Caleb Thomas - Care & Community in Fiji
For my volunteering experience I chose to go to Fiji. I first found out about Projects Abroad from my school which had a poster in its common room area. I had some spare time so I logged on to the website and there I saw all the amazing opportunities and places that I could go to. I decided on Fiji because it was a part of the world where I have never been to and obviously the hot weather would be a great positive.
After my very long 22 hour flight, I arrived in Fiji where I was greeted by Oripa and Emi, two women from Projects Abroad Fiji. I was then driven from the airport to Nadi Town where I was staying with my host family. I met two other volunteers, from America and Hong Kong, as well as my host parents. As soon as I arrived in their house I felt welcomed and right at home. One of the best things about my host family was definitely the food! My host mum was a wonder in the kitchen, the food was tasty, spicy and delicious and the other two female volunteers and I also really enjoyed the food.
My placement was with ten girls from; England, America, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Korea, Belgium, Germany, Poland and Canada. Honestly, these girls made my trip absolutely unbelievable and I genuinely miss every one of them to this date.
Our placement was at a kindergarten in Nawaka Village. The children were all so adorable and were actually really clever. They were nervous to begin with but after a couple of days, they were all eager to interact and play and learn with us. Our days consisted of teaching them about transport, shapes and numbers among others. Then we played outside for a bit before they went home.
When playing outside they really enjoyed learning how to play ‘duck duck goose’ and also loved to play ‘tig’. A lot of the time I was chosen to play tig, I think this was because I was the only male and am a sporty person.
After the first couple of days we had to teach the children some songs, so I chose some Christian songs to sing because I had seen they already knew some Christian songs. After I taught them these songs, the teacher assumed I am Christian, which I am, and asked to lead to the prayer for the next couple of days which I loved and also felt very honoured to do so.
Our afternoons were spent refurbishing the kindergarten which was a lot of fun and in the end the whole place just looked absolutely brilliant, colourful and regenerated. In addition to this, because I was the only male I was always picked to do the heavy lifting like lifting the paints, builder’s blocks and such.
In between the two weeks of volunteering, we had a weekend where we travelled to another island of Fiji’s which was full of other volunteers and tourists. Here we went hill walking, swimming in the ocean, partied in the night time and played some games. I hung out some other volunteers from Germany, Netherlands, Brazil and Canada and they were just as awesome as the girls in my group. The whole weekend was so brilliant and every day after we left, we all missed it so much because it was so much fun.
Our leisure time could be spent in a variety of ways. As long as it was okay with our host parents we could basically do whatever we wanted. So we went to different beaches, went on walks, to the cinema and different styles of restaurants, where I tried sushi for the first time – I must say I’m not a fan. On another occasion my group got taken to a huge flower garden. Myself and the American girl split up from the group and decided to go hiking up the adjacent hill which showed the true beauty of Fiji and its wildlife.
I would extremely recommend Fiji to any future volunteers. Stereotypically Fiji is seen as golden sandy beaches and clear blue oceans, which is does have, but help is needed in this part of the world. The whole country is welcoming, friendly, safe and very hot no matter what time of year, which is always a bonus!
On return to England, I still miss Fiji even though I visited about three months ago now. I miss the people, the places, the food and all the amazing long life friends I made. I don’t think any other experience will be anything close compared to the marvellous time I spent in Fiji.
The staff of Projects Abroad in Fiji, and also at the main offices in the UK, was exceptionally helpful, catered to my every need and were on hand at any time when I needed them. Without a doubt they are some of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet - as soon as I have the chance to go back to Fiji, I most certainly will!
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.