Apologies for the delayed response, returning to the chaos of work has made me realise how relaxed my holiday actually was.
I have attached some photos of the kids, some of the amazing views and some from the school athletics carnival I helped with on the first Friday.
Highlights of the trip – without a doubt, the people on the island. Right from the time I arrived and met with Mr Matai at the school to meeting the family I stayed with, everyone was so welcoming. Everywhere I went on the island, there was always a ‘Bula’ coming my way. I was invited into so many family homes, usually with some kava involved.
I stayed with the island pastor and his family and from day one I felt like part of the family, not just a guest. The first night we did the first of many kava ceremonies with some of the neighbours. At one point I think I had 5 kids hanging off my arm, fascinated by my Fitbit watch.
I had always heard about the friendly nature of Fijian’s, but actually experiencing a couple of weeks living amongst the locals, I can truly say they are some of the friendliest people I have ever met on my travels.
Another quick highlight, the unbelievable views, I regularly spent the start of each day down on the beach just staring out into the water and surrounding islands and was equally happy just sitting on a chair out the front of the house watching island life go on.
Comments on team, food, accommodation – The food was actually much more varied than I was expecting, with great meals for breakfast lunch and dinner. You can see one of the attached photos showing the meal on my first night. I was amazed, even more so when I was told that this was just for me, the family had more food setup with the kids.
It was not just the quantity of the food but the quality was amazing, especially given the limited resources (by Australian standards) in the house. I am certainly going to try to perfect the Topoi, something that became a regular for breakfast or morning tea.
By the team I am assuming you mean the school and perhaps the family as well. The teachers were great, giving us an insight into all aspects of the school, including introducing me at the Monday morning whole school assembly. Mr Matai was always busy, but always found the time to check in make sure we didn’t have too much work. This was something that amused me and the other volunteer as we often felt like we should be doing more. The other teachers were very welcoming and certainly grateful for the extra help.
As for the family, they were fantastic, welcomed me from the very beginning. I would feel guilty every morning when I woke up at about 6am, only to find out they had already been up and to church at 4am and well and truly started their day. Anytime I needed something they were always there to help and no matter how often I offered to help round the house, they insisted I just relax and enjoy the island.
They even provided me with a dress shirt, tie and sulu to wear when attending church on the Sunday. I had some very interesting looks as I walked through the village to church, no doubt gave the locals a good laugh.
Any improvements – The only thing from my point of view is that the program was very unstructured, with projects seeming to be given ad hoc. While I am very aware of the casual, easy going nature in Fiji, I think I could have been more productive with a specific project assigned for the duration of my stay.
By way of example, I undertook a similar volunteer program at a local school in the Cook Islands last year and each of us were assigned a group of students to work with each day to build confidence in their reading and writing skills.
This is by no means a criticism, just some thoughts based on previous experience.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip and I am already trying to plan how I can get back in the next year or two (my problem is that I have to many places I still want to visit).
I hope the feedback is useful and I want to thank IVI, in particular Brian, for all of your help over the past 6 months in the lead up to my trip.
It was a wonderful experience and one I hope to experience again soon.