Arriving in Fiji
Having travelled for over 30 hours from Scotland, my very first impressions of Fiji were a little hazy. I was met by a member of the Projects Abroad staff and I was taken to my host family’s home, just 10-minutes down the road from the airport. Upon arrival at the host family’s home, my host mum, Lata, greeted me lovingly. The house was very basic, but it was clean and my small room had everything I needed for my stay in Fiji. I slept for a long time that night and woke in the morning, just in time to watch my host grandmother make roti (an Indian flatbread) from scratch. This is something she did every morning and I found the process incredibly satisfying to watch.
That day, Kasa (a member of staff from the Projects Abroad office) took me into Nadi town for lunch and told me everything I needed to know for the upcoming weeks in Fiji. With all the admin information out of the way, I felt excited to meet other volunteers and start my placement the following day.
My Childcare placement
The journey from my home to Saunaka Village is one that I’ll never forget. I set out every morning at 7:30 am and caught a bus two minutes down the road. The buses tended to be very slow, with rattling engines and plastic roll-down windows - however I didn’t mind it. The hilariously noisy and bumpy bus journey would go on for about 15-minutes, at which point I would get off and walk up to Saunaka Village. The short walk from the bus stop up to the village kindergarten was one of smiles and morning greetings from the locals - everyone was so lovely and I will never forget how welcome they made me feel.
My first day at my Childcare placement was overwhelming but completely amazing! I fell in love with my kindergarten kids from day one, and I was completely taken aback by the excitement and curiosity they had for my arrival. On average, there were around 20 children in the kindergarten class every day and every each of them had boundless amounts of energy. The kindergarten space was small and there was very little in the way of materials to entertain the children with, so I spent most of my mornings teaching the children songs and singing games in the tiny classroom.
The kindergarten at which I worked is one with very traditional values and the schooling system is very academic. Despite this, I managed to work with the kindergarten teachers so that the children had a bit of everything during my one month there. They were very fast learners, so I needed to have something new and exciting for them every day. As a Childcare volunteer in Fiji, our main objective was to promote early childhood development through the use of “play”. We had fun with homemade play-doh and on my last day we made multi-coloured pasta necklaces.
In the afternoons, I helped out next door with the Grade One class at a Primary School. This would involve assisting with writing exercises, conducting basic science experiments with the children, singing and storytelling. Once I got to know the class, the teacher was more than happy for me to take over in the afternoons, and I would often prepare simple activities for the class, teaching them about musical instruments and colouring-in with them.
My host family
Life at home with my host family was always exciting. My house would often be full of guests on a Sunday evening with everyone talking to one another in a happy group whilst settling down to a meal featuring five different curries. I was always invited to join them, of course, and generally always felt a part of Lata’s large family. I learnt to love her spicy cooking and appreciate her little offerings of generosity - like when I was given a bread bun for breakfast instead of the usual porridge prepared. Lata demonstrated to me a very basic way of living that made her and her family happy and healthy; I feel honoured to have been a part of it for one short month.
From Scotland, Fiji is probably one of the furthest points in the world, and I have to say, this was part of the attraction. When you type “Fiji” into “Google Images” you’re flooded with pictures of beautiful beaches, swooping palm trees and clear waters. The Fiji that I experienced day-to-day, however, was nothing like that. There was litter and the air could be dirty, and you had to travel at least 10 minutes by car to get to a beach. It didn’t matter though, because it was so much better than any polished Google image! If you travel to Fiji as a volunteer with Projects Abroad you get to experience the REAL Fiji. You meet real Fijians and create unforgettable experiences with the most amazing people. Don’t get me wrong, every volunteer looks forward to the weekends when you have time to travel around the amazing Fiji islands with people from all over the world, but the memories of the kindergarten and school are just as lasting and important.