Archive for October, 2013

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

October team update – Volunteering and Fijian life in Levuka-I-Gau village

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We’ve settled into Fijian life on the tropical and lush Island of Gau quickly. Despite the back to basics conditions and natural adjustments to island life, It’s sure to be the immense hospitality and unconditional friendliness of the local people, which will make this experience something so memorable.  The volunteer projects are all fully underway, with the team divided into primary school teachers, kindergarten leaders and builders and despite some days of heavy rain, we’re determined to get stuck into the project elements and achieve all the aims with bucket loads of fun and laughter along the way.

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The kids greeted the team with whistles and shouts of excitement, which helped settle first day nerves in the classroom.  It was a warm welcome to Nukuloa School and our volunteers did a great job getting to know the children’s names before taking control of English comprehension and mathematics lessons, which turned out to be a bit harder than expected for some of us!

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The school has simple facilities but a wonderful atmosphere and very friendly staff team. To find our feet we’ve been shadowing and assisting the Fijian teachers, this will move on to more adventurous individual lessons and new subject matters to tackle over the coming days.  Kindergarten has a small roll of ten kids currently, and the little ones were shy at first with their new visitors from afar. This soon vanished with the introduction of song time and frantic games and activities unfolded!

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The team have also been making their first mark on the building project, as work begins to create improved sanitation facilities for the community – by the end of our five weeks, the village of Levuka-I-Gau will have a brand new toilet block, with four toilets, wash facilities and septic tank. At present lots of digging and hard graft is being achieved each day as we start the construction, much to the villagers delight.

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In the afternoon sports coaching has been the name of game – with fierce battles of rounders taking place and eager children enjoying their first taste of new sports and activities.  With a huge Athletics meet in Sawaieke School for all of Gau islands’ village children, our team also got straight into the action training the kids tournament fun too.

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Evenings have seen the team head into the community hall to learn all about traditional Fijian skills, the Fijian men showed the team how to make baskets from coconut leaves as well as nooses which they use to catch prawns, while the ladies taught our team to make traditional Fijian bracelets and rings from coconuts. All great souvenirs for our team to take home with them.  In between the volunteering and cultural events, the team have enjoyed  heading for fishing and snorkeling excursions and venturing into the jungle behind the village as they explore more of their tropical new home.  Here’s lots more pictures of our October five-week volunteers and their experiences so far in Fiji:

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Levuka-I-Gau Village – Huge Fijian celebrations for Ellie’s birthday

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Birthdays are always a big celebration in any Fijian village, so it was great for all our new friends and families to join our birthday girl Ellie for her 19th celebrations last  week.  It was really nice after the weekend of settling into our new homes that we could all gather in the community hall for some feasting, grog and hop hop! Everyone dressed up in our formal wear – girls in their Jaba dresses and the boys in their pocket sulus and bright bula shirts, with Ellie being the belle of the ball dressed by her Fijian mother and father in a lovely orange and blue number. Ellie sat at the top of the table in front of her huge birthday cake prepared by some of the Fijian ladies beside the elders and chiefs as the rest of the team sat below. After a few words congratulations, some prayers and thanks from Ellie and a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ Fijain style we all tucked into a banquet of crabs, pork, dhal, lots of fish and the usual root crops and rice. The plates were then cleared up and we cracked open the sparklers bought by Geordi and Laura! Ellie had the obligatory first one in her cake and we shared the rest out between the children of the village. They have never seen any sparklers or fireworks, so it was fantastic to see their faces as they were truly mesmerized by them! When we returned to the hall the men had already set up the Tanoa (grog bowl) and we all sat down for an evening of kava drinking, singing and some quality efforts made on the dancefloor in typical Fijian style! It was a great fun night and we’re sure that Ellie will have a great time recalling the time she celebrated her birthday with over a 100 Fijians on this remote and beautiful island in the Pacific.

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Levuka-I-Gau Village – October volunteers make new friends in kindergarten

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Hey Georgina here with a quick run through of kindi – Whenever the group were asked what we were most looking forward to, one of the most common answers was getting to play with the kids, so even though we were only in school and kindi for the first two days this week, there were four of us really keen to help in kindi for those days. Myself, Cat, Gryllsy- Zac- and Mads were those four, with LuLu Bear helping out as our leader.

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The kids at first were a bit shy, but then as we got them singing and dancing and clapping they really started to enjoy themselves- and we did too. They went crazy over balloons, and admittedly the group members took as much- sometimes more- fun from the activities than the actual kids themselves. We had to remind ourselves the arts and crafts, singing and dancing- musical statues was brilliant- were ‘for the kids’. Despite this, we loved it and the Kindi kids seemed to love it too, and even asked us to stay and sleep in the classroom overnight- an offer we sadly had to decline…

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Levuka-I-Gau Village – Expedition team bonding and Fijian hospitality


I lie here writing this blog while listening to Angus trying – and succeeding – to convince Bambi [Georgie] that he and Swampy [Alex] are twins, as well as Luke and last night’s quiz leaders debating how well researched their quiz actually was [the area of Fiji is not 1.3 million square kilometres in total] and also while watching Sarah try desperately to catch up the two weeks she has skipped in the journal she writes in ‘everyday’ [according her diary she’s currently in New Zealand on a day trip to Cape Reigna]. Given that it’s raining buckets outside and work is cancelled for the morning, now is as good a chance as any to recall the highlights of our first ten days as a team.

From the very first meeting with the other volunteers and leaders luke, lee and lulu [Bear] it was clear there was never to be a dull or quiet moment with an early highlight the renaming of laura as ‘Raptor’ [laura -> loz -> lozza -> Velozzaraptor -> Raptor]. Not everyone arrived at this early rendezvous on time however with Fergus [later dubbed ‘Sid’ for his exquisite sloth impersonations’] arriving late due to the awkward fact that he missed his connecting flight from New Zealand by oversleeping. Four more volunteers were also due to join us arriving on an early flight from Los Angeles the following day. A stupidly early start the next morning saw the final members of our team meet us at the airport. Our final team list then [with correct at time of writing nicknames] is as follows… Giordi, Angus [Mr Burns, Old man], Alex [Swampy], Georgie [Bambie], Zack [Anakin], Zach [Grillsey], ellie, Madds, Sophie, Kat [Meow], Fergus [Sid], Laura [Raptor], Sarah [Sazzles], Khaloud [Camera shy], Victoria as well as luke, lee [It’s Lee’s] and LuLu [Bear].

Many of the most enjoyable moments on the trip come when we divide the group in half and pit ourselves against each other in vicious contests that test strength of limb, sharpness of wit and daring of heart. Of these contests two immediately spring to mind. During the team building phase of the trip a simple game of capture the flag developed into an hour long standoff not dissimilar to the Western Front. In terms of sheer heart pounding excitement however, it is impossible to look past yesterday’s game of rounders. In a match that lasted four innings, team awesome came from 6-1 behind to win a thrilling contest against team rubbish 19-18.5. It was Rounders from the top shelf; it was a true champagne moment. It was what dreams are made of. On the one hand you could say that rounders was the real winner of the day… but at the end of the day it was only the losers who were saying that.

Finally, no blog about Fiji would be complete without a mention of the incredible hospitality of the locals and the boundless enthusiasm of the kids. For people with not much to give in terms of things that are materially valuable, they have an absolute generosity of spirit that cannot be matched. In terms of the kids, any initial shyness quickly falls away to an energy and enthusiasm that literally never fades. Long after you may have collapsed in a heap on the floor the kids will still be jumping around you begging to be lifted up and swung around just one more time.

Anyway this post has gone on just about long enough and theres quite an intense game of go fish currently underway that I’m missing out on so I might leave things here till next time.


Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Gau Secondary School Project Update

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All elements of volunteering are continuing to thrive as our Gau September team head through the half-way point of their expedition. So many aims have been achieved for the community and schools already and the appreciation from the Fijian children and staff and the warmth and hospitality of the villagers has been humbling for all of us.  As our volunteers really hit their stride in their various roles, we’re looking forward to the final weeks with eager eyes.

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From teaching in Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary school to sports coaching and building; our team seem determined to leave their mark on Gau. Our volunteers on the building project have continued to push on with the walling and flooring this and the staff room is really looking in great shape. With the sun shining and Lara’s ipod providing the soundtrack, it’s been really productive week. Some teachers have refused to believe our guys have no experience building as its becoming second nature to them; hammering, sawing, chiseling, measuring, and laughing their way through the mornings.

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Meanwhile, our guys in school haven’t been afraid to throw themselves into lessons wholeheartedly. From the kindi gang singing their hearts out during song time, to our impact in the Secondary School broadening to Economic classes and advanced textile techniques, everyone deserves a pat on the back. With exams looming at the Secondary School, it’s also a great time for our volunteers to provide that extra attention to those who need it. Whether it’s at Primary or Secondary, all the children are desperate to have our volunteers attention and requests abound for our volunteers to assist in their classes and lead one-to-one help, reflecting both the effort our guys are putting in and the great impression they are having.

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Our team have now fully joined the community in Nawaikama village for the second half of the project experience and to spend some quality time living as part of the traditional community is proving to be a tremendous cultural exchange. Over the next month, we have lots more to accomplish and as we become ever more at home on Gau Island, it’s time to make the most of the final weeks and immersing fully into traditional lifestyle, with lots of activities planned with our Fijian friends and families.

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Volunteer update from the Think Pacific building project!

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‘This is a man’s world’ – Move aside, boys!

Or rather, shuffle down the rafters and chuck us the hammer because this week sisters were doing it for themselves. Myself, Annie and Beki were the intrepid three to clamber up the wooden frame to where no woman had been before; the roof of the soon-to-be staff room.

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Monday morning came and we huddled together, immediately regretting our decision not to go back to the familiarity of the classroom, while the boys swung themselves up and seemed to know exactly what needed doing, (I must add this was only partly true.) We took a safe ‘ground’ job, twisting rubber washers onto nails, until build managers Sami and Jay called us up. EEK! Why had we chosen build on a week where we were going to be permanently 4 metres off the ground?!

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However, after the initial wobbly legs and “hilarious” shoves from the boys, we did ourselves proud, learning how to brace the rafters with metal strapping. We got comfortable hanging off the roof at precarious angles so the nails went in straight, and how to saw a piece of wood to make studs. We became au fait with set squares, spirit levels and the importance of stringing a line to get straight rows of nails. By the end of the week, we were hammering on the corrugated iron roof, then congratulated ourselves, lying on the sun-warmed metal like contented cats, looking out past our comfort zone, over the luscious green valley to the reef beyond.