Past volunteers

Volunteer stories: David Chaplin

David Chaplin

11pm..Normally in England this time is occupied by laying in bed in a state of boredom and watching road wars whilst thinking how I have wasted the day. Last night at 11pm however I lay in bed thinking about the past fortnight I have spent in Fiji after a day of teaching, a rugby match and a quiz which involved a catwalk and dance. The quizzes and night time activities are great fun.

So far the best word I can use to describe Fiji is surreal. I love it.

When we were told by Simon about how wonderful Fiji is, I admit I still didn’t fully believe it, I guess you can’t really until you experience it yourself.  Every day I have spent here I have loved.

As for a nice intro into Fiji within 3hours of arriving in Fiji we had our first surreal moment. We stopped off to get the first aid kit where Harry and Tim live; they said they would be five minutes.

As we were waiting this Fijian giant came out the house that I recognised instantly as Seru Rambeni (The Fijian Rugby Star who played for Leicester tigers and Leeds.). I got one of the girls to ask if he played rugby to which he replied “a bit.” At this point I felt incredibly stupid, but the girls asked do you play for Fiji which he replied to as “yes and I played in England too”. Once we were back on the road we asked Harry and Tim to confirm which they did. It was amazing just how down to earth Seru Rambeni is.

The next surreal time was spending 4 days on Caqalai. This was paradise, an island in which you can walk around within half an hour. It was the perfect opportunity to relax, sunbathe and get to know the rest the team. We also went on a snorkelling trip where we saw a turtle.  Also the surreal moment of your first grog session which is actually not that bad to drink, although with a bit of hop hop it makes a great night I can’t wait to go back there again at the end.

For the last 10 days we have been in our project village of Savuna. It has been so much better than I could have ever expected. Our family (living with Cat and Hannah who are fantastic to live with and we get on great) are amazing, Vani (our mum) is always happy and caring, little Joe (5) is hilarious with his dancing at dinner and is just so funny. Wati (9) and Maciu (11) we only see at weekends or at school but they are great too, Maciu even made me a weaving basket and we play around with the rugby ball a bit of Saturdays. Now being his teacher at school for the past 3 days and 2 days to go I see a lot more of him. The teaching side of the project again is surreal and amazing as you see just how fortunate we are back home at school with all the facilities. Last week I did the build and that again was so rewarding to do, and from going to not being able to hammer a nail straight, I now can hammer well, I can dig 3 foot holes and use pick axes and machetes. The week on the build for me was fantastic because I learnt a lot ,or the fact you worked hard but the way the Fijians respond, the tell you how grateful they are and how much it means to them and when they help the are machines. Without technology we have achieved so much. Next week is Kindi which should be an experience.

Out of my Fijian family the only people yet to be mentioned is my Dad and Aunt.  Our aunt is amazing. Also called Wati, normally she doesn’t live in Savuna but she has come over for the 3 ½ weeks to help with the cooking. Our Dad again is just surreal. You can easily see where Joe gets his humour and boxing from (named Joe Rubundi after the famous Fijian Boxer). Our dad teaches us Fijian every day, love talking and is now teaching Me , Hannah and Cat self defence and I get boxing lessons as well ( he used to the Fijian amateur boxing champion from 1997-99. One day he also took me crab fishing which was again a brilliant experience. We caught an octopus and two land crabs just using hands after a bit of a trek. Our Family have done everything and more for us, they gave up their beds for us which we felt bad for but that’s the culture, so comfort wise is perfect , the bed is even bigger than home.  As for food, we are never not full. Our house is amazing food wise, and we have learnt to how to bake fruit, custard and chocolate cakes as well as coconut scones. We have even formed our own secret cake club consisting of our family and leader Tim which involves a lot of cake on a Sunday morning.

Finally the main reason I came to Fiji, the sports. Teaching football every day after school is an unforgettable experience as seeing the progress is so rewarding. Just simple things like head up and using both feet goes a long way here as before the technique is minimal and tackling is barbaric. Yesterday I played my first Men’s rugby game our village unfortunately lost 22-12 but just playing against such machines was again superb. Leader Harry gave out a monster tackle and Moutani was an amazing 10.

Fiji has been an amazing experience with Think Pacific, I have wrote so much and had the time of my life and only Think Pacific can really offer you that. Tim and Harry the leaders are a perfect partnership and the PPP’s every Sunday are a great chance to take you away from everything a just have your own chat to the leaders . It takes you to the heart of the village and it shows you the true Fiji and definitely takes you from your comfort zone and expands it to make you such a more confident person along with so many other more qualities. It has been so rewarding and we are only half way through.

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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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