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2 Week Specials, Care & Community in Fiji by Lauren Yeon

Lauren Yeon – Care & Community Village High School Special in Fiji

A colourful mural painted by volunteers

10th of December 2017. This was the long awaited day, the day my best friend and I would fly four hours away to Fiji and begin our placement as Project Abroad volunteers in Nadi, Fiji.

At school, I’m a part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme, which is an internationally recognised programme for young people to develop skills, get physically active, give service and experience adventure. As part of the gold award, participants must participate in a Residential Project, which is a ‘purposeful experience with people who are not their usual companions, working towards a common goal’.

It was because we were looking to find something suitable, that my friend’s mum stumbled across Projects Abroad while searching the internet. After some research, she found, under the high school tab, a Care & Community Village Project based in Nadi, Fiji.

It was the perfect opportunity for me as I was able to complete the Residential Project component of my Duke of Edinburgh programme, while also engaging in community work, which I had wanted to do since I completed something similar in Vanuatu a couple of years before.

My Care & Community Village placement

My placement was in the Sikituru village of Nadi with seven other girls from countries around the globe, including Canada, Japan and Hong Kong. Together, we ran a holiday school for children aged five to 12 years old for the two weeks of my placement. Over the 10 weekdays that we taught, we got to know and love the children of the village. Their big, bright, loving smiles, hugs, laughs and cheekiness is something that I will remember for life.

I was placed in the five to six age group with one of the other girls, where we taught the children the alphabet, counting, adding and subtracting, different shapes and much more, mainly through arts and crafts so that it was more engaging than regular lessons. We did this for an average of two hours with a short recess break in between.

An educational mural painted by volunteers in Fiji

This was definitely the highlight of the trip; teaching and playing around with all the children was truly amazing. The love they had for life, each other, and their religion and culture was so inspiring and truly a testament to their way of life.

After the official part of holiday school was over, the volunteers were given an hour for lunch and a break, although we always ended up playing games outside such as ‘what’s the time Mr Wolf’, ‘bull rush’ and ‘duck duck goose’. They absolutely loved the games we taught them, always nagging us to play and without fail asking for one more round.

We would then do a short five-minute walk over to the local kindergarten where we revamped it by painting the inside and outside and adding murals. This was a nice way to finish off the day and on the last day when we had finished, it was so great and rewarding to see the transformation of the kindergarten to something bright, colourful and special.

My host family

My friend and I were placed with the Singh family who lived approximately a 10-minute drive from the village. They were absolutely wonderful! The family was so, so welcoming, very attentive to our needs and they provided us with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks every day. Breakfast consisted of toast with jam, Nutella or peanut butter, lunch was different curries wrapped in roti and dinner was anything from curry with rice to noodles. Adapting to the different diet was a bit difficult, although the family constantly encouraged us to speak up if we didn’t like something or were allergic.

I was able to take a shower and watch TV whenever I wanted, and the whole house was very tidy. We kept our room as neat as we could whilst also lending a hand at every opportunity. The host family had two children whom I got to spend a lot of time with and bond with while at their home.

Weekend activities

Children make hats during an art class in Fiji

The organised activities that were provided by Projects Abroad were so much fun and gave us a nice break from teaching. Although I was given an itinerary of the trip before I left, I didn’t realise how much we would be doing and how much fun the activities would be. We did everything from visit a zoo, to mud baths and we also go to go to a private island for two days, where we had complete freedom to participate in the island activities such as snorkelling, paddle boarding, crab hunting, and just relaxing on the beach and watching fire dancing shows. The day trips as well as the weekend getaway were really amazing and were opportunities to explore and discover the natural beauty and culture of Fiji.

My final thoughts

My two weeks away in Fiji were truly incredible; there’s nothing quite like the feeling of giving back to a community. I felt as though I participated in as many touristy things as you would if you went on a holiday, so being able to go to Fiji and do all that stuff whilst being able to give my time and energy to repay a community made the experience that much better and more memorable.

I will never forget the precious children and friendly families, the heart warming “bulas” you would hear while walking down the street and the wonderful volunteers I was lucky to be placed with. All of the Projects Abroad staff that I was fortunate enough to work with were so helpful, friendly and insightful.

Thank you to Projects Abroad for the perfect, trouble-free trip and I definitely see myself booking another trip in the near future.

Lauren Yeon

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