Since arriving into the village last week, the team have thrown themselves into the project and village life. We were welcomed on the beach by the whole of the Manuku community, who were singing songs as we stepped off the boats inside the beautiful Batiki reef. The team were quickly introduced to what will be their new families for the next 8 weeks and the community were beyond excited to meet their new guests!
After enjoying some traditional Fijian food, the team held a Sevu Sevu for the village (a Fijian welcome custom) and then were fully introduced to the hop hop and grog, which everyone took to really well, with the dancing continuing late into the night.
Sunday was the first chance for the team to experience Fijian church services and the sound of the Fijian men and women singing hymns, the team were blown away by their voices, after which the entire village sat down together for lunch in a bamboo hall, which the community had erected so the team and village could share meals and kava ceremonies together. The volunteers were able to try loads of different Fijian foods and the rest of Sunday afternoon was spent relaxing in the community and by the beach and getting to know their families. The team then began planning with our expedition leaders, setting the volunteering rota and deciding what they would like to do for the first two weeks of project.
Danny, Alex, Tom, Natalie and Ben File all decided to work on the construction project with our building manager Jack and leader lulu. Emma, Kirsty and Josh went into kindergarten with leader Euan and the last of the team went into school with leader Luke. Chloe chose to start teaching class 1&2, Ben Grant went into class 3&4, Franky went into class 5&6 and Anisha helped in class 7&8.
For the first week of the building project, the team started on the foundations of the community hall which will be built, sawing posts, digging holes and mixing concrete. During the next eight weeks the entire building will be created, so it is no small task for our team of 11 volunteers and 3 leaders!
The building team also experienced more Fijian culture when they put the first post into the ground, the priest of the island blessed the build and the team and the villages took it in turns to shovel a spade of concrete around the first post, before then having some grog with the priest and villagers in celebration.
By the end of the week all the posts had been concreted, including the supports and frame for the bottom of the hall. A huge task completed and a testament to the hard work of everyone involved!
In kindi, Emma, josh and kirsty came up with the idea of a ‘rainbow week’ where each day the theme would be a different colour, upon which lessons and learning would be themed around. On Friday they had face painting day which the kids really enjoyed, with all the village children leaving school with a rainbow on their faces to the amusement of the Fijian parents.
In school the team spent the first day overlooking the class and getting to know the teachers and kids. As it was exam week it was a slow start to the teaching but by the end of the week the exams were drawing to a close and our volunteers could start to add their own ideas and inspiration into the classrooms.
In class 1&2 Chloe was teaching the kids mathematics and Chloe also organised some fantastic recorder classes in the afternoons, which are going to prove very popular in the weeks ahead from the initial reaction of the students! Ben was assisting headmaster Pate with science and Franky helped with arts and crafts making a collage of “things that help us”, which the teacher pinned up on the wall for all the school to see. In class 7&8 Anisha worked with the older kids who were still revising for their exams, offering some personal tuition as well as having the whole class enthralled by telling them stories.
Each afternoon sports has been on the agenda and the team have been inspiring the kids with new games, activities and training. It’s not only the kids who are getting fit too, as the walk to school and sports each day from Manuku village is 45 minutes through the jungle and round the coast! The team have not complained once about the trek in fact it’s been a highlight; singing, laughing and joking to and from the school and enjoying the incredible scenery of Batiki and the distant islands and reefs of the Lomaiviti group.
This week Danny, Tom and Ben File have been coaching rugby, Ben Grant, Alex and Josh took the kids for football training, Natalie, Kirsty and Anisha had the girls for netball and Chloe, Emma and Franky taught hockey. The sports sessions last an hour every day, but in the heat of Fiji, that’s a long time running around! Each day the team walk back to Manuku where the boys in the village are usually waiting for a game of rugby or volleyball on the beach, so the sports sometime continues until dark.
After dinner during the week the team also participate in different activities organised by the leaders and also the villagers. This week some of the team learnt how to make Fijian baskets out of coconut branches and Ben File, Alex, Tom and leader Luke went out night spear fishing with a couple of the Fijian boys which was thoroughly enjoyed! A couple of the boys even managed to catch some fish, very impressive on their first outing!
After project on Friday all the team came over and we cleaned out the boarders house so that the kids will be able to stay at school for the next 5 weeks, all the team got involved and were all singing and laughing whilst doing it which was great to see and it was really appreciated by the teachers and headmaster of the school. Then on Friday night it was time for more Fijian parties! The team enjoyed some hop hop and grog with the villagers and many more Fijians from the other villages of Batiki who trekked the island to meet our group.
Saturday saw the team spend time with their families, exploring Batiki and enjoying the sunshine after a hard but very rewarding first taste of project work! Anisha and Chloe went for a walk and picnic with their family as did Josh and Alex who also went spear fishing with theirs. Ben Grant went for a walk with his family around batiki and had some lunch in batiki bay, for the guys who stayed in the village they were taught how to make hats out of coconut tree leaves by the villagers, after which the team spent the night with their families, telling stories and sharing jokes.
So now Sunday is here and the team are very grateful for their well-earned rest, the team have started their volunteering at a phenomenal pace and have settled into life in the village so quickly. Everyone is on an a high at the moment and getting stuck into every opportunity which comes their way. The good news is, we’ve only just begun!