Past volunteers

Volunteer stories: Cat Goodenough


Cat

So here goes my first and final blog edition. I guess I thought it may have been easier concluding everything in one big blog but sitting here now, I’m beginning to regret that decision. I literally have no idea where to start.

Before leaving the UK I’d often attempt to envisage how my experience in Fiji was going to unfold. My expectations could not have been blown further out the window if I’d tried and I have solely the TP team and, most importantly the Fijian village to thank for that. When first arriving in the village, it was overwhelming. The friendliness the Fijian’s greeted us with, the closeness between the families and huge feeling of love from every individual in Nasauvuki village was amazing and for that, and so much more, I will be eternally grateful.

After arriving in the village, we departed, in pairs, from the TP team and left to greet our host families for the next ten weeks. I was paired with Ashleigh Dexter, whose company I couldn’t have managed without, I love you bud. It was a nerve racking moment for us and I will admit I was one of the few in the group who found settling into village life harder than I had anticipated.

Acclimatising to bucket showers, the frog pool, the musky smell we all acquired and the huge change in diet and portion sizes (Fijian people will feed you till you’re ill) wasn’t easy in the slightest. However once we grew used to the change in life styles, I can genuinely assure you they were ten of the best weeks of my life.

The grog and dancing sessions became a part of daily life and allowed us to bond with the village on a massively personal level. Learning about their culture, families, backgrounds and ambitions for the future was so intriguing to listen to and forced us to reflect on our lives and how lucky we are. When the most deserving, intelligent Fijians miss out on the opportunity to go to university because they simply cannot afford it, I start to value the opportunities I have in the UK. However, even when most Fijian people have little realistic hope in achieving their dreams and their lives and belongings consist of so little, they are the most content people I have ever met. Never in a bad mood, willing to share absolutely everything and prioritising family and friendship over anything else, are the kind of personality traits which need to be put into practice throughout the rest of the world. The Fijian people are truly an inspiration to me and I will treasure every experience they have shared with me.

The village absolutely astounded me with their talents. The young guys are some of the most naturally gifted rugby players I have ever seen and I am yet to find a Fijian person who can’t sing. The women can weave straw mats the size of a pool table in a few short days, the children were adorable, friendly, beautiful little bundles of happiness and the kindi kids were nothing short of incredible. Tay is my idol. I cannot thank my Fijian family enough for the hospitable love and generosity they showed myself and Ashleigh during our stay with them and special thanks for quickly becoming renowned as the best food in the village.

Teaching in the school, sports coaching and teaching the kindi gave each of us a remarkable sense of achievement but nothing can compare to the day we opened the community hall and that first evening we got to experience the village using the hall for grog and ‘hop hop’. The last week in the village was an emotional one, with many Fijian women often just beginning to blubber at the dinner table and often set us off on an embarrassing display of emotions too.

When the ominous moment came to actually leave the village, there wasn’t a dry eye in the TP team. I only hope we changed their lives for the better, even if it was the Fijian customs and the memories they have given to us will be something I hope to tell my grandchildren of some day.
The TP team are also incredible and without them, my experience would have never been the same. I would just like to say I love you all and thank you for making the past three month so special. I appreciate that despite my best efforts, I can never explain how amazing life in a Fijian village can be disheartens me, but having 17 other people who shared the indescribable experience with me is something which I hope will bond us forever.

The adventure stage has been mental and the tamed crudeness of certain individuals in the village was quickly revealed with the induction of alcohol, mentioning no names (Rob). River rafting was such good fun and the having just left the Beachouse today means my time in Fiji is quickly drawing to a close. These ten days have given us a chance to unwind away from the village and I can’t think of a better way for our experience to end. I will truly miss everyone when the time finally comes for us to separate.

Also I would finally like to thank Tim, Benji and Harry for being such awesome leaders and Harry’s hands on approach to his leadership is what makes their company work so well. Harry adores Fiji and is passionate about the work that he does and his incredible attitude to his work and all of the TP team is inspirational. I’d like to personally thank him for the support he has given to me and although I am currently exiled to eat alone whilst writing this blog, I can safely say I think every girl here would marry him.

So vinaka vaka levu to Nasauvuki, the TP team, Tim, Benji and most importantly Harry and UK guy, because without you both we wouldn’t even be here.

View image gallery
The whole 5 weeks was absolutely amazing, never a dull moment, it really was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Katie Thorn, Derbyshire
Order a brouchure