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A life changing experience: volunteering in Fiji

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Volunteering? In Fiji? Volunteering in Fiji? Yes, you read it correctly. Fiji may be one of the most, if not the most stunning country on the planet but many of the people living on its various islands are living with a sub-standard quality of life. It is for this reason I got involved with VESA (Volunteer Eco Students Abroad) - you may recognise this name because they come onto campus at the start of each year to promote their volunteering programs.

I had the opportunity during summer 2012 to embark on a truly life-changing experience with VESA and after being the scared fresher sitting in the introduction talk, I thought why not? I was literally diving in at the deepest and farthest end possible.

VESA was amazing: we had great email updates with help on fundraising, where and when to send the money to, and we really did have the support of the company behind us. They even managed to put me in touch the two other volunteers from Lancaster who were going on the same trip so we had the opportunity to fundraise together.

And so after a LOT of blood, sweat and tears I made it. Sitting in LAX airport meeting the rest of the group for the first time, waiting for our 10 hour flight to Fiji, I got to know people very quickly and from that moment I knew I had made friends for life.

We were greeted by the VESA team leaders in Nadi Airport and from there spent a night in a hostel before getting on the ‘coach’ for a six hour drive up into the mountains of Fiji to our village, where we would be living and working for the next eight days.

The villagers were amazing; they could not have welcomed us into their homes any more, and we really became part of the family, which made our work their so much more rewarding. We worked tirelessly as a team to renovate a run down school: completely stripping and painting the outside, along with the classrooms, installing a water catchment, a compost area, an incinerator and renovating the kindergarten and outside toilet block.

While one half of the team worked on construction, the other half were teaching. We had set lesson plans to follow and included teaching basic maths and English and some aspects of science, along with answering all the questions they had about England. The children were so enthusiastic and intuitive, anything we gave them they treasured, and it was inspiring to see such small things bringing such happiness. We certainly left the village a lot happier place than when we found it and when we said our emotional goodbyes we knew we had touched their hearts like they touched ours.

So next time you’re walking past the posters at the beginning of the year, telling you to go to a volunteering talk: DO IT. You WILL NOT regret it, and it will change your life, knowing you changed someone else’s. 

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