Past volunteers

Volunteer stories: Bryony Waugh


Bula Guys!!

Bryony here. Or ‘B’ as most of the villagers refer to me as…they struggle with Bryony so I gave up on that one pretty much straight away! Even people on the team haven’t heard my name before. Crazy! It’s not that weird, is it?? Anyway. Fiji. WOW. I’ve fallen head over heels for this place. Already we’ve done so much. I started on the build and it’s been great mucking in with the locals; so much sawing, so much hammering, so much lifting, and many blisters later we have a building with a roof! There’s still much to be done (unless they could make do without walls and flooring? What do we reckon, could we get away with that?) Haha but in all seriousness it’s great fun – you learn so much, and have loads of banter with the locals and the team at the same time.

Half way through every morning without fail, the Fijian women file out of their houses dressed to impress in Jumba dresses and flowers in their hair, baring trays and trays of food and juice for us – time for a break which we welcome with open arms in the searing heat!! We’re all used to being deliciously sweaty most of the time now…but it’s not all bad as we have open-air showers with views of palm trees and bats flying overhead in the evenings to look forward to!

This week I’ve been in Kindi and it’s just endless fun – the kids are adorable (I’m forever dreaming up ways in my head of how to steal one of them to take home with me…) and I don’t get tired of the countless songs and games and arts&crafts on the schedule. Seeing Leader Harry among the little kiddies in a game of tug of war was just hilarious! He couldn’t resist a competitive activity, even if it is with children a third of his size…

Coaching sport every day is great fun too – they’re so passionate for it here it’s really fulfilling to lead a session and train at netball (or rugby) with the locals afterwards – can’t get enough of it even when we’re dripping with sweat in the heat!

I’ve done a fair bit of travelling to various parts of the world but by far the Fijian people are the friendliest, smiliest, most energetic and welcoming people I have ever come across. At first I thought my family was small as Kerry and I have only one brother, but before long we discovered that most of the village are our cousins or aunties and uncles in some way so really, there’s family everywhere and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I was calling my Fijian parents mum and dad from day one, and in turn my mum calls me ‘baby’ to get my attention on the netball court…

The men here are so tall and strong (my Dad’s the tallest in the village so there :p) but oddly have the highest pitched laughs I have ever heard…it’s more of a giggle, making the funniest of situations even more entertaining!

The women are amazing – they put British housewives to shame with their incredible cooking, resourcefulness (who would have thought there were so many ways you could reinvent a meal of fish and breadfruit…) and home-making skills (although it has to be said my house is still covered in Christmas decorations – I don’t have the heart to tell them it’s bad luck). I can just go and sit with them and guaranteed be laughing my head off for pretty much the entire time.

It’s the kids I can’t get over though. I think Fiji must have pushed its way to the front of the queue when they were dishing out cute kids. They NEVER run out of energy, NEVER get tired of the same songs – trust me I have no worries that we’re in the village for 2 months and my repertoire of kiddy rhymes amounts to a measly figure of around 7…and like their parents, aunties and uncles, never stop smiling. I could play with them until I collapse with exhaustion. In fact I do. Regularly. Hopefully I can keep it up the whole time!!

The atmosphere in the village is just so chilled out. Life is at its most basic and it’s great to see – there’s a lot of lying around, playing and listening to music, chilling in hammocks and kicking a rugby ball around, yet no-one ever goes hungry! A phrase that springs to mind is ‘Many hands make light work’, and the Fijians live that out to the full – they’re always working together whether it’s building, fishing, cooking, washing, anything – their culture is to share everything and it works so well. You can’t walk past a house without being invited in for tea or whatever food is going; I’m getting plenty of practice at politely declining offers or else I’d never stop eating!

The food is amazing but there’s so much of it! I swear I wake up every day with a new little roll added to my belly…so many Bumbacows (little donought ball things).

At night there’s yet more communal gathering with the almost-daily tradition of Grog…everyone gathers round the Kava bowl, sings beautiful harmonies (the Fijians can really sing – bring on The Fijian X Factor) and dances HopHop long into the night! We’ve also had quiz nights (much hilarity), movie nights, games nights (the priceless sight of people wrestling in sleeping bags), tribal fancy dress…the list goes on. Some nights there’s nothing on so we’re cruelly forced to head down the beach and laze on the hammocks together in the sunset under the palm trees. It’s hell. Get us out of here. :p

I honestly can’t face the idea of leaving this place, and although I always say to myself I never go back to places I’ve visited, I’m going to have to make an exception…Mum, Dad, Alex, pack your bags you’re taking me back to Fiji.

Have to head off – there is hockey to be coached and children to be entertained!! Moce!! Peace.

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It was the best experience of my life. I feel like I've come away with some of the closest friends you can ever make.
Lucy Price, Shrewsbury
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