Image Credit: Think Pacific
Looking for a way to fill your summer? How does a month in the beautiful Fiji Islands sound - being adopted by a Fijian family, integrating yourself in the incredible culture and making a huge impact on the youth and communities of Fiji? A month’s volunteer project with Think Pacific will give you all this and so much more. This time last year I stumbled upon Think Pacific while scrolling through Facebook, and immediately knew that was how I was going to spend my summer. It allowed me to do something worthwhile with the time while also exposing me to an incredible part of the world and the opportunity to meet amazing people.
Think Pacific is a charity dedicated to helping communities in Fiji, particularly focusing on the youth, providing them with the tools they need to access a better future. Over a third of children in Fiji grow up in poverty, living on less than $1 a day and with only 50 per cent having access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. Since their first visit to Fiji in 2009, they have provided 280,000 hours of one to one educational support for children, created 72 kindergarten programmes and introduced over 18,000 children to extra-curricular activities. A total of over $75 million has been invested into Fiji through Think Pacific, with 67 building projects completed, including 14 new health clinics and over 2000 people now having access to improved water supplies and sanitation in rural areas.
My month with Think Pacific was the best month of my life and was filled with life-lasting memories. The journey into the village is one I will never forget, having no idea what to expect – who my family would be, what my new home would be like. But any anxieties I had disappeared when I met my Na, Joana and Auntie Litia. They greeted me with huge hugs and immediately I was part of their family. Over the duration of my stay we developed such a close bond and they felt entirely like true family. From teaching my family how to ‘floss’, to playing Cheat by torchlight during a village power cut, to being laughed at for my poor pronunciation of Fijian, and learning how to cook roti, I have so many unique memories. The social media detox allowed me to completely detach myself from the world and appreciate the importance of family.
One of my main project highlights was experiencing my 19th birthday in Fiji. On only the second day of living in the village, the villagers organised a party with a huge meal, cake and plenty of Kava (a traditional Fijian drink, almost their equivalent to our alcohol.) The warmth of the villagers was overwhelming, and it was a birthday I will never forget.
Working with the children was a key part of the project and was the area where we made our main impact. From helping them with English and maths, to drama, art, music and sport – they were always full of enthusiasm and energy. Thanks to the House Cup Music Competition I shall never be able to hear ‘Old Town Road’ or ‘Bonkers’ by Dizzee Rascal again without picturing a chorus of Fijian children belting the lyrics. If there is one thing I learnt from the Fijians, it is that they love a dance and my god have they got the moves. Teaching the children dances to ‘Waka Waka’ and introducing them to the ‘Cha Cha Slide’ while surrounded by the beautiful Fijian rainforest is something I never expected to experience.
Filled with fun, excitement and rewarding moments, volunteering with Think Pacific is an opportunity I will never regret and I urge everyone to apply. The impact we have is sustainable and is actively making a difference to communities in Fiji following the Fiji National Development Plan. My time in Fiji gave me a new family, 22 new best friends, a chance to be able to teach children whose first language isn’t English and embrace a whole new culture – all in the stunning islands of the South Pacific. I learnt an incredible amount about myself, developing confidence, leadership skills and a huge gratitude for what we have in the UK. Vinaka Vaka Levu!