Rebecca Bellamy - General Care Projects in Fiji
I always thought it would be hard adjusting to living in a new environment with an unfamiliar family, however, the moment I walked into my host family's house I felt very welcome and at ease. My host mum Shalini was a single mom with a 2 year old little boy and we immediately clicked and I felt like part of the family straight away. I shared a room with another volunteer although we were both from different countries and different ages we felt very comfortable with each other and by the end of the 3 months we were very close friends.
I think the hardest thing to get used to was the cold showers and the constant banging on the bedroom roof where the mangos were falling from the mango tree, although I do have to say that Fiji has the best mangos that I have tasted and the best thing is you can just walk down the road and pick one off a tree. You really get more out of the experience living with a family and experiencing the culture.
My host mum was a brilliant cook I got to try a variety of Indian/Fijian foods and on several occasions we had some of the other volunteers round for dinner.
I was lucky enough to be in Fiji for the celebration of Divali (Indian festival of lights) this is a big occasions in Fiji as the population is a mixture of Fijians and Indians. The streets and houses were all lit up and the atmosphere was amazing. My host mum hosted a Divali evening where our friends came over for a huge Indian feast and we had fireworks to top the evening off.
The place I lived was called 'Namaka' and it was very safe. Every Fijian that I crossed paths with was very friendly and inviting, actually I can say I haven't met nicer people. Even when you walk down the street you would get shouted 'bula' (hello) by all the passer-bys.
I volunteered at Nadi airport kindergarten. I fell in love with every one of the children that attended the placement. The first week was hard, adjusting to the heat, running after and playing with 50 children but it was worth the first week of exhaustion to see each one of the children develop and grow. I got involved with day to day running of the kindergarten, helping the teachers with planned activities and creating my own activities.
I think my main highlight would be when one of the children wrote his name all on his own. The reason it stays in my memory is because this young boy was behind in all areas compared to the other children, I believe that this was down to dyslexia however this is something that is not recognized in Fiji. I spent a lot of one on one time helping the child with this reading and writing and you really feel an accomplishment when the child achieves something they never thought they would.
Our project manager arranged for us to do some painting at one of the local kindergartens. It was a great opportunity to show our help and support to the community. We painted the outside play area in bold bright colors and some of the artistic volunteers painted cartoon characters on the inside and outside of the building. It was such a rewarding thing to do and we all had great fun even though it was raining.
We regularly met up locally in the week attending the fire dancing shows or just going to Ed’s Bar for a game of pool and a catch up.
There was a lot to do at the weekends whether you fancied relaxing at one of the local hotel pools, day trips some of the most beautiful islands, a day at the mud baths or even white water rafting. I can say that I was never bored and experienced some of the best snorkeling I have ever seen.
I was also lucky enough to enjoy a week in the Yasawa’s islands, the islands range from 2-5 hour boat journey from Port Deneral. If you go to Fiji you definitely have to experience these beautiful islands. I have never seen clearer blue sea or white sandy beaches like these before. The accommodation on the islands is great Either in small dorms or Bureaus on the beach. The staff at all the resorts are very friendly providing evening entertainment and there are daily activities. I tried my hand at cave jumping which was such a fun morning and then did some coral surfing in the afternoon. Was just what you need for a week in paradise.
I would go on but I think I have shared the most special and memorable moments of my 3 month experience. I certainly can’t wait to do it all over again.