Volunteer stories : Denise T., General Care Projects in Fiji
I wanted to travel and experience a new culture and way of life. I had a friend recommend tying volunteering into my next trip, it was amazing advice. Once I started searching I came across Projects Abroad. I took a drive to the nearest office where I sat with a friend and we asked every question we could possibly think of. The staff were friendly and helpful from the very beginning. It was a very easy decision for me to choose Fiji, as it had been a dream destination I have had forever. So I signed up, bought my tickets and started packing.
Less than a month later I was on my first trip alone. This made me nervous, until I arrived in Fiji and realised that Fijians are unbelievably warm and friendly people, I was not alone at all. I was taken to my host family and introduced to my roommate (who I became great friends with) and my new family. Jima and Kaisa, as well as their adorable children Jonah, Josie, Saki, baby Jeanie, and their puppy All Black. Our home was a welcome place for everyone; we always had neighbours, friends and family around. I was meeting new people every day and I instantly felt welcomed into their home.
I volunteered my time at Namaka Methodist Kindergarten. It is a standalone kindergarten with one junior and one senior class. There were two teachers, generally one would be teaching while the other would be doing office work or taking courses outside of the school. I was there to assist the teachers with whatever they needed as well as to give the children extra attention. The majority of the children were not shy at all; some were climbing in my lap right after I was introduced to the class.
A general day in the classroom would start with the children arriving between 8:15-8:30am where they would have time to play with blocks and puzzles. Than we would all sit for Devotion. The children would sing songs, say a prayer, than go over the date, day of the week and the weather. They would then be given a worksheet or assignment of some sort, usually numbers or letters. At this time I would go around and assist any of the children that were having troubles. This was my favourite part of the day; it is amazing when you can see in a child’s face that they understand.
After the activity there would be a few more songs, a break for lunch, than another activity such as a book, game or colouring, followed by another prayer to end the school day. Then the next class of children arrives! It amazes me that even though it was 30-40 degrees of blistering heat those children could still run around like crazy without getting tired!
I was lucky enough to be volunteering while the children were preparing for their graduation/end of year party. That day was amazing. The children were all dressed in their traditional Fijian outfits with fresh flower necklaces and head pieces. They performed and sang to lots of songs, received a graduation gift from the school, as well as a Christmas gift from Father Christmas (who arrived on a fire truck). The day wrapped up with enjoying lots of treats that the parents had prepared, saying Merry Christmas, and goodbye to the students and teachers.
Outside of working at the kindergarten there was always something to do. Every night volunteers would get together to play pool, or watch fire dancing, or go out for pizza. The weekends were always filled with relaxing by the pools, or day trips out to the gorgeous islands of Fiji.
Fiji is a very safe and welcoming country. The people are all very accepting and want to hear about your life, and to teach you about their own. It is very easy and affordable to use the buses and taxis. The Projects Abroad staff were never more than a phone call or stop by the office away. The assistant country manager would always keep in touch, and inform you about volunteer activities, and important news.
It never felt like travelling alone, since I had made so many new friends and family members. I still keep in touch with my host family, and hope to visit them again soon. I will always remember this trip, and cannot wait to return to this beautiful country.
Vinaka Vakalevu, Thank you very much.
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