Kushbu Lad - General Care Projects in Fiji
Bula! My name is Kush and I’ve just returned from the most amazing experience to date. I’m a young mother currently in my first year of university. After the first day of university, on the homepage of my university website was the advertisement for an international scholarship. I was dreaming! I only had a few weeks to apply, as well as the launch of my assignment, placement and all that crazy university prep, and we’ve all seen how many different companies there are out there. How was I to choose one for my scholarship application? One night, determined to finish the application, I found a Projects Abroad brochure from when I enquired in 2012. Five years later, I’m writing for their website!
I’d really like to emphasise that volunteering abroad will be the most rewarding, self-discovering thing you could ever do! Why volunteer with Projects Abroad? I was able to share this experience with my daughter, the Projects Abroad staff are with you every step of the way, you have your own website and access to all the information you’ll need as well as your own Volunteer Advisor, and even a packing checklist. All your essentials are covered by Projects Abroad and volunteering with my daughter made the experience even more enjoyable!
Fiji time starts as soon as you get on that plane! Three planes later, I was met by a Projects Abroad staff member, even though my plane arrived quite late. I was taken straight to our new home for two weeks and I received a welcoming phone call from one of the Project Coordinators.
My host family
Waiting for me as I arrived was my host mum and dad. They have a daughter who is a similar age to my daughter and they immediately became best friends! My host family were of an Indian heritage also, so I could never say I missed home food. It was amazing to discover that even though I was half way across the world, so many cultural attributes, attitudes and languages are so similar to home. Imagine, waking up to mountains with a hint of sunrise when you walk out the back door of your three bed bungalow.
Experiencing Fijian culture
Fijian people are full of pride! Especially over rugby! And they love children. You will always feel welcomed and Bula will become one of your most used words. Fiji is beautiful in so many ways, its land, the scenery and especially its multi-culture. The majority of the residents are native Fijians and Indo Fijians, with a rising population of people from China, South Korea, and nearby surrounding islands. So not only will you meet volunteers from all over the world, but you’ll meet many residents too! You’ll learn a lot about the Fijian history, which I personally think is important and it’s something unique to take home with you.
My Care placement
I would say I was lucky – I got to work in and experience two completely different schools.
Placement 1: My morning placement was in a kindergarten, held in a church with just over 40 pre-school aged children. I was able to work with children with autism and from different ethnic backgrounds. The first week was pre-school week, which is amazing and also lots of fun! We got to participate in many activities, working with a volunteer who had been at the placement previously. This helped me settle in and adjust quicker, and if I had any questions, I had her support. My daughter was able to engage in sessions.
Placement 2: My second placement was a primary school in a village. At first, the village made me nervous. When you enter, there’s nobody around but as soon as the schoolchildren see you, they run up to you in their bright green uniforms and greet you so warmly. Our part of the school building was mainly yellow, and the size of a classroom was big enough for two school years. It’s a completely different atmosphere compared to home, but it really is worth it. The children are a pleasure. They’re lively and kind-hearted. My only regret is that we stayed for only two weeks.
Support from Projects Abroad staff
The staff are definitely supportive, whether it’s social, tourism, resources, local supermarkets, café’s, most common places previously recommended by volunteers, personal or current issues. You definitely feel looked after and they have the answers to all of your questions. The Projects Abroad office was located in between my host home and my placements, so we were never far if we needed anything. I’d like to give a special shout out to the Care coordinator in Nadi, Liz. The staff also organised socials on Thursday afternoons, which was lovely. We got to meet volunteers from all over the world, some doing different projects or living in nearby towns.
My free time
It is a must to fit in travelling to some of Fiji’s beautiful beaches and popular destinations. Natadola beach is a must if you’re on the mainland of Viti Levu; it truly is breath taking, with clear waters, soft powdery sand and pictures worthy of postcards. There are also many island cruises depending on what you’re looking for, we chose Malolo Island. It was a slightly longer trip compared to others, but we stayed at such a beautiful resort.
I was surprised because there are a lot of young children in the resorts of Fiji. I was worried that there wasn’t going to be much for my daughter to do but I was very wrong. Wherever we went, my daughter was sincerely welcomed and her needs were considered. The skies are like paintings and their winters are warm! There are also destinations we visited on the mainland, such as the sand dunes, the garden of the sleeping giant and the waterfalls.
My final thoughts
The people of Fiji are warm-hearted, strong in their culture and religion, and all united in their Fijian pride. The villages are fascinating and if I ever went back, I’d love to stay in one of the villages. For a tiny island, there is a lot going on and I would definitely stay for at least four to eight weeks. It’s a must to get a real understanding of the country and everyday environment. I’d advise anyone to go if they ever got the chance. For first timers, it’s a great place. It is safe and the children and scenery make up for the distance.
My daughter’s experience (6 years old)
Before we left UK: ‘I felt really excited!’
Journey: ‘I was so surprised, there are so many!’ (airplanes)
Kindergarten: ‘I felt quite happy because I made some friends’
What did you like about it? ‘When they was wearing their costumes!’
Village school: ‘I felt confused’ (Because the children’s mannerisms are different and the children aren’t afraid to be expressive)
What did you like about it? ‘They called me princess’
Host family: ‘So so so excited and really happy because (host daughters name) was there.’
Fiji overall: ‘It was fun because I could go swimming outside and there were lizards on the house!’ She says she would go back, but without having injections!
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.