Fiji Islands Discovered

Season’s Report 2016 - Southern Hemisphere

Group 1

Naluwai Village and  Rara District School

CONSTRUCTION

Four school buildings were refurbished during our volunteer week.

  • sanding of primary school and kindergarten
  • painting of bathroom block
  • painting of kindergarten with murals
  • painting of walkway poles and face boards from street to school buildings
  • painting of the two main buildings
  • fresh coat of blackboard paint
  • replaced broken and missing windows
  • replaced ceiling boards in one classroom
  • construction team built compost and covering for incinerator

EDUCATION

  • Intro / collaborative activities with junior and senior students within primary school (found creative and fun way to get to know one another – some groups would use a ball and toss to one another having to answer new questions, i.e., name, fav colour, fav pastime, etc or for the younger ones, draw a picture)
  • Sat in on prize giving for a bit
  • Lessons on compost vs incinerator / general lessons about waste … then went around and collected rubbish, and divided to place in either incinerator or their new compost
  • Outdoor activities /sports day – relay races , soccer and volleyball

The volunteers were invited to sit in on some of the “items” at the end of the ceremony so they got to see the little ones in their gowns, singing and dancing which I think they enjoyed. 

Village week tends to always be one of the most rewarding yet challenging weeks for the volunteers and even the team leaders. However, we’ve never seen a group embrace Fijian culture and village life like this group did!

A group of four volunteers (Jason, Travis, Tom and Keegan) became brothers to a local boy named Ronnie who took them under his wing and taught them everything they needed to know about being men in Fiji.

From sharing kava ceremonies with them to teaching them the haka and performing it at our talent show, after the Naluwai rugby team won the tournament… and pretty much every other chance they could. Jon, a former Australian rugby player himself, picked up the Fijian language quicker than anyone I’ve ever seen and was appointed as the new junior Naluwai rugby team’s physical trainer, running mini sessions after a day of work at the school. The girls stole the show on talent night as family by family stood up and performed their own beautiful meke.

And let’s not forget the epic ride on the billi billi’s: I’m sure we broke the world record for the largest billi billi that we of course ended up turning into a floating dance floor. As much as groups usually can’t wait until island week, group 1 left Naluwai wishing they could stay with their new family and friends much longer.

Island life is always spectacular, we had many scuba divers, and some volunteers were lucky enough to see sea turtles, octopuses and reef sharks during the coral garden snorkel. 

We also had four skydivers jump the final day.

Group 2

Nabaitavo Village

CONSTRUCTION

Four school buildings were refurbished during our volunteer week.

  • sanding of primary school and kindergarten
  • sanding and painting of bathroom building
  • painting of  inside of kindergarten with murals (room inside headmaster’s house)
  • painting of the two main buildings
  • fresh coat of blackboard paint
  • replaced broken and missing windows
  • construction team built compost and covering for incinerator
  • two water tanks installed to provide running water to bathroom

EDUCATION

  • Ice breakers in three groups, all put hands together mixed up in a “knot” and tried to untangle. Kids and volunteers loved this.
  • Intro & ambitions - varied activities with older ones and younger ones,
  • Geography – similarities and differences between Australia New Zealand and Fiji
  • Lots of games: duck, duck goose, educational game of charades, let them teach us a game
  • Christmas craft – reindeer with hand antlers. Tied in lesson on values. i.e., what values does Christmas emphasize?, what do they do on Christmas to celebrate.

We were so lucky to have such a beautiful village, and volunteers that reciprocally opened their hearts to these beautiful people. Really lovely and fun week. We always said a big Vinaka to our moms after finishing up lunch break.  This one day in particular, at the end of the week, the moms started singing this beautiful “Vinaka” song to us afterwards, and all of a sudden, heaps of volunteers and their moms and sisters all got up and started dancing and singing together.  It was so touching.

The rain didn’t dampen the spirit of the volunteers. From socializing in the hall on the first village day while the rain died down to having a slip and slide with the kids on the muddy village field after a hard day’s work at the end of the week

Group 2 was also dealt some pretty awful weather on the islands but they kept the best attitudes throughout it.  From cancelled activities due to rain to being evacuated for a possible cyclone, they didn’t spend their days complaining but instead used it as an opportunity to get to know one another better… and get to tell people back home they partied through a cyclone;) They danced in the rain on the deck of Nabua, survived a rough boat ride back to the main land, had a massive movie night and sleep over in the movie room of Nadi Bay and almost drank the bar dry on their last night together (secretly praying their flights wouldn’t go out the next day so they didn’t have to say goodbye). It may not have been an ideal second week on the islands, but the group wouldn’t have changed the memories made for anything!  One of our volunteers put it perfectly, “There’s no one else we’d want to survive a cyclone with!”

Group 3

Navolau Village

Navolau Village is a small but beautiful village that sits on the top of a hill in the interior of Viti Levu. To reach it, you must walk down a pretty steep hill, cross a small wooden bridge with a crystal clear stream rushing below, and then back up the steep hill. (Yes, it made for a pretty intense workout). It didn’t take long to walk from the one end of the village to the other which ended at the large river.

CONSTRUCTION

  • One school building was fully refurbished inside and out with our classic VESA colours.
  • There were 3 conjoined classrooms within this building that are now a beautiful teal and light blue. The outside of the bathroom was painted as well.
  • There was also an incinerator and compost built by the construction teams.
  • Guttering replaced

EDUCATION:

  • Chats about career opportunities and what volunteers study
  • Charades re: jobs & colouring re: jobs
  • Volleyball & rugby
  • Little ones: going through picture books, learning both Fijian and English word and acting it out
  • Older: competition between two teams – categories: words starting with certain letter.
  • What time is it Mr wolf; duck, duck goose

This village week there was a lot of water buckets being splashed around and with a muddy field nearby, mud fights were eminent – the celebration of the new year by the village people made it that volunteers and tour leaders were a little more wet than usual but the volunteers embraced it and did their best to make sure the Fijians didn’t get away high and dry.

After a few days of swimming in the river, there were talks of a waterfall that the village wanted to take us to. So after we finished all of our work at the school, we headed to the river where a small wooden boat was waiting to take us and loaded it to the point that any small movement in the wrong direction meant we were going over! There were a lot of locals wanting to join us on the trip but like I said… just a small boat. So we took off and within a few minutes, looked over to the shore to see about 15 local boys running through the bush alongside of us. The boat took a turn down a small channel where it unloaded us at a path which we followed until we reached the most breathtaking waterfall I’ve ever seen. A villager said, “Yeah, it’s nice… just the second largest in Fiji” with a wink. Talk about a hidden gem! Anywhere else in the world and this place would be swarming with tourists. But here, in Fiji, it was just the locals sharing their casual swim spot with their new Vesa friends. 

During the island week group 3 got really lucky. The weather was absolutely stunning all week, they got to see a group of about 10 dolphins swimming and jumping out front of the Awesome Adventures flyer. Then on our final day on Bounty Island there was a release of five 10 month old Hawksbill turtles into the ocean, giving everyone a little taste of what the marine conservation week is like.

Group 4

Nabukaluka Village

This group did an awesome job on the school, it was our biggest of the season. The largest building in the school had rough cement that had not been smoothed out, making it very hard and tedious to paint over but the group smashed it. We knew it was going to be a good week when on the first day we got to the village there were volunteers playing volleyball, taking billy-billy’s down the river and interacting seamlessly with the villagers. At the end of the week Nabukaluka District School gave each of the volunteers as well as us tour leaders a certificate and a sulu; considering the education budget, this was a very generous gift.

CONSTRUCTION

  • sanding and painting of three buildings
  • sanding and painting of two bathroom blocks
  • fresh coat of blackboard paint
  • construction team built compost, added additional cinder blocks to fix the incinerator and built a roof for it.
  • built water tank platform and installed a 10,000ml water tank
  • fixed broken guttering to properly fill the school water tanks
  • fixed broken ceiling boards

EDUCATION

Education this week was really good.  The kids were in their first week back in school so some of them were full of beans but seemed super happy to be back and excited about having our group there. 

We were lucky enough to be able to run a few lessons with each of the 8 classes (year 1 through to year 8) throughout the week.  I spoke with the headmaster and each teacher and they were most interested in having us work on maths and English with students.   So between each group of volunteers, they created lesson plans including some interactive and fun activities with a focus on those two subjects.  A maths competition, splitting class into two teams who had “races” against each other using addition/subtraction/multiplication/ division flash cards was a particularly big hit!  I was really impressed with the group of volunteers on the last day who had the littlest ones – year 1 – and created a “rotation” lesson plan, focusing on small group learning, where students went from doing a craft, learn English words, read books, etc.  Really well done.  Overall a really fun week!

  • Ice breaker activity (interactive) & introductions
  • Maths
  • Career chats / high school prep (i.e., new subjects they’ll see and streams they’ll have to choose)
  • Geography – comparisons between Australia, New Zealand and Fiji
  • Chinese whispers (in Fijian and English)
  • Lots of educational games (education students were awesome at integrating these since it was first week back to school)

Our group attended a church service early in the week and it was clear that they had prepared a service for us that we could specifically relate to and through which they could express their gratitude. The headmaster of the school made a beautiful speech saying they were so excited but very worried about hosting us as they were having a lot of water problems. Luckily, he told us how he prayed, that their water situation thankfully panned out and of course, he thanked god for that and expressed deep gratitude for all volunteers and the work they were doing. The pastor made an effort to read English bible verses, the “love is patient, love is kind” verse.  He then focused the “preaching” aspect on love – a universal concept rather than a religious one. 

He spoke of his two daughters he was hosting from Australia and how he was trying to understand why they would leave their families, beautiful homes and spend all this money to come to his village in Fiji. He said he spoke to God and finally came to understand that they did this because of love. They did it because they have love in their hearts and want to help. He said love unites us, that both the Nabukaluka village and our Australian volunteers are all One.  Regardless of our different colour, religion, culture – we are all human and here to love and help each other.

It was another solid island week with volunteers soaking up the sun, and taking part in some awesome activities. We had snorkelers and scuba divers at Barefoot Manta who saw hundreds of fish, sting rays and even reef sharks! To cap it off everyone, even those who weren’t Australian, could celebrate some national pride with Australia day occurring during our stay on Bounty Island.