By Georgia Smith
Deciding what to do in your summer break can be daunting, there is the pressure to gain work experience, earn money and also enjoy. Global Opportunities offer a once in a lifetime volunteering experience in Fiji where you can gain valuable life skills. Additionally, the experience of volunteering is valuable to your CV, whilst also having an amazing time abroad.
Having been a volunteer myself this past summer, I can consider the positive and negative aspects of the experience to offer an insight into what is involved. During my time in Fiji I had many wonderful experiences, I particularly loved meeting my Fijian family and playing sports with my brothers and sisters every day. Another highlight was being so deeply involved in the village life. This sense of community came from attending church on a Sunday, eating with your family and drinking cava with the villagers, these instances enable you to gain a deep insight into Fijian culture. Teaching maths and English in school during the week allows you to create a bond with the children whilst also watching them develop their learning, which was incredibly rewarding. Living with your Fijian family was the peak of my trip as they completely take you in as one of their own. You get to bond with them on such a personal level which is truly an experience that you cannot gain any other way.
The experience does come with some negative aspects which should definitely be considered before signing up. Firstly, when you arrive in the village it can be quite a culture shock for many reasons, including lack of hygiene and electricity which can seem daunting at the beginning. Life in the village does push you out of your comfort zone, the food you eat and the lack of home comforts, although these are part of the experience and my advice would be to embrace the cultural differences and throw yourself in to village life. In my experience, the positives strongly outweigh the negatives.
During the week the volunteering itself involves teaching maths and English every morning, then sports and house cup in the afternoon, this is when you get to uncover the personalities of the children and create an everlasting bond with them. The evenings generally consist of group activities with your Think Pacific team which often involve the families and other villagers such as playing cards, watching films or learning skills which allows ‘down time’. On Saturdays, you will leave the village to go on an excursion with your teammates. These excursions will typically involve hiking or going to the beach, a much needed break from village life and time to be with your friends. Sunday is the family day which was always my favourite. It consists of attending church, “eating big” and spending time with your family, which gives you a chance to relax and recharge for the upcoming week.
The Global Opportunities volunteering in Fiji programme is unforgettable and truly a once in a lifetime experience which I could not encourage enough. You feel part of a family, make lifelong friends and learn skills which will take you through life.