Grace Hull - High School Specials, Care & Community in Fiji
I traveled to Fiji in December 2015 and stayed in Natalau Village. To say the least, Fiji was probably the best experience I’ve had thus far in my life.
I had traveled to Fiji with my family earlier that year however I was unable to see the traditional side of Fiji. This was the perfect way to see another aspect of the country and do something outside of my comfort zone. I learnt about a culture completely different to my own, was able to make friends with other volunteers and members of the village.
Initially, I was very nervous and had no idea what to expect as I had never traveled without my family. Although I was traveling with a friend, I was still anxious. The Projects Abroad staff was incredibly helpful in answering any questions I, or my parents, had and made preparation for the trip seamless. All my worries disappeared after arriving in the village and meeting the other volunteers and my host family.
Volunteering in Fiji
Natalau Village was vastly different to anything I had seen prior to the trip and it took some getting used to, however, after a couple of days, it felt like a home away from home. I immediately felt welcomed into my host family and the village. My placement was a Care & Community project which involved work with the children and in the village.
A typical day began with breakfast with my host family and work in the community hall with children aged 3-15 years old. The Projects Abroad staff were primarily there for supervision so volunteers planned lessons for the kids- this was daunting at first, however as we got to know the kids better, it became easier to plan activities they would enjoy. After teaching the kids and playing outside, volunteers returned to their host family for lunch and then met again to do community work.
This generally entailed painting; we painted the community hall and two widows’ houses. Throughout the two weeks we were also able to do other recreational activities including going into Nadi for pizza and a movie, visiting a pool, a weekend trip to Robinson Crusoe Island and mud pools.
The trip was a highlight in itself; however I will never forget the other volunteers who were some of the most kind-hearted people and the children in the village who were some of the happiest and friendliest people I have ever met. I will never forget the countless “bulas” we received whilst walking through the village that can put a smile on anyone’s face. The weekend trip to Robinson Crusoe Island was a great bonding experience for the group and was a chance to rest and recuperate before heading back into the village.
The volunteer group was very diverse with people from Australia, New Zealand and even Norway! Such diversity was an asset to the group as we were able to draw on different experiences when working with the children. Everyone on the trip was enthusiastic, extremely driven and easy to get along with, making the trip much easier. By the end of the two weeks, the volunteers and our supervisors felt like family.
Fiji was an amazing and rewarding experience that I will never forget. Staying in a village is a terrific way to immerse yourself in the culture as you have the ability to learn so much in a small period of time. The food, accommodation, volunteers, supervisors, people in the village and day-to-day activities went beyond my expectations and by the end of my two weeks, I felt like a member of the village.
My advice to those thinking of applying - do it. Although it may sound daunting, it is an unforgettable and incredibly rewarding experience that I would definitely recommend. Also, don’t be worried about making friends, everyone is in the same boat and I can guarantee that by the end of the trip, you will be like a family. Don’t hold back, completely immerse yourself in the culture and you won’t regret a thing.
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