Past volunteers

Volunteer stories: Ashleigh Dexter


Looking back over the past ten weeks, it is hard to believe that we are getting ready to say our good byes on Saturday.  It only feels like yesterday that` we were stepping off the boat from Calaqi  to be greeted by these warm and generous people that have become our family and friends in Nasavuki. The Fijian lifestyle here is like nothing I have ever experienced before, they are such warm and loving people, who have given us everything and anything while we have been in the village. I won’t be the first to say that three months isn’t long enough and I don’t want to leave!  Conversations within the group this week have all been met with a similar vibe, and after briefly experiencing some emotional speeches on Saturday with the opening of the hall, I know for sure that leaving  this weekend is going to be tough.

Our family keeps reminding myself and Cat of our first evening in the village, Manassa, Vilemina, Ase and Wana prepared an absolute feast! We were both a little shy and couldn’t believe the amount of food put in front of us! After our ten weeks here it has become normal, it will be strange going home and eating normal portions again! Our Mum’s food in the village has become famous amongst the TP group, with a waiting list to come over to our house for dinner!

Today has been a duvet day and we have been putting the hall to good use. After cyclone Thomas hitting last night everyone was still a little sleepy. A few of the families had spent the night in the hall, Cat and I slept on the floor at home with our little sisters, and we seemed definitely more scared than them! The weather still wasn’t that great so we all spent the day reading, playing games, and just generally relaxing in our newly built hall. It was really nice to see the hall being used after 9 weeks on the build. Our combined efforts had paid off! It looked like a real home, and after visiting it day after day as a building site. The Fijian women had a hand in giving a more homely feel, putting mats, curtains and the odd pot plant around the place! Seeing it being used today and over the weekend at the opening ceremony meant the hard work had paid off and it looked great (even if I am a little bias). It seemed the opening on Saturday had come just in time, and what an opening it was. Everyone looked great in the sulu’s and chamba dresses, a real rainbow of colours. The sun was out and everyone was in good spirits. Typical of Fiji time, nothing ran to schedule but that didn’t matter. A lot of family of friends of the villagers had come a long way to see the opening as they have been waiting for a community hall for a long time.  A lot had travelled from Suva, and a few even flew in from Australia, so in typical TP style we put on a fun day they wouldn’t forget.

After the opening, we all had our own stall to look after at the fun day. Michelle and I teamed up on and set up a variety of sports day style races. The entrants would pay 20 cents to enter and the winner would get a lolly, and of course the glory of coming first. We had a great start with the school children eager to showcase their sporting talents! Sack races, followed by egg and spoon saw Meke as the champion in both. The younger Fijian men didn’t want to be outdone by the children so challenged each other to a few races. This became a strong competition to win, the Fijains don’t go down without a fight! Seetie just piped the others to the post in the sack race and it’s a bit sketchy as to who won the leap frog race, as it seems there may have been a spot of cheating going on! Benji and Chris put in the best performance technique wise on the day, but there honesty left them in last place! It was hilarious to watch. Nevertheless it was all in good spirits and I had a fair few laughs on the day!

Not only have we had a lot of fun on the island but have spent our weekends exploring the neighbouring islands, playing a lot of sport and testing our strength and endurance as a team trekking Levuka and Rukuruku peaks. A favourite of mine was tackling Rukuruku. We climbed to the peak, through the plantations, dodging huge spiders and navigating some steep ledges! The view from the top was incredible, overlooking Ovalau. The journey back down was interesting, most of it was spent either rebounding off trees as myself and Fi ping- ponged our way between them (under`Harry’s guidance), or on our bum! Our thinking behind this was there wasn’t that much further you could fall that way. It was a surprise really I stayed on my feet for the time I did. The rock pools that greeted us at the bottom were great fun too!

My time on in Nasavuki has been so varied, these things are just a snippet of what I have been up to! I have been lucky enough to teach, work in kindi and on the build! All of which has brought about their own individual challenges.

I have just three more days to take in as much Fiji life as I can handle and I know I will find it hard to say goodbye, especially to my Fijian sisters in the village. Lal has nicknamed them ‘The Frog girls’ early on in the project as Wana, who is the elder of the two, threw a huge frog at him and it hit him in the face. Never have I seen someone run quite so fast away from them! (Sorry Lal). But really we have grown close as a family and it will be difficult not seeing them in the mornings, jumping on my bed or telling me breakfast is ready, when really it is dinner time or vice versa.

Fiji is certainly a place I want to return, lets hope it’s in the not too distant future. For now, Moce!

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I'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.
Joe Lawrence, Shropshire
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