Past volunteers

Volunteer stories: Gareth Dunn

Gareth Dunn

A heavy night of kava, plus a hall full of rather emotionally-charged Fijians, times by the end of a two-and-a-half month project equals quite a bit of Kaivalagi (Fijian for ‘foreigner’) love. Pardon the mathematics, and my rather miserable attempt at being funny, but we’re at the – I’m very sad to say – end of our expedition here in the South Pacific, and though we are as far away from the Motherland as we can be, I certainly feel like I have just left my home, that is, Nasauvuki village, just across the water from us on Caqalai as we speak, and I’m rather emotionally-charged myself, if I’m honest.

Leaving a Fijian village is a crushing experience, and no amount of TLC can prepare you for the onslaught of the floodgates that inevitably come. After our final night in Nasauvuki, beginning with a variety of mekes and songs from the children at Moturiki District School (Class 4- what a crowd of enthusiastic nutters!), we were treated to a fantabulous feast in the hall as a token of the villages’ appreciation for our work over the past few months. After a quick break, I accompanied my family to the church, where my old man, Jese, conducted the sermon alongside Matthew, Rob and Will’s dad (Who happened to christen me Hercules, a nickname that I certainly did not have any qualms about) and the Vakatoa, the village preacher. Needless to say, the floodgates creaked open a little during the oration, which just goes to show how much an effect our families here in Fiji have on each and every one of us.

Now grog sessions are a peculiar thing; each sitting is different to the last, the composition of folk is always a variety, and the grog is either too bitty or too heavy (we all like a good moan, after all, we are British), though there is always, always one common denominator; Serana. Serana will find you, she will dance with you, and she will mock you the day after about the quality of your snake hips, and Friday night was no exception. Grog time is such a sociable time, not just for us wannabe Kaiviti’s, but for also the fully-fledged Kaitivi’s themselves, and it allows us to interact with the community in a way chatting under a coconut tree or hammering fingers on the build just doesn’t allow.

After a very long night for some of the TP squadron, this morning turned out to be one of the most emotional days I have had the displeasure of participating in. Incredible sad farewells were said to each and every Kainasauvuki, and I would certainly be lying if I said I wasn’t in tatters when saying goodbye to my very close friends, Peni, Moji, ‘Fox Killer’, Siti, ‘Ice Man’ Isea, Agu and Isoa, and especially my family, Jese my dad, Alumeci my mum, and Sai and Esala my two brothers that were in Nasauvuki at the time.

I’ve been doused in nothing but love, kindness, kinship and brotherhood, and I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life, that’s for sure. It sure won’t be long until I’m back (I’m eyeing up Summer 2011), but for now, so long Nasauvuki, and thanks for all the fish.

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I had the absolute time of my life with Think Pacific. Everything was just so far beyond what I could have asked for, or expected.
Alex Jenkinson, Belfast
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