With the help of the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund, this June I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to travel across the world to the Fiji Islands to work with a charity called Think Pacific. This group works all over the Fijian Islands providing schools in rural areas with much needed support in classrooms and classes in physical education. Mrs Loloma, the teacher of my primary one class, explained that in most remote schools in Fiji, there is only one teacher per classroom. This meant that the teacher did not have the materials or time to work one on one with the children who were struggling which means things such as ADHD or dyslexia often go unsupported. Added to this, physical education is not currently part of the Ministry of Education’s school curriculum and therefore many Fijian children simply do not get to experience playing team sports.
Another aspect of my trip was that I, along with all the other volunteers, lived with a Fijian family in a rural Fijian village. This is so your volunteering is as real as possible and therefore staying far away from voluntourism. And so, for 4 weeks that is what I did.
The challenges were immense, but the rewards were far greater. My first challenge now seems frivolous, it was getting on that plane! Having never travelled anywhere on my own, (and having watched too many plane crash videos) it was an extremely daunting thought to fly thirty hours by myself to my destination. But, despite thinking of every bad scenario that could occur I managed it. Of course, on my flight to Fiji I had a lot of time to waste thinking about what it actually was I was taking part in. Was I going to like it? What if I didn’t like the food? Would I like the people? Would the people like me?! All these questions ran through my head – a month was a long time to not be enjoying yourself. Looking back, I wonder why those thoughts ever even entered my head! Taking part in a Think Pacific programme is the best thing I have ever done, and I will cherish every activity, every child, every meal, and every memory.
Although the village we were living in was not poor by any means it was basic. They lived only with what they needed, with the occasional treat! At first, I found this a challenge – living in a wooden hut and having no hot water was a struggle – but at the same time these things probably taught me the most. No longer does my life revolve around material things, instead I feel much more content in being around others and even in myself.
By receiving the Go Abroad Fund award, I was able to experience a whole new culture, explore a country so unlike my own, and make friends for life. I loved the experience so greatly that I am currently planning my next trip back to visit my beloved Fijian family and village.
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