Archive for August, 2015

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

Build Achievement – Toilet Block & TNK Office Officially Opened in Waitoga Village on Nairai Island!

Nairai June Team - Build Opening (16)

It was a very proud moment both for our volunteer team, and the community of Waitoga on Nairai Island, as their brand new toilet block and TNK office facilities were officially opened! After 8 weeks of effort on site, side by side with the village members, the communities vision of improved sanitation and good governance were realised as the ribbons were cut, a moment made possible through the funding of our volunteer teams, and an occasion that brought great joy and celebration.

Nairai June Team - Build Opening (4)

The ceremony began with a word of prayer led by the ‘talatala’, or Church minister, followed by a few words from the Think Pacific leaders, before the buildings were handed over the the village ‘Turaga ni Koro’ for the cutting of the ribbons by the elders.

With the ribbon cut and the doors open the community and team took a moment to enjoy the fruits of their labour, before a huge spread of tea and cakes were delivered by the Waitoga ladies for all to enjoy. As the community finished their tea, the team prepared for their mekes by changing into their traditional attire,  and as the mekes began the volunteers did not disappoint! The crowd wooped and cheered, with a lady even joining Adrien ‘on stage’ as he performed, much to the delight of all those watching.

Nairai June Team - Build Opening (22)

With the mekes completed the team sat down to an incredible feast as a farewell dinner, before enjoying one last grog and ‘hop hop’ party with their family and friends in Waitoga. The community have been truly incredible for our volunteer team, and as they left the shores of Nairai the very many fond memories of an immense 9 weeks were at the forefront for all. Vinaka vaka levu Waitoga…’sota tale’!

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

Nairai June Team – An emotional farewell at the Waitoga Village School; ‘We have learnt so much from these children which we shall take with us for the rest of our lives!’


We started the morning of the House Cup Finals rehearsing with the children. At recess the school held a tea party for the team to thank them, and also farewell them since the following week would be the school holiday.

Once the parents arrived we had a leaving assembly in which the children sang, and performed some items that they have prepared. The headmaster also gave a thank you speech, before we started the House Cup by announcing the result of class 1-2 art competition. We went straight on to class 3-4 for house singing on a song called ‘Don’t stop me now’. For public speaking 3 representatives from class 7-8, from the 3 different houses Drekeni, Saqa and Bati, recited the speech from The Dictator, and all did extremely well.


Lulu then announced the winners for young enterprise, with Team Drekeni storming to victory with their toffee sales, as team Bati came second with their treasure map and services closely followed by Saqa, who did basket tea.

We then took the children outside to watch class1-2 perform their sketch of the three little pigs, and we finished the ‘indoors’ competitions with the class 5-6 performances for house dance, with routines put together by the team!


After a short break we went straight into the finisher… the sports finale! The team performed with their teams on wheelbarrow race, sack race, three laggard race, clothes race and finished with the tug of war, and there was plenty of cheering throughout, with the Bati remaining undefeated!

Despite their performance in the tug war Bati’s finished in 3rd place overall in the house cup, with Saqa coming 2nd and Drekeni securing the victory! The House captain got presented with the trophy, and the team also took the opportunity to present a donation of sports equipment to the school. The school then sang a farewell song, and tt was very sad to say goodbye to the students after 9 incredible weeks. We have learnt so much from these children which we shall take with us for the rest of our lives!

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Ra July Team – ‘We have all had an incredible time in Fiji and will remember the memories of our experience of Fijian culture forever!’

Pic 1 - Last Day

Unfortunately, like all good things, our time in Namarai had to come to an end. The last two days in Namarai gave us a last chance to enjoy the village and to spend time with our new families. Thursday was family day and the plan was to spend the day at the beach with our families. To get there, some of the more adventurous families took bamboo rafts; others took the more comfortable option of a boat with an engine.

Once at the beach, there were a variety of different activities undertaken including football, rugby, snorkelling and fishing (very relaxing indeed). We then had a spot of lunch which included some freshly caught fish which was very pleasant.

Pic 2 - Last Day

Getting home was a little more difficult than we may have thought. Some took bamboo rafts, one of which broke its paddle half way back meaning they had to get out and push (well, jump in and push).They say a broken clock is right twice a day…in Fiji, a broken clock can be right all day and, true to form, the boat was an hour and a half late. Still, there are worse places to be stuck on than a beautifully sandy beach in Fiji!

In the evening, we had our official leaving ceremony, it was a day early due to the next day being the sabbath. The whole village gathered in the community hall to celebrate the occasion. There were passionate speeches from both the village elders and the think pacific leaders thanking each other for everything that had been done over the last few weeks. Then everyone sat down to have a meal together, each family preparing and contributing dishes to the overall platter.

Pic 3 - Last Day

Once the meal was finished, it was the volunteers’ time to shine. We all went to get changed into our traditional Fijian garb consisting of plant skirts, bracelets, anklets and head decorations. We then performed our meke (a traditional Fijian dance) we had been rehearsing over the past few days which went down very well. There was an unexpected ‘freestyle’ which slightly flummoxed some. However two members in particularly grabbed the opportunity with both hands, delighting the crowd with their, shall we say ‘unorthodox’ moves. We finished the evening drinking kava and dancing with the villagers.

Friday was our last day in the village so we chose to visit the waterfall nearby as we had earlier in the trip. A swim there was very refreshing after the half an hour walk up on a hot day. We returned to our village to finish packing and relax in the afternoon before our final evening spent with our families. Half the group had a big dinner together where it got very emotional when it became clear how much we and our families would miss each other. After dinner we returned for a final evening of kava drinking, and then to bed before our departure day. The other half of the group experienced a dinner cooked in a lovo oven – a traditional Fijian underground oven. The chicken gave KFC a run for their money! Their evening was also followed by kava drinking lasting until 2am.

Pic 4 - Last Day

Saturday morning was the most emotional time as our final farewells were said to our families before our bus departed Namarai for the last time. We have all had an incredible time in Fiji and will remember the memories of our experience of Fijian culture forever. Finally, a big thank you to our leaders Saki and Solo for keeping us laughing, and to Namarai village for the amazing hospitality and making our trip so memorable.

By Holly and Tom

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Ra July Team – Speeches, mekes, feasts and grog & hop hop as Nokorotubu District School farewell our volunteers!

Pic 1 - School Farewell

Our last week at school came to a close last Friday, finishing with a farewell ceremony the school had prepared for us. Not only were the school involved but mothers, fathers and village elders from the different villages came down to say their farewell and thanks. (The men, of course, were celebrating by drinking grog from the early hour of 11am!)

Still recovering from the injustices of the house cup the 10 of us were seated in a row on wooden chairs outside the school. To start off, a group of the kids presented us with beautiful wreaths to wear with attached trains made from brightly coloured flowers, leaves and wooden shavings. To follow, the Deputy Head said a moving few words of thanks to us which, I believe, brought a tear to all our eyes as it sunk in how much the school had appreciated and enjoyed having us for the past three weeks.

Our nominated speaker, Jack, then offered some words of thanks to the school. Afterwards the kids came forward with lots of handmade gifts from the families of children in the school from all the different villages. It is easily said that some of these gifts were incredible. They ranged from palm leaf woven bracelets, baskets and fans to intricate stitching on handmade mats and bags. The families had been incredibly generous!

The ceremony changed its tune from then on in and the music started! We blessed the sports equipment with a necessary cup of grog, what else?! The kids then performed the Fijian national dance, the Meke, in their individual classes. We were not expecting the Fijian dance to be so hilarious! The music was a drum rhythm played on a Fijian Lali whilst the girls sang. Dances which stood out were the class 7&8 boys and class 1 dance.

In class 7&8 the boys stood in a long line in traditional dress; bare chests, black war paint, a leaf skirt and a wooden stick over their shoulder. Part of their dance consisted of running across the audience pretending to be old women, old men and many others. We were in fits of laughter. Class 1 also had us in stitches as the little girls and boys took turns to shake themselves in pairs much to the amusement of the crowd watching. It is no wonder Fijians are such good dancers when they’re learning from such a young age!

Lastly, running on a much delayed ‘Fiji Time’ we were served a delicious feast cooked by all the mothers from all the various villages. We tucked into a delicious meal of traditional Fijian food comprising of chicken, cassava, dalo leaves and much more. Plenty of dancing and a few cups of grog were to follow finishing a very emotional and happy day.

I think I can speak for everyone in saying that we have thoroughly enjoyed our three weeks at Nakorotubu District School, and are grateful that they accepted us with open arms to their school!

By Amelia

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Ra July Team – Houses collide in arts & crafts, public speaking, singing and sports as cup competition reaches dramatic finale!

House Cup Finals (11)

During the weeks at school, we split ourselves into the four different houses of the school; red, blue, green and yellow. In the selected house we prepared for the house cup, consisting of three events: a tongue twister; a speech and a song.

The sorting hat chose the red house for Amelia, Louise and I. With boss Amelia on our side, I felt victory was within our grasp. For the tongue twister we chose little Adi, from Namarai who was from class 3. With the song “waka waka” and “The Great Dictator” by Charlie Chaplin our speech, we went about teaching red house each performance.  I found that when speaking as a mob the children were loud and abrasive; however when taken from the mob they were incredibly timid and quiet. Eventually we found two rough diamonds that were to do our speech, and Louise went about polishing them.

House Cup Finals (13)

To start with, we had to push the kids quite hard to get any results, but as judgement day drew ever closer, they started to come together, and the quality rapidly improved. The singing varied from a controlled chorus, to a screaming playground. Taking them from the classroom to outside, they started eyeing up the competition, creating a competitive spirit. Some houses (yellow) clearly had a way to go, while others (not naming any names) were being pushed hard by their overly competitive leaders.

On the day we spent the morning relaxing as Saki prepared the plan for the day. With judges and us seated, the red team was the first to start. The tongue twister was the first event. All the children did a great job. The next event was the speech. Our now polished diamonds, stepped up, spoke clearly and loudly with confidence. The other houses did well also, however I felt that red had first place secured.

House Cup Finals (14)

Lastly the song, the show that everyone had been waiting for, began. Red started with a strong performance of “waka waka”, a hard act to follow. Next up was blue, with “shake it up”, green with “baby” by Justin Bieber and finally yellow with “Don’t stop me now”. Green ambitiously left the rap in, and I was really impressed as it must’ve taken a lot of confidence to rap part of a Justin Bieber song in front of a huge crowd. Two boys wearing black sunglasses performed the rap and even with the microphone cutting off every second they did well. The leaders of green (again left unnamed) were sure they had won the song, and still are!

The results were in. Red came third in the tongue twister and won the other two events, leaving the whole house ecstatic as they had worked so hard. With the house cup over the judges announced the final results. Blue fourth; red third; green second and yellow first. Initially we were confused by the results as yellow had almost exclusively been third or fourth in the events that day, but remembering the cup was for the kids, we graciously accepted our loss.

It had been a really rewarding experience, and we could tell by the end the children all had a healthy competitive spirit and also had really enjoyed the whole day!

By Haaris

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

Cardiff University Team – ‘After what was a very teary and sad hug and last words we were off and the experience of my life was finished. Or at least for now until I come back again which will be sooner rather than later!’

Final days (6)

As our final weekend came around in the village we started to prepare for what would be a very emotional farewell to the village. Our final church service on the Sunday began with prayers and blessings from the village people which touched all of our hearts to feel so looked after and loved in a village that we really had not been in that long.

After the villages blessings some of our volunteers gave some words of thanks to the village that looked after us so well. The speeches where done by Findlay, Rob and Jazmine. All the speeches summed up perfectly how much we appreciated the village and everyone in it by expressing how warm welcoming and loving they where to each and every one of us. All the speeches emphasised the point that the village was a home away from home which for me summed up the village perfectly, a home on the other side of the world with loving families who I will always keep in touch with. The church service was hugely emotional with hymns from the Fijians and a hymn from us and thanks afterwards. It was a lovely way to finish our last weekend and a weekend that I will always remember.

Final days (8)

On our second to last full day in the village we as a team prepared a ‘Fun Day’ for all the village to raise some funds for the people to fix or purchase anything that they felt necessary. I personally made a football stand with Owain, Findlay and Dave. We had two buckets and one wheelbarrow to which they had to try and flick the football into each one to attempt to win prizes. They absolutely loved it. We had T-shirts that we had donated as prizes and people where trying desperately to win them which was absolutely fantastic.

As well as our football stall we had face painting, coconut shire, tombola and some luscious cakes made by some of our lovely volunteers. The village absolutely loved it and every child had a smile from ear to ear. I’m not sure who was more excited and happy about the day, the children or the adults, which was fantastic to see. The only way to sum up the fun day would just be ‘happiness’ because despite our time in the village almost being over everyone seemed to forget that for one day and just enjoyed spending time with each other and having fun, despite the rain!

Final days (9)

On our final day the village had a very calm and quiet start, which was strange for such a loving upbeat village where there are hellos and smiles everywhere you looked. I spent the morning with my family playing cards and talking. The sad part being that the same time the next day I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore until I come back, which I will definitely be doing. As the day went on we started preparing for what would be an emotional and fun evening of Meke dancing and drinking Grog!

When the evening arrived we all went to the leaders house and got ready. My Na turned up and bought my outfit for the evening, which was an outfit I am in no rush to put back on. We went to the hall and performed the dance, which gave us all huge smiles, and the villagers went absolutely crazy for it, which was so nice to see. After the Meke the boys performed a Cibi, which I know for a fact was nowhere near as scary as it should have been but again it was an amazing experience and one I shall never forget!

Final days (10)

As the evening went on we all talked, spent time with our families and simply had a massively memorable last evening with everyone there. The next morning was a very depressing and emotional morning. A village so full of happiness and joy was basically in silence. We walked out of the village with our families and our bags, my Na in floods of tears which was not nice to see when I was so used to seeing her being constantly happy. We loaded our bags on the boats and went for the final goodbye. I got a goodbye and a huge hug from every person in the village which was nice and very sad at the same time because it reminded me, not that I needed reminding, just how caring they where and further emphasising how much I will miss the village.

After what was a very teary and sad hug and last words we were off and the experience of my life was finished. Or at least for now until I come back again which will be sooner rather than later!

By Ciaran