Thank-you so much for your kind words and organizing this project along with Masi, Mare and Jules. These two weeks have been an unforgettable experience and I wish I was still in Fiji! As requested, please see below my comments.
Highlights of the trip:
- The overall culture in Fiji: It was incredible to see how humble and community oriented the locals are.
- Being able to see the positive and immediate impact that our work had on the villages; how grateful each tenant in the village was for dedicating our time to visit each village to do health checks
- Seeing smiles and hearing Bula from locals everywhere on the streets
- Being able to meet Iike minded volunteers and making strong friendships
- Having the opportunity to practice my public speaking in front of the village leaders at their meeting and discuss nutrition in their community
Comments on the team, food and accommodation:
– I have to say that Mare, her friend Lesi and sister in law, Olita are such amazing cooks! They all prepared us delicious meals for dinner each night and I appreciated that they used fresh and simple ingredients. The portions were sometimes more than enough to feed my whole group of 4 so we were definitely well fed and rarely hungry at night!
– Breakfast and lunch during my first week in Suva at Masi’s daughter’s house was a little more challenging as there were limited options available in the fridge as we had the whole house to ourselves so we had to go to the nearest grocery store to buy our own food for breakfast and lunch. In a way, it allowed me to have more freedom to prepare and choose my own food.
– Week 1 at Masi’s daughter’s flat in Suva: smaller in size with limited seating for the whole group (only 4 stools at dinner table up against wall in kitchen so it felt a little cramped at times). However, it was really sweet and thoughtful of Olita to sometimes come to the house during the day when she already has a full time job and makes our bed and clean the house. Convenient that the bus stop to the main bus station in Suva was right outside the flat and nearby supermarket to buy our own groceries.
– Week 2 at Masi’s house in Lautoka: lots of seating options in living room and spacious, clean washroom and clean sheets on bed before I arrived, full stocked fridge with veggies and fruit, washing machine available to wash clothes, had wifi
– All the volunteers, hosts and staff were hardworking, supportive and dedicated. I don’t have many bad things to say!
Suggestions for improvement:
- It would have been great if the volunteers were provided with more information about the conditions of the villages in advance (i.e. Some groups went to Tonia which was a more remote village in the hills so they would have needed to bring more warm clothing as it apparently is very chilly at night, water for showers may run out)
- I felt like there wasn’t enough time allocated for an orientation of the fruit & veggie market in Lautoka on the first Monday (i.e. Popular fruits/veggies in Fiji, price comparisons of different fruits/veggies, etc) so I felt like we didn’t receive proper training to prepare us for making nutrition recommendations when we did the health checks. This way, having more knowledge of the food availability and costs in the local community would give us an idea of the food recommendations to make because it wouldn’t be helpful to the villagers if we suggested to consume more of a food that may not be easily accessible in their community.
- Inconsistent volunteer schedules with each group: There were some long volunteer days (10am-6:30pm) in Suva during our first week which was a little tough as we were a little hesitant in getting home at night on our own because it would get dark quite early and it didn’t give us much free time in the evening to explore Fiji during the weekdays. I felt that the volunteer coordinator of the Hart Community head office was a little too ambitious in wanting us to conduct as many health checks as possible in one day. I understand her good intentions but most of us felt exhausted by the end of 6 hours and weren’t able to perform to the best of our ability. After my first week in Suva, I feel like 6 hours of volunteering on site per day is sufficient.
- As I have a passion for educating others in using whole and natural foods as medicine, I felt like the health checks were a little too rushed to give more in depth nutritional assessments for each person and would have liked to have more time to have individualized assessments. At times, I found it challenging to tell each person to reduce their sugar and high starch intake to reduce their waist/prevent risk of diabetes or reduce salt intake to lower high blood pressure because most of the locals would just nod their heads but I felt like they didn’t really know how to actually implement this in their daily routine. So, I tried to recommend specific foods and herbs for the person to focus on consuming more to help improve their symptoms so they would feel more encouraged and most of them were surprisingly very eager to learn more but due to the time constraint, I felt rushed that I couldn’t keep elaborating.
Hope that helps! Please let me know if you have any questions.