to the nature of Kindi over the past two months. Well done guys!!! The sphere of learning has been smashed, made evident by the tears of the thankful mothers. In the three day week at school, Colin, Henry, Libby, Holly and Jess flirted between the three classes to soak up their remaining time as teachers. Henry, Libby and Jess utilized their time working mostly one to one with the children whilst Holly and Colin delivered some well received Geography classes.

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Strong rehearsals of the egg and spoon (cone and ball), wheel barrows, 40m dash and relays destined for an intense sports day. Our final day out on the Devetarua field saw the children compete for some pivotal house sports points, the excitement exemplified in a chaotic relay. Previous to the sports day, the team hosted a nail biting house quiz. Following the students rounds of questions the scores where tight, and the winning house decided upon by the TP round. It all came down to the final question…’What is the combined age of the team?’. Well done to the Stingray’s, performing best under the pressure through their super cool Seth. The farewell and TP prize giving assembly at school was one of the many moving moments in the last few days on the island. Selecting those who had worked the hardest the team handed out awards for endeavor, academic excellence and sporting excellence to the children. The assembly was introduced with a sincere speech from Mistress Lo who conveyed the impact the team have had on the school over the past eight weeks.

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On the build, giving the final coat of paint to the windows was Nathan, Christina and Chloe, on doors was Harry, Sophy, and Jack, whilst Steve and Hugo touched up the fascia boards and, Seth and Michael were called in to snip the strapping. Once all completed it was left to Steve to paint his logo above the door, with help from Henry. With the build project signed off it was time for us to celebrate our efforts with those we had lived and worked alongside for the past eight weeks. The official hand over of the build was on Friday with the opening ceremony beginning in the morning. Having decorated the inside with mats and its centre piece (the kava bowl) the hall looked stunning. Leaders Nige & Tom escorted Christina to the crowd gathered outside the hall who presented Ratu with the scissors to cut the rope following the speeches. With the rope cut and a traditional kava ceremony undertaken, the hall was set to be enjoyed. And enjoy the team did, consuming the rewards of their physical legacy in high tides, long into the night.

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Saturday’s event was exactly what it said on the tin. Preparing through the morning the team hosted a fun day in the afternoon with stalls, games and cakes to raise money for the village. Taking center stage at the event was the tombola, manned by Chloe, Ellie, Christina and Alice the stall which included donations of clothes from the team was a huge hit. Jess and Sophy brought the color with their face paints. Holly, Imogen and Becca sold the cakes which sold like…hot cakes, firing off the plates before anyone could capture a snap of them. In the gallows were Steve, Seth, Colin, Jack and Hugo for the wet sponge throw whilst Harry, Henry, Richard and both Micheal’s chased the coconuts from their coconut shy. Capping off a sensational day was a village volleyball match as the sunset in front of Tovulailai.

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The team were presented with a true understanding of the social impression they have left upon themselves and the village on Sunday/Monday morning.  Beginning with the farewell church service, the Ratu’s tearful words were spoken in spine tingling sincerity at the joy of his new hall, yet also the sadness of his new community members about to leave. In the evening, the team met in the hall for one last grog session, the one they had trained for many weeks, the eagerly awaited hop hop party.
Dancing until the sun shone the time came for the team to shake the hands of each villager and head out onto the boats. Awash with the tears that night is sure to be one that those involved will remember. Least to say, the days spent as the sons, daughters, brothers and sisters of Tovulailai shall live forever.
Winding down from their phenomenal sprint finish the team are now maximising their R & R. Lazing by the pool in the day they have set to work on salvaging their t-shirt tans. Reminiscing village memories has given them some perspective to what a time they were treated to by the people of Tovulailai.

Vinaka Tov! Moce!

PS. From the leaders, and all the team at Think Pacific, may we say a big Vinaka to the Tovulailai 2013 team – you left nothing in the tank!

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Sophy’s morning trek – Kaiviti style!


Early Tuesday morning Jess and I were awoken by the all too familiar cries of our little sister sunshine! We could sense it was going to be a big day so we were well prepared for our daily 7.45 briefing, today we would not be singing for the team! Stephen and Henry arrived at our home shortly after to collect us both and we were met with the dilemma of the day; shoes or no shoes? After a reassuring word from Wani, our guide for the morning, we opted to leave our shoes behind. Barefoot in the wilderness we set off for the plantation, water in one hand, camera in the other. Roughly five minutes into our travels it became clear that we had already made a mistake that morning, while trying to negotiate a muddy ditch it became apparent that shoes would have been handy… or footy? Nevertheless the four of us soldiered on despite Jess resembling Bambi on ice. It was a challenging uphill trek under the glaring sun and by the time we caught up with some fellow villagers we’d broken out into a serious sweat, lucky for us one of the many great things about Nairai is its abundance of coconut trees and before we could blink Waqa had shimmered up one and was knocking them down. Despite being conned by the notorious coconut man shortly after arriving in Nadi, I was willing to give coconut another try and to our delight it was one of our better decisions made that day. After a refreshing break we continued to trek through what I can only describe as a scene from Lost; not long before we arrived at the plantation we were met with the second major decision of the day, what to do next? Wani suggested we proceed up to the centre of the island and although his precious advice had been less than helpful we took it anyway!

An hour later, after a lot of crawling and a close call with two rather larger spiders and their webs we had arrived at our destination. This is when, simultaneously, we all had an epiphany; there was a reason we had come to Fiji, and this was it. Aptly dissembled by Jess as a view you would see on a postcard, some may say this was a pivotal moment for the four of us. Looking out onto the South Pacific with Gau and Batiki looming in the background and Vutuna, another village on Nairai, we realised that it had been well worth the walk

We began our descent, once we had taken in the scenery and after only a few steps we realised that this would be our greatest challenge of the day. As we wondered home, Wani and I were interrupted from our conversation by the screams and cries for help from Jess, Ste and Henry who were all now on their bums, another wave of regret struck as we realised how much easier this would have been in shoes. Wani and I enjoyed a good laugh at the expense of the others misfortune and as Karma would have it, moments later Sophy was also on her bum sliding down one hill. We stopped off at a ‘natural tepee’ with another cracking  view which Jess and I took advantage of, with yet another ‘selfie’, only to be disturbed by the high pitch yelps from Henry who was being attacked by ants. It was more or less the same story on our downward journey, lots of slips and lots of ant bites, which again could have been avoided if we had worn shoes! Even Wani, a hardened Fijian tripped on the way back, this was when we knew we had conquered something big. It was without a doubt one of the best mornings to be had and a great insight into the typical day of a villager.

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Volunteering in Fiji by Rebecca and Imogen


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.


Monday, June 17th, 2013

Nairai Island – Week 6 & 7 update from our volunteer project

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Project continues to flourish as the team head into the final straight of the expedition; the relationships made are stronger than ever, with the team now fully immersed into the Nairai community.

The task at hand for this week’s building team was to construct the windows and doors. Of which, Harry, Steve, lobby and Hilly, made light work of whipping three doors together whilst Micheal, Imogen, Ellie, Sophy, Langer and Hugo assembled fourteen windows ahead of schedule. As a result the tools were packed away by Thursday and the paint brushes made an early appearance to give the proudly built windows and doors a lick of primer before they were hung.

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Down at Devetarua Primary the teachers of week six were given big raps for their dedication, given the moist conditions they trekked through every morning. Alice, Jess and Chloe assisted in classes 1, 2 & 3 leading lessons in subtraction using 2 digit numbers and then progressing to 3 digit numbers. Seth, Nathan and Richard joined Master Simi in classes 4, 5 & 6 helping out with multiplication using 2 digit numbers and delivering science lessons on public amenities.

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Without the presence of Prince Harry, there was question whether the children could be contained in Kindi this week. Up to the task was Jack, Henry, Colin, Christina and Becca who controlled the ‘sphere of learning’ with inspiring amounts of enthusiasm for the little balls of energy despite nursing a couple of serious grog-overs throughout the week. Leaving their mark with a collection of arts and crafts displays that included the ‘sun leaves’ and a new element of the routine day – Tommy Tickle!

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Out on the sports field, the fans favorite Dodge ball maintained its place alongside Rounders, Hockey, and Volleyball. Although each Fijian is a naturally gifted volleyball player, this week Harry, Libby and Ellie have fine-tuned some of their innate skills, finishing in some intense matches. Sport’s has continued to grow week in, week out and the organized chaos can be heard throughout the neighboring villages.

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In other activities surrounding project daily routine, the grog has continued to flow at an impressive rate. Wednesday night was one to remember in The Waise Bar – swapping clothes for a hilarious evening of cross dressing much to the delight of the village. With special mention to the desirable qualities of Steve as the middle aged lady. Top effort!! With only two weeks remaining it has now become a reality that the team should make the most of their precious time here. With the return of the favorite house competition, house singing and the start of Meke practice next week we certainly have enough to keep ourselves occupied  going into week 7…

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The penultimate week brought about a lift in intensity from the team, grabbing every ounce of village life that they could. Week 7 has brought a house cup high, a fearsome rugby match, continued grog training and the ‘bungalow song’.

Carpenters turned painters this week and faced with the challenge of painting the 12m x 10m build three times over was Chloe, Steve, Nathan, Henry, Christina, Colin, Becca, Langer, Hugo & Jess. Working to their plan, the paint team achieved their daily goals of applying a coat a day. Dodging some inclement weather at the beginning of the week the inside was the first to be painted and by the end of the week we have just the windows, doors and steps to give the finishing touch to next week. Whilst the majority of the team jumped at the chance to paint up on the roof it was Henry and his overalls who continued to lead the ground force team – looking every bit the part as an experienced tradesman.

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The sphere of learning welcomed back two of its most treasured educators this week, Harry & Imogen. Working alongside Richard, Seth and Ellie this week’s biggest achievement in Kindi was the day Josh and Kili counted to ten and spoke all the days of the week with no assistance. Considering the pair only communicated through their eyebrow language in the first week the news is a huge reward for the teams efforts over the past seven weeks.

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The final full week of teaching inspired the teachers to achieve all they could and really leave their mark with the children of Devetarua. Hibby, reveling in class 1, 2 & 3 left her mark with a well-received morning of dynamic pedagogy when she took them down to the beach to draw shapes in the sand. Sophy also in class 1, 2 & 3 achieved some significant developments with the teaching of ‘the story of eleven’ and her handwriting workshops. Lobby, who returned to her beloveds of class 4, 5 & 6, engaged them with a venture into the bush to listen to the sounds, returning to write about their trip. Van and Jack, to quote, were ‘molding minds’ in class 4, 5 & 6 and brought some laughs to the classroom with their lesson of the clouds, hangman games following their English comprehension work.

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The house cup is on a high, building tremendously towards its finale, thanks to its crowd favorite – house singing. With renditions of Justin Beiber, Micheal Jackson, Jason Mraz & Busted the team worked beyond the port of call to rehearse their performances. A consistent third was the Stingrays, the Sharks portrayed their endeavor once again but, and the Baracuda’s pulled off a superb performance to blow Dolphins out of the water and take victory.

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On Saturday the boys competed in a TP vs Fiji match of 7’s whilst the girls cheered on and sipped tea on the side lines. The very strong group of TP boys came out all guns blazing to run into an early lead 10 – 0, but in what became a bone crunching encounter the villagers came back to win the match 25-15.
Burning the candle at both ends, the early mornings and late nights have been a theme of week seven. At no point have the team been more immersed in village life and heading into the final week they show no sign of letting up. Rest assured they will be giving it their all as they finish seven weeks of hard work in style!

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Nairai Island – An update from our volunteers in Tovulailai village.

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Our gap year volunteers are well passed the half way stage of their Fijian program and as part of the Tovulailai community, life for the team continues to get better and better. Whilst relationships go from strength to strength each element of project blossoms a little more. The build this week has seen both indoor and outdoor teams working tirelessly, resulting in both walling and flooring being completed. Chloe and Ellie have been perched at the top of the ladders all week, working alongside Seth to complete the Apex of the build. Inside Alice and Stephen have worked in a team, together with Richard, Henry and Nathan ensuring the floor can withstand ‘hop hop’ for our final night.

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Joining Harry, who has chosen to steer the ship in Kindi again this week, was Libby, Imogen, Jess and Van. The daily routine is well up and running and progression is evident as the children are now becoming more familiar with colors and shapes and Grace is leading the way being able to name the days of the week. Although Hokey Kokey and musical bumps still remain the favorite within the organized mayhem, Kili may have got a little bit too excited for Lego time this week!

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Class 7 & 8 are now more familiar with the majority of the volunteers roots as Jack and Christina’s lesson on England and Scotland proved a success, shown by the applause received for the their rendition of the national anthems.’Hol and Col’ assisted superbly with class 4,5 & 6’s English and Rebecca was joined by Sophie this week in classes 1,2,& 3 as the varied teaching styles continued to impact the children’s numeracy development.

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With Dolphin taking an early lead by winning both previous house competitions, all teams were hoping to make some ground and catch Harry and his team’s assault on taking a clean sweep of the House Cup. This week gave the volunteers the chance to nurture the next Sir Alan Sugar in the Young Enterprise competition. Engaging the children in and out of school hours in preparation for end of the week, school fundraiser, the pupils were involved in all the areas of enterprise including; design, marketing, production and sales.

The Barracudas with their tattoos and face paints stole the show producing a $60 profit, Stingrays’ stall selling fresh lemonade and massages coming second with $27, closely followed by Sharks’ banana and coconut stand with $22 and finishing at the opposite end of the competition for the 1st time was Dolphin who’s “fiji’s photo experience” failed to attract the locals raising $6. The huge success from all the teams stalls, combined with Think Pacific’s cake sale means the $100+ raised will provide the school with some welcomed stationary.

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It has ‘grog off’ this week in the Waise Shed, least to say the volunteers have been well and truly immersed in village culture most nights. Occupying the shed which sits outside Richard and Vans house many have stayed until the early hours of the morning, producing a few of our very own ‘grog o holics’. Saturday proved a fitting end to the week as the villagers treated the team to a day out on the untouched paradise island that sits in front of Tovolailai. After a jam packed week of project, the volunteers spent the day relaxing on the stunning hideaway, reading, playing volleyball and paddling around in the sea, whilst Seth, Nathan, Hugo and Colin continued in their new found love, spearfishing.

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The day was given a surreal touch when the team were treated to a memorable cultural experience. In true style of a Fijian picnic the villagers prepared a traditional underground oven, the ‘lovo’ and fill it with Pork and Dalo. Dining on a table mat of palm leaves the food was served with a side of chilli and lemon dips mixed inside a clam shell. Of which the team did not hesitate in demolishing!
The day will certainly remain as one of the fondest memories of the volunteer’s time here which was only improved by a joyful journey back to the village, with special mention to Libby’s attempt at some water sports of her own – a highlight certainly for the leaders.

With the team ending the week in such high spirits, week 6 promises to be an eventful one with Dolphins attempting to get back to winning ways with House Public Speaking and a rumor of Yavu village from Batiki making the trip across to come and visit the team’s progress. ‘Grogin ell’