Shanice Mulla - Volunteering in Fiji
"Happiness can come from the simplest of things and I learnt to embrace whatever life throws at you. Volunteering in Fiji gave me an unforgettable experience and I developed and learnt lots of new skills which will be beneficial to me in life and in my employability."
Volunteering in the village of Nasivikoso brought with it some amazing moments and challenges that I was very proud to overcome. Experiencing a new lifestyle in a poorer part of the world made me appreciate the little things in life, such as family and access to the basic things to help you live.
By volunteering with Think Pacific, I learnt that I may not have the best skills in something particular, such as sports, but I am able to adapt the skills I have to bring out successful results. My future in the work place will present new obstacles that I may never have been presented with so the skills I learnt will help me adapt in new environments. My confidence grew being in an environment with new people, and teaching the children Maths and English is something I had never done before.
As I want to be a solicitor, confidence is key. My experience in Fiji will benefit me when it comes to interviews, presentations and examining cases I may be presented with. I learnt about teamwork and how important it is to adapt to situations where you may not instantly get on with everyone you meet. Everyone in the village was equal. They helped each other no matter how much money they had, giving everyone the same opportunities, and working towards the same goal to make the community better. Each person was welcomed into each other’s homes, where no one was discriminated against. I value the concept of equality. No one should be defined by what they have.
I had to go back to basics with chalk boards and handmade activities for the children. This lead to me improving my organisational skills as lesson plans had to be made in advance and I had to determine the level of work set depending on the abilities of each child. Where progression was being made in a child, a variety of lesson plans was needed to keep the child engaged in their learning. With so much going on in a day, my time management improved as even though most of the Fijians live on Fiji time, I did not want to be singing as a forfeit for being late! Happiness can come from the simplest of things and I learnt to embrace whatever life throws at you. Volunteering in Fiji gave me an unforgettable experience and I developed and learnt lots of new skills which will be beneficial to me in life and in my employability.
My Time in Fiji 2018
Before departing, I was extremely excited to go to Fiji but also a bag of nerves. I knew I would find it difficult eating basic food, drinking unclean water and living in a whole different environment to what I am used to. I expected village life would be hard as I knew there would be a small living space for a big family, as well as myself and two other volunteers. This meant limited privacy, and this was really something I was not used to. The thought of cold showers everyday was not the most appealing. I knew I would have limited phone use and this was a worry as I would miss speaking to my family every day. However, I was really looking forward to meeting all the children and working in the school. It felt so fulfilling knowing I was going to a place where I could make a difference, teaching the children English, Maths and Sports. It would be an experience that would change my outlook on life in many ways.
Week one was the most challenging week for me. After spending a few days preparing for village life at Mango Bay, I was nervous to head into the village. After a five hour journey in a jungle truck (getting stuck at one point), I finally arrived in Nasivikoso village. I was greeted by excited children and families. Once settled, I had my first sevu sevu ceremony. When receiving the first bowl of Kava, you must clap your hands together once and say ‘Bula’. I cannot say I enjoyed the taste of the Kava, but it was a nice way to be introduced to all the villagers we would be living with. Each day consisted of teaching in the school in the daytime. I and two other volunteers had the classes with the youngest pupils in the school. This was followed by House Cup, where the children were separated into different teams competing to win the overall House Cup. Each week had a different topic, the first week being animal themed arts and crafts.
Every night there would be various activities the volunteers would do together including quiz nights, drinking Kava, celebrating people’s birthdays and other Fijian culture activities. On Saturday, I went on a waterfall trek with the other volunteers and some of the families. It was absolutely gorgeous and such a fun day. Sundays are for resting, including going to church and spending time with your family. After experiencing the Fijian life for the first week, my emotions were mixed. I found it very hard. I fell ill and not being in your comfortable home environment was challenging. The reality of being so far away from everything I know, and living a completely different lifestyle was a shock. The simplest things in life I became more appreciative of, even things like having a toilet in your own house. I missed home and I just wanted my friends and family. On the other hand, the villagers were extremely welcoming, making you part of the family. Everyone was so happy. They appreciated the simple little things in life and family meant everything to them. I knew this would become my second home. Getting to know the children and seeing them excited to learn made every day special.
After a pleasant weekend, I started to feel settled and comfortable going into my second week. I got to know individual children in classes one and two, learning their abilities in Maths and English and what subject areas needed improvement. Basic things such as the alphabet and numbers were challenging for certain children as they seemed to get confused as to how to write a certain letter/number by just hearing how it was pronounced. This was in some ways a shock to me as you do not realise just how basic the children’s understanding is going to be. There was also the language barrier. They only spoke and understood a very basic level of English, making it difficult to communicate.
Learning had to be fun for the children as being the youngest in the school it was easy for them to get distracted. Whiteboards, fun games and stickers made their learning more enjoyable. Minor improvements could be seen within individual children when the same topics were revisited which made me feel proud that I was able to share my own knowledge and experience and give the children opportunities to do well. The sport which I taught for this week was volleyball. The children loved it and the older pupils, especially, were very talented in this sport.
In the evenings I got involved in the team quiz, Kava bowl making and date night. Date night involved each of the volunteers going to another volunteer’s house for dinner, which meant getting to know the other families. The volunteers who were going for dinner did not disclose the house they were going to, meaning the hosts were unaware of the guests they would have until arrival. It was a lovely way for the volunteers to get to know each other properly and speak to others they may not have spoken to as much. On the Friday, I visited Nanoko, which was another village, to carry out a Sport’s outreach/round off with the other volunteers. This involved teaching sports to children in another school. It was interesting to see how villages in Fiji can be. Meeting other villagers was a lovely experience. That Saturday, I went to the Sand Dunes and Sigatoka. They were beautiful, but I was not feeling in the best health wise, so it was hard to enjoy every aspect of the day. Sunday was the day of rest. I was really starting to make the most of every moment I had in Fiji and looked forward to every day. It was always going to be hard living in basic conditions, but I had started to get used to the lifestyle and was appreciative of what the villagers and my family were doing for me.