1. Bula Fiji!
As you step off the plane to the heat of the tropics, Think Pacific's Overseas Leaders will be there to meet you with a warm welcome at Nadi International airport. It's time to begin the first stage of your Fijian expedition! For the first leg of our journey, our private mini bus will transport the team on a four hour drive across Viti Levu; winding through the dramatic tropical scenery, passing small villages dotted along the coast and jungle hills rising steeply to our north before arriving at our glorious briefing resort at Pacific Harbour.
2. Resort Team Briefing
The first 3 days of every expedition are spent acclimatising and briefing in paradise. You will sink into ‘Fiji time’ and get to know your team mates, take part in youth and sports training workshops to prepare you for the volunteering ahead and listen to presentations given by representatives from the Fijian Ministry and our expedition leaders, as you learn all about the background, importance and long term sustainability of the local aims that you will soon be achieving. Aside from project briefings there is plenty of time to sunbathe, splash in the pool and enjoy fun games and activities.
3. Village Life & Youth and Sports Development in Rural Fiji
Depending on the location we've been tasked by the government to visit, we may have to travel by motor boat, ferries or take truck rides deep into the rainforest to your traditional Fijian village. On the first day in the village it is Fijian custom for you to present a sevu sevu to the Chief, whereby a bundle of Yaqona (kava) is presented as a gift and a ceremony will take place to welcome our team into the community.
You will live with your own Fijian family in the village, sleeping on a mat of a simple wooden and tin house. Your fellow team mates and the Think Pacific staff team live close by. Your accommodation will be basic, and it is not unusual to feel some culture shock in your first week or so, however the warmth and generosity of the local people is profound. You will be fully welcomed into the community, treated as family and be supported by the community and our overseas expedition team throughout.
Life in a third world Fijian village is tough and challenging and the projects are vital in making a difference to poverty in the area. You will certainly have days when you feel homesick or feel that the project is a struggle. However, by the end of your time, you will have a feeling of immense accomplishment and achievement, so keep this in mind through the challenging moments! The warmth and generosity of the local people is simply profound. Despite the simple lifestyle, your time in the village will be the highlight of your whole experience. The people in your village will become like close friends and family. The local communities are so excited for the arrival of each team and you will gain a real connection to this tiny community. Our volunteers forever feel like they have a second home in Fiji.
We need our volunteers to be enthusiastic and committed to achieving the volunteer projects, and have a real desire to experience Fiji's fascinating customs, culture and subsistence life. If this is just the challenge you are looking for then you will have an incredible experience and make a real and long lasting impact to local development issues.
For the next amazing weeks you will play a key role in a range of locally directed youth and sports development projects. These local development aims, designed and assessed by the Fijian Government are making a huge difference to the lives of Fijian children.
Each day your expedition leader will call a team meeting to discuss the day’s activities. You will then rotate between teaching, kindergarten, running youth projects and sports projects - Mornings are spent suporting basic education. We are pioneering youth clubs, childrens' sports coaching and the developing extra-curricular activities each afternoon.
Your daily team briefings are an opportunity for you to bring forward any new ideas, and to state your preference for working on a particular project and developing your specific role. During your resort briefing and training our leaders and members of the local government and communities will run through the specific project objectives with you in detail. Each project culminates with an island youth and sports festival, where we tie the work you have made with the Fijian children together with sports competitions, drama productions, workshops and performances.
Teaching & Youth projects
Working with the children in the community and schools, you will establish active youth groups to offer the local children the chance to express themselves through art, dance, drama and music as examples. You will lead health awareness and environmental initiatives and introduce the first extra-curricular activities for the island children.
During week one of the project, the team will split into committees, each committee has a dedicated focus to achieve aims such as drama, sports or health workshops. Homework lessons are massively appreciated by the children, who gain so much from one-one support and relish the opportunity to improve their English language skills - this is one country where the kids love homework!
Teaching takes place within the local primary schools, which, depending on our village location, can be a twenty minutes trek through the rainforest. Class sizes range from 16 to 60 and lessons are all taught in English. You will work with small groups of children or lead classes in pairs with another volunteer and under the supervision of local teachers. Teaching usually takes place on a two week rota basis directed by the local Fijian teaching staff. Schools in Fiji are underfunded and desperately lacking basic educational resources. We support schools throughout the year. Our volunteers fulfill a vital role as teachers and teaching assistants and Think Pacific also funds the development of classrooms, desks, chairs, water supplies, electricity and the purchase of materials such as books, pens and teaching aids.
During the past year, Think Pacific volunteers have established three kindergarten schools on the island of Moturiki. These schools are for children aged 2-6 years old. For a village to establish a kindergarten, they must first prove that they have enough local Fijian volunteers to lead the lessons on a daily basis once our team has departed. Therefore, once established, these schools are a lasting legacy in the village facilitating the improvement of pre-school and primary level education.
You will introduce nursery rhymes, teach children their first words in English and develop basic numeracy alongside fun games, songs, stories, dancing, role plays and outdoor activities. There is never a dull moment in Kindi! The language barrier is tough at first, but working side-by-side with the local Fijian women and having patience with the kindergarten children, you will soon see the huge impact of all your efforts!
With sports initiatives we are working very closely with the Ministry of Sport in Fiji to bring the resources and basic training to the remotest and poorest villages, and we will look to you to offer coaching advice and the organisation of sports days and grass roots childrens' leagues.
Every afternoon there is the opportunity to coach sports to village children, leading PE lessons and after school clubs. Rugby, football, cricket, hockey, netball, rounders, kick boxing and volleyball are all successfully underway and we constantly need volunteers who have skills in these sports to continue structured coaching practises.
You will be involved in organising sports tournaments and games against other villages and island teams. Most days end with a game of sports on the beach, be this volleyball or a game of Fiji v's TP football. For rugby fans especially, you will be in your element in Fiji!
Aside from the projects, you will play an active part in traditional ‘Kaiviti life’ by helping to farm in the jungle plantations and fish ‘Fiji-style’ on the reefs. Spear fishing usually takes place out on the reefs by starlight and the villages 'gardens' can be a good half an hour trek through dense jungle. We will expect you to help around the village, to wash your own clothes in the stream and fetch water from the well.
You can learn how to husk coconuts, pound yaqona, weave palm leaves into mats and cook traditional Fijian foods. Fijian people are passionate about their culture, customs and traditional skills and they will delight in teaching you about their way of life. You will learn to dance a meke and speak the Fijian language. At weekends you will be invited to experience the wonderful Fijian singing from the local church or visit other villages for feasts, lovos (food cooked under burning stones in an earth oven) and kava ceremonies.
4. Adventure, Exploration and Relaxation
During the volunteer project, we schedule different adventure days, which usually take place on a Saturday and are specific to the different islands we visit. Examples are guided treks deep into the Fijian rainforest, climbing extinct volanoes and the jungle peaks, boat trips and beach picnics to remote sandbars or visits to hot springs and bubbling mud pools located in the thick jungle interior of the Lomaiviti islands. Every expedition allows time for exploration and the chance to see some of the most unique sights of these remote and beautiful islands.
For the final days of every project we stay at beautiful island resorts, with breakfast, evening meals and accommodation included. After the tough elements of project life this is time for the team to enjoy unwinding by the white sand and swimming pools. As well as enjoying the sunshine and relaxation by the lagoon, there are afternoon volleyball matches, fishing trips, magnificent snorkelling and kayaks lining the beach ready for you to explore the Pacific Ocean. In the evenings we enjoy parties, light barbeques and relax under the stars.
As the final excursion for our ten week and six month expeditions, our teams board a tall ship and set sail for the glorious Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands. This is a full day cruise through these paradise beaches and castaway atolls, which are home to the Blue Lagoon, the island where Tom Hanks filmed castaway, the site of the infamous Mutiny on the Bounty and once home to the fierce cannibals who chased the mutineered Captain Bligh to Timor in a canoe..this is an incredible location for the last major stop on our voyage. We drop anchor at an uninhabited island for a bbq and enjoy drinks on the sunset sail back to the mainland.
Our expeditions end as we make our way to picturesque Nadi Bay. Here we ask for your all important feedback during a project debrief and we host an award ceremony and party to honour your project achievements. As an optional extra, you can book a sky dive for a unique view 14,000 feet above the islands.
Joe Lawrence, ShropshireI'm so grateful that I was able to be a part of Think Pacific. You have really created a great organisation and I love the fact that it is so small and personal.