Jade Knowles - General Teaching Projects in Fiji
I chose to volunteer in Fiji because I was looking for an adventure and I definitely got what I was looking for. I chose the furthest possible place away from home that I could because I knew it would be like nothing I had ever experienced before and it would give me a chance to see what life is like in a place so very different from my home. I had never travelled alone before so the security of the Projects Abroad team and a host family made the experience a lot less daunting.
I am a teacher in England so I chose to do a teaching placement so I could see how different the job can be and how the teachers cope with so few resources. I only spent just over 2 weeks in Fiji so I was very busy trying to fit lots in but it flew by so quickly!
Arriving in Fiji
After being awake for over two days travelling to Fiji, the first few hours were a bit of blur to be honest! After I had landed in Nadi, I immediately got on a bus to Suva with another volunteer which takes around 4 hours. It gave me a great opportunity to see lots of Fiji. One of the first things I noticed was the brightly coloured floral shirts that everyone wears! Also, I was struck with how varied the landscape is. There are huge misty mountain ranges, bright green jungles, white beaches, remote communities and bustling towns.
Once I arrived in Suva bus station I noticed it was hot, busy, and loud and filled with unfamiliar faces. We were soon met by one of the Projects Abroad members of staff. He took us to my host family’s house. My host mum was so warm and welcoming that I immediately felt at home. She had three children who definitely kept me busy whenever I was at home!
I volunteered at Davuilevu Methodist Primary School. I first went there with a member of the Projects Abroad team who introduced me to everyone and we had a tour of the school with the head teacher.
My role was to take the lower ability reading groups from each class. This was a great opportunity to work with lots of different children. It was a real challenge and although you do not have to be a teacher to volunteer, it really helped me to draw on my experiences from home.
I felt I could really make a difference and that the work I was doing was worthwhile. The children were great fun and the staff were very friendly. At the end of my placement, the teachers threw a lunch time party where I was the special guest and was given farewell gifts. It was a memorable experience.
As I arrived on a Friday, I spent my first weekend with my host family. This was a fantastic opportunity as my host mum took me to visit her friends where we spent all day preparing food for the 'lovo' (earth oven). This is a traditional way of cooking in Fiji but was a once in lifetime experience for me. The food was incredible and I learnt lots. I was very proud that by the end of the day I was able to make LoLo (made from coconut milk).
The following weekend, I visited an island with some of the other volunteers. The island was surrounded by beautiful coral reef and amazing tropical fish. On the Sunday morning at 7am I dragged myself out of the comfy dorm bed to jump into the sea to swim with manta rays! This was an incredible, unforgettable experience. My last weekend in Fiji was spent at Beachcomber Island, notorious for its party scene. It was there that I realised I was in paradise.
During the week I made the most of the time after school. I went to two kava (drink made from the roots of a plant) ceremonies, visited a traditional Fijian village, spent time socialising with other volunteers and went shopping.
I was very sad to leave Fiji, my placement, my host family and the friends I had made. I did something new every day from the day I left home until the day I got back. I have memories that will last a lifetime. Since arriving home, the school I teach at in England has been collecting pens, pencils, notebooks and lots of other resources to send over to Davuilevu Methodist School. I feel this small gesture will hopefully show them how thankful I am of the experience they gave me and the lasting impression it's had on me.