Emily Walker - Care & Community Village Project in Fiji
I have always committed a promise to myself that I would travel to a developing country and make a difference that impacts others as well as myself. At this time in my life I want to open my eyes to the world, understand other people, cultures, lifestyles and ways of communication. For these reasons I chose to undertake the Fiji project offered through Projects Abroad.
At the beginning of the trip there was a concern that the villagers wouldn’t value my help but in the end the satisfaction on the children’s faces and the appreciation the adults had after seeing your efforts and work complete is so fulfilling. The friendliness between the villagers generates such warmth in the community, which helps the volunteers feel comfortable and welcome. Staying with a host family is so beneficial, as it allows you to become more connected to the village community. It provides opportunities to ask questions, have personal, warm and friendly conversations and learn the language faster than being in a house full of volunteers.
Their way of living is simple yet efficient, which easily allows the volunteers to appreciate their own lifestyle back in Australia but at the same time appreciate the Fijian way of life. In the beginning it was difficult to live their lifestyle but you quickly adapt as the days go by. Yes, there is poverty in the village, they are materialistically poor, but their hearts aren’t poor. The people are always prepared to give no matter how little they have, there is tremendous meaning in it. These fulfilling hearts do not show any demonstration of poverty or deprivation.
Being with the Projects Abroad group is such a good opportunity because you can forge new friendships and develop relationships with people around Australia. You are able to talk about the trip, share your experiences and create bonds through working with the members of the group. It is essential you come into the group with a full spirit of serving and an of gratitude for the trip because it sets a welcoming and enthusiastic atmosphere which allows the development of relationships to be easier. One of my favourite memories of our group was when we would all jump into the van, sing all sorts of songs at the top of our lungs and scream Bula out the window and wave at people on the streets. We all would laugh and get some hilarious reactions, waves and smiles from the villagers.
A typical day would consist of having a family breakfast, a morning of teaching the children at the Kindergarten and playing games, a meeting with the volunteers and our group leader about the work we were doing in the afternoon, lunch with the host family; then back to the kindergarten to design and paint. After our work we would have an afternoon activity planned like visiting the mud baths or beach. When we got back we would have dinner and spend the rest of the night with our host family usually playing cards, singing and dancing.
The frequent trips to town, the mud baths and the Robinson Crusoe Island were really exciting adventures, full of beautiful sights to see and some successful shopping. I was so thankful to go to these places outside the village for two reasons; One being we got to see the touristy side of Fiji and enjoy relaxing in a beautiful environment, swim an watch some dancing from the men and women. Secondly, we could appreciate the simplicity and warmth of the village life and compare its underdevelopment to the rest of Fiji.
The overall experience of this trip has not only opened my eyes and heart, but also those of my fellow volunteers. It has benefited the villager’s lives as we were teachers and friends to the children and we helped the situation of their kindergarten to be a safer and more enjoyable environment. The relationships and memories you make with the volunteers and villagers are unforgettable. Leaving was one of the most difficult goodbyes I have experienced. I would highly recommend the trip because your perception of the world broadens along with your communication skills and the way you develop relationships with people from different cultures and circumstances. Lastly the Projects Abroad team allows the trip to happen so easily as their communication before, during and after the trip is constant and trust worthy. The leaders that come on the trip with you are enthusiastic, experienced and welcoming. I was really happy with how smoothly the trip was organised and the activities we did inside and outside the village in Fiji. Everyone has their own experiences, memories which are different and special for them, so in order to fully understand the potential this Fiji trip Projects Abroad is offering one has to simply experience it themselves.
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.