Volunteer Review: Lucy H., Teach English and Other Subjects in Fiji
I decided that after finishing school in the summer of 2011 I wanted to have a year out to travel before going to university. I then began looking into all the different things I could do whilst traveling and was suggested to look into volunteer work abroad. When I went back to school in September I began talking to staff and picked up various leaflets which were on offer in the sixth form study room.
After reading up on various options I chose to work with Projects Abroad and to travel to Fiji. I soon signed up on the website and got myself organized with planning various fund raisers so I would be able to go for two months beginning February 2012.
Arrival in Fiji
I arrived at Nadi airport on the morning of Friday 3rd February. As a result of arriving on a Friday and because Monday was a national holiday, my first day of school wasn’t until Tuesday 7th February. This gave me a full weekend to get to know my roommate and my host family. I also got to meet lots of the other Projects Abroad volunteers and a few of us organized a scuba diving trip which was great.
On Tuesday I left for my first day of eight full weeks at Nadi Airport School. I walked to school on my first day and was introduced to Mrs Bula the head teacher. I spent my first three full days working with a lovely first grade class. They began each lesson with reading and a couple of activities before moving onto work. Whilst they worked I was responsible for helping a couple of tables and would walk around and help them when they were having trouble with the work and encourage them if they were working slower than the others.
On my first Friday, after spending the first part of the day with the first grade I was asked to help out in a second grade class. I spent the rest of the day with them and was then asked to do this every day. During my first lesson with the second grade I was introduced to a few of the girls who drew me pictures and gave them to me to keep. They also asked me lots of questions about England and about my family; they were all very interested in knowing a lot about me.
My Teaching Placement at Nadi Airport School
I spent about 10 days working with both the classes before asking to move permanently into the second grade class. I was finding it difficult to bond with the children properly when I was only spending half a day with each class and felt like my help was needed more with the second grade. I felt much more comfortable when I had moved permanently to the second grade and began to learn the children’s names quickly and got to know them better.
I spoke to my teacher about the fact that I’d brought my ukulele with me from home and was interested in taking some music lessons. She agreed and I soon began taking my ukulele into school regularly. I began by teaching them Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”. This turned out to be their favorite song and they would always be singing it to me during the day. I taught them lots of other songs, the more popular ones being Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”. After a couple of weeks the word got round the school and I had teachers from other grades approaching me and asking me to spend half an hour or so with their class and teach them the same songs.
As well as the music lessons, I also helped out with various other subjects in the classroom. I would always be around to help the children during lessons and from time to time my teacher would show me her lesson plan and ask me to teach for 10 minutes before the children would then begin working. It was a great opportunity for me and I felt improvement every time I was given the opportunity. I would learn a huge amount from watching my teacher and the way she taught and controlled the class.
Projects Abroad Workshops
Projects Abroad organized a few workshops during my time in Fiji which were incredibly useful. One particular workshop gave me the idea to teach an arts and crafts lesson. I showed my teacher my lesson plan and she loved the idea so made time for me to teach the class the next day. The whole class made their own paper snakes from the paper plates and red paper I had bought from the shop. We cut a spiral starting from the edge and working inwards, which left a circle in the middle for the head of the snake. We then cut out a tongue from the red paper and drew on the eyes. String was hung across the classroom so we could loop the snakes over the string and then they uncoiled towards the ground to make long snakes. The classroom looked brilliant when it was decorated with all the snakes and the children loved the lesson and the new decorations in the classroom.
During my eight weeks at the school, there were a number of occasions when I was approached by the head teacher and asked to cover classes when their teacher was absent. A couple of times I was only asked to supervise the classes for an afternoon because the teacher was leaving. About five weeks into my project the other second grade teacher was very ill and I was asked to look after her class for two full days. With all the other teachers occupied with their classes, very little work had been prepared for them. This was a huge challenge for me but I found it very rewarding and felt like it gave me a chance to show what I had learnt from my previous weeks working with my teacher.
My Host Family
During my two months stay in Fiji I stayed with a lovely family. I also had a room mate who was also working at the same school as me. I had a wonderful time with my host family and got on with them all very well. They were an Indian family and so the majority of our food was curry with roti. I had never eaten roti before traveling and loved it. It is similar to a tortilla wrap. It is made from only flour and water and is then fried and eaten with curry. The majority of the curries were vegetarian because my host mum was a vegetarian. At home I eat a lot of red meat and so this was a big change. I really enjoyed the food and the fact that I got the chance to try lots of new food. My host mum was a very good cook.
Time spent with other volunteers
There were also lots of other volunteers in Fiji. Most people were there for two months or more and so there was a very similar group throughout my two months there. They were all very lovely people. We went on trips every weekend to resorts and also to a few islands. We got the chance to visit the Yasawas Islands which were absolutely beautiful. We also got the chance to skydive! Six of us went on the same day and jumped from 14000 ft. It was an incredible experience.
I left Fiji on April 1st. It was a Sunday morning and since Friday there had been flooding in Fiji. This meant I missed my last day of school and didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to my class and teacher. The airport was very chaotic because so many people were trying to get out of Fiji but so many flights were being cancelled or delayed. However, I managed to leave on time to continue my travels in Australia for the next month to visit family.
I am now back home in England. I had a great time in Fiji and enjoyed working with the school; I have kept in contact with my teacher, my host family and all of the volunteers that I met during my time in Fiji.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.