After a long and tiring 20+ hour journey to the other side of the world, we finally arrived into Fiji. Greeted with ‘Bula’ and the sound of a three-piece Fijian band. We eagerly awaited a soft bed and a good nights sleep.
The leaders Frankie and Jake met us off the plane to whisk us away to Uprising beach resort for the project briefing. Upon arriving in what looks like paradise we were given the afternoon to relax, play volleyball and swim; soaking up the sun and the laid back atmosphere.
The next day the Think Pacific team (Director, Harry; Project Manager, Euan and Youth and Sports Officer, Dan) ran the briefing, detailing the aims of the project, explaining village life and the complexity of a Fijian community. The excitement within the team was visible to see.
Now to a spot of ‘Team building’. Volleyball had quickly become a favourite past time for the group, so the team was split and a fair but competitive game of volleyball commenced.
A shopping and last minute supply trip; ensured all volunteers were suitably dressing in Bula shirts, Sulus (boys) and Jamba dresses (girls). A sense of excitement and nervousness began to creep in as the following day was the start of project.
Arriving in the Village….
Three hours along a mountainous trail. In an army style truck we arrived in Nuku! We were greeted with a warm welcome, instantly swarmed by the village children as we disembarked the boats. A sevu sevu; the traditional greeting, allowing the volunteers freedom of the village, ensued. The volunteers introduced themselves and were welcomed into their new families. Leaving with their Fijian mothers, to meet their families for the next 5 weeks of Fijian life. Later that night everyone gathered at the community hall for their first meal in the village, accompanied by the traditional kava (grog) drinking.
First week in School – Kindergarten…
Hayley, Beth and Carla introduced animals as their “theme for the week” making songs to keep the Kindi children engaged. Drawing lions, snakes and crocodiles to teach the children about animals other than those they have seen before. Its such a good feeling when the phonics you are repeating and working on click with the children! Heidi and Rheia worked in another tiny school, Nuku kindi, sticking with the animal theme also. After establishing the ability levels of the children. The pair then chose to work on ‘S’ and ‘A’ as the letters of the week, with catchy rhymes to sing along to.
Numbers 1-5 were also quickly nailed down by the children as real progress was made in the first week, implementing a more structured routine including circle time and tooth brushing club.
The rest if the team were split into each year group to work with the low ability students in the primary schools. This was where the team realised how important their work would be over the duration of the project. For the first week on project the team quickly took everything on board and immediately had the children engaged and making progress with basic English and Maths.
A highlight of the small group sessions was Emily teaching a group of class 5-6 their 9 times tables using their fingers; early achievement and success!
As the week progressed and the volunteer’s confidence grew, and alternative lessons were planned by the team. Emily, George and Jo organised an arts and crafts lessons with great success! Kyeran and Oliver delivered an excellent geography lesson using a hand made atlas and a blow up globe.
Coaching and Team Sport….
The team decided to coach Rugby, Netball, Lacrosse and Football for the first week, with the older age groups sticking with rugby and netball.
After some great lesson planning, interesting and exciting sessions took place in all sports. Fergus and James provided some valuable coaching advice on overlapping runs and passing; improving each individuals passing and line running.
Carla, Beth, Emily and Jo took the Netball, using their knowledge and experience to really engage the children and ensure the drills were fun but challenging.
With the younger age-groups the focus was more focused on fun, small-sided games and experimental ideas using the lacrosse equipment and footballs. It was evident that all taking part enjoyed the sessions. Roll on next week’s sports!
Adventure Excursion – Waterfall!!
The theme for the week had been discussed and decided to be “nature” for the second week. In Kindi, George and Kyeran chose the rainbow (colours) to make learning more fun. They both decided on using paper mache around balloons and drawing rainbows for the children to colour and paint.
For the school the team hit the ground running straight from the off with the team highlighting areas from the previous week to work on, coming up with great little hints and tricks for the low ability students. Joe, Oliver and Beth gained significant ground with a few class 5/6 students with their multiplication and division. Carla and Hayley also used the week to separate the class 7/8 strugglers into smaller groups based on their current ability level. An insightful and progressive week in Nuku primary school.
This week the house cup was introduced to the primary school. A fun competition, which changes each week and introduces children for the first time to arts and crafts, singing and public speaking. This week, we created “the tree of nature” for arts and crafts. The volunteers were split into teams (red, green, blue and yellow) and each team had to devise one large piece of artwork together, with all the children involved. All judged on inclusivity and team work as well as the quality of the children’s masterpieces! Each team took a different approach with and with very high quality of work, judging will be a difficult task.
All in all, it’s been a very busy start to the project! The project aims are diverse and it may be early days, but we can already see the benefits of our time spent supporting the Fijian children, be this through sports coaching, art or education. Our welcome into the village community has also left us with feeling that we’ve definitely found a ‘second home’ in the tropical jungle of Fiji. We’re at the beginning of making memories, which I’m sure, will stay with all of us for a very long time to come.