Claudia MacDonagh - High School Specials, Care & Community in Fiji
As young adults, living in a first world country, we are consistently being blinded and becoming unaware of the hardships other people face in their day to day lives. The closest many come to helping undeveloped communities in our society is by liking a post on Facebook or Instagram. I wanted to take a step further from that and create real change. Projects Abroad offers unique projects catered for high school aged teens. I came to a decision to select the country of Fiji as firstly it was close to my home in Sydney, Australia and secondly I have traveled and seen so many pictures showing the iconic coral reefs, beaches and grand resorts of Fiji and after reading about how materialistically poor Fijian communities are in comparison to the Fiji shown in the media I was eager to help.
My parents were very supportive of me embarking on this immersion because they wanted me to challenge myself and to open my eyes to the real world where I can meet people less fortunate then I and help them by using my skills and knowledge I have been privileged enough to receive.
My placement in Fiji
My Care & Community project in Fiji took place in December 2015, along with 15 other volunteers from different countries including Australia, New Zealand, China and Norway. After a short flight I arrived in the sunny country of Fiji. The staff at Projects Abroad was very friendly and went above and beyond to ensure we were all looked after very well. On my arrival I was flooded with smiling faces and ‘Bula’s’ around every turn. Fijian people are very welcoming.
We were placed in host families, staying with 2-3 other volunteers. As soon as I arrived I was adopted right into my host family, and the feast began! We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner with our families, consisting of an array of seafood, fruit, curries and lots of rice.
The typical day consisted waking up around 6am to be ready to host holiday school for the children of the village. We were placed into groups of four people allocated to a different age group each day. For about 2-3 hours we taught the children topics such as colors and animals, predominantly through arts and crafts. We also in cooperated other activities like the daily talent quest and singing nursery rhymes.
After, we took the children to the local field to play games like skipping, touch rugby and tip. We went back to our host family for about an hour to get ready for our community activity, which was usually painting, and to eat lunch. We painted for about two hours each day. Over the course of my program we painted 2 ½ houses bright pink as well as the whole community hall lime green.
Volunteering in Fiji
My program had many highlights from the mud pools to the days in town, but my favorite part of the trip was definitely the weekend away at Robinson Crusoe Island. The island had a huge variety of actives from the nature walk, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling and of course the turtle watching. As a group we bonded and grew more like a family over the two days we were there. Almost everyone who went, traveled on this adventure alone, meaning we all created unified friendships. Everyone came from a different school, background and country so it was fun learning the different ways people lived, creating a more fulfilling immersion.
I miss everything so much! From the bubbly, cheeky smiling faces of the children, the yummy food, my host family and even the rooster that began crowing before the sun even rose. This trip has motivated me more to create a change in the world. Seeing the impact, I could make in that community in two weeks creates an ideal inside of me that even though I helped on such a small scale, sometimes a little can mean a lot to somebody in need. There is not one thing I would change about the trip.
I hope from doing this, and sharing my story I can encourage others to follow and make a difference. For people reading this wondering if this is the trip for them, I would definitely say you have found the perfect program. The staff is amazing! I promise you that it will be the best thing you will ever do and someday you will look back on this with no regrets and be glad you did it. If you just keep an open mind, stay positive and are hardworking you’ll have the best trip ever. And no matter what you face just remember- “It’s all part of the experience”.
Read more about Care & Community High School Special in Fiji.