Brooke Harris - Care & Community Village Project in Fiji
Siting with a few of the local people from the village, they asked me if I could explain the trip in one sentence what would I say, I thought about it for a couple of minutes but every sentence I put together felt like it was missing something. What I had experienced over the two weeks I spent at Natalau Village, Fiji couldn’t be put into one sentence; it was an amazing opportunity and one that I will never forget.
Projects Abroad pamphlets were being handed out during my year meeting at school and it caught my eye because volunteering overseas had always been something I’ve wanted to do. After further research into the organisation and the different projects that are offered I found that the Care and Community Village project would be best suited for me, as I am in year 12 at school and also because Fiji is known for being a safe and welcoming country.
The lead up and preparation to my placement in Fiji was made very smooth by the Projects Abroad staff they were always there to answer any questions or queries that I had. The Projects Abroad website and personal webpage they set up for you clearly displays everything you need to know about your trip from visa information to climate. Having so much information so clearly displayed and at such easy reach left both my parents and myself feeling very comfortable. The Projects Abroad team also set up a Facebook group with all of the volunteers and supervisors that I would be working with on the project; this was especially helpful for me as I was very nervous because I didn't know anyone else going on the trip.
Volunteering in Fiji
A typical day on the project included waking up to a traditional Fijian breakfast cooked by your host family, after breakfast all of the volunteers would meet at the Community Hall, we were met there by the children in the village who aged from 4-14. From there we would begin our holiday school with singing songs such as ‘wheels on the bus’; ‘one big happy family’; and, ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ to name a few. After we started singing other kids in the village would hear, and the group would begin to grow and grow, and the singing would get louder and louder.
After singing we would break off into groups with the children being divided by their age. We would do craft and different fun educational activities. Our group’s goal for the holiday school programme was to teach the children about colours and also how to treat animals. After the day’s activities each group would perform in the talent quest, either singing or dancing, then to finish off we would have free time out on the oval were we could play football, soccer, skipping, tip and other games with the children.
After holiday school we would head back to our host family for lunch break and then after lunch we would meet back at the community hall to begin our project for that day. During the two weeks our group of volunteers, with help from some locals, painted the interior and exterior of the community hall as well as two widow’s houses, and tye-died curtains for their homes. Throughout the 2 weeks we also went on numerous trips into town and to the pool, we also went to mud pools and hot springs and had a weekend trip to the Robinson Crusoe Island. All of these extra activities were great fun and they also brought the group of volunteers closer together.
My time in Fiji
The highlight of the trip for me was the time I spent with my host family and the people in the village. The whole village welcomed us with open arms, big smiles and loud shouts of ‘Bula.’ They allowed us to be fully immersed in their beautiful culture and many different traditions.
The trip opened my eyes to the world. The people in the village didn't have very much but they all supported each other and were filled with so much love and faith. The bond you develop with your host family over the two weeks is incredible. Saying goodbye and leaving was really hard but I left feeling so proud and happy because in those 2 weeks we made a big difference in those people’s lives.
During the trip I learnt so many new things about myself; I have never loved doing something so much in my life and I’m now very passionate and excited about doing another trip with Projects Abroad. My advice for people who are thinking of applying is to just go for it; it truly is the experience of a lifetime.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.