Fiji Islands Discovered

Season’s Report 2017

A massive THANK YOU for joining us in Fiji this summer and a special thank you to Michelle, Josh, Meg, Dave, Roni and Philipe who have been a fantastic team to lead our volunteers for 2017.

You may enjoy reading about not only your own group’s achievements but those who came before and after. This will give a complete picture of the vast amount of assistance we can give to the local community with your help! The work will recommence in November of this year when our first group of Australian and New Zealand volunteers arrive to carry on with these vital projects.

Group 1

Nasele Village, Naitasiri

Nasele Village is in the interior of Viti Levu, which means it’s surrounded by a beautiful river, mountains and greenery. It also means that it rains…a lot.

This group was incredibly positive even with the most temperamental weather I’ve ever seen in a village. This group took advantage of the soggy weather by celebrating with a slip-and-slide on the final day of work, the volunteers also got a little messy playing rugby with the kids on a rainy sports day but everyone had a blast. The volunteers got to go on two Billi-billi rides as well. Thanks to the village boys, the second ride on our Sunday off from work consisted of two MASSIVE rafts that everyone rode down the river.

The highlight of the week though was when the sun came out while it was still pouring rain, which made the brightest, most beautiful rainbow we’ve ever seen. It was a great finale to a rainy but amazing week!

We had a great Island week as well with great excursions to the caves and all kinds of swimming and snorkelling. The group were lucky enough to see bioluminescent algae on the way back from the sunset cruise in Korovou which looked as though the waves were glowing with fireflies!

The weather was incredible and we had many scuba divers and the certified were lucky enough to see a reef shark. Both manta ray dives were incredible with everyone seeing them.

Construction

The school building containing four classrooms was successfully refurbished during our volunteer week with instillation of an incinerator, a compost and rain gutters replaced, along with a bathroom, a kindergarten, a walkway and the dining hall. Louver blades were also replaced on the buildings, with missing windows boarded up. All buildings received two coats of the classic VESA colours. The School logo was painted on the main building, with motivational quotes on the poles and murals covered the kindergarten and bathroom.

  • sanding and painting of one main building and kindergarten
  • sanding and painting of one bathroom block
  • sanding and painting of dining hall
  • VESA logo and school crest on the main building
  • construction team built compost and incinerator
  • fixed guttering
  • fixed broken boards and windows

Nasele Catholic Primary School

The kids were on vacation for the week but were very keen to interact with the volunteers so we wanted to make sure that happened.

We did three days of education with different volunteers on each day. On the first day with the kids we:

  • Went over different occupations and got the kids to draw what they wanted to be when they grow up.
  • For some of the older kids (10+) we got them to explain why they wanted to be that occupation and how to do it.
  • We played Shape Bingo to practice geometry as well as went over some math with flash cards.
  • On the final day of education we had a sports day playing different games such as Octopus and Line Tag then the group split up with the younger kids playing Duck Duck Goose and the older kids playing a good old game of Rugby. Both the kids and the volunteers had a great time.

Group 2

Naivurevure Village

In Fiji, Sunday is always the day of rest where you spend your morning at church and the rest of the day either napping or relaxing. The locals brought some volunteers to a bridge where you’re able to jump off into the large river below. By the time we got there, the group had started their walk home and only a few local kids were hanging around. We all took turns jumping off and were shortly joined by two volunteers Justice and Aaron. I was following Aaron up the muddy bank after our jump who just couldn’t stop smiling and then said, “You can’t find this in Illinois!”

Construction

Three of the larger school building were successfully refurbished with instillation of an incinerator, rain gutters replaced, notice boards/louvre blades being replaced and many broken celling boards replaced. With all things considered this group did a good job and has put us in a great position to finish of the school next group.

  • first coat of paint on a bathroom/shower block.
  • completion of refurbishment consisted of 2 coats of paint
  • damaged celling boards replaced,
  • missing louver blades replaced
  • with missing windows boarded up.
  • all buildings received two coats of the classic VESA colours.

Waidina Secondary School

This was the first week back to school after vacation so the kids were very keen to learn. We did three days of education.

  • We focused on nutrition and healthy dieting – the volunteers were put into groups in the morning to create lesson plans about the four food groups and the importance of maintaining a balanced diet. They then presented to 5 different classrooms in the afternoon.
  • English language lessons. English is taught in this area but it’s worth reiterating with native English speakers as the village kids do not speak it very often because of how remote their village is.
  • The final day of education was a scavenger hunt on Saturday when the kids were out of school we split them up into 3 groups and they had to find 12 locations and then solve a clue to find the final object (Me!). It got the kids thinking and was a massive success!

On the last day at school the villagers and primary school children and teachers of the school put on some entertainment and handed everyone a sulu which was very thoughtful.

Island life is always spectacular, the weather was incredible. We had lots of scuba divers. Both manta ray dives were incredible with everyone seeing them.

Beachcomber was incredible, very, very fun island. And 12 people got to do the skydive.

Group 3

Navurevure Village

The Waidina Secondary School has one of the best team of staff that we’ve worked with in Fiji! The principle and teachers were always supportive of our work, moving their class from room to room to accommodate us and loved interacting with VESA and the volunteers. On our last day of work, they invited us to the school hall where the students performed beautiful songs; explained the meaning of their songs to us and shared why they chose them. The administration called each volunteer up by name and presented them with a colourful Fiji sulu as a thanks for their hard work on the school. It was such an amazing way to end our time at Waidina singing and dancing with the students!

Construction

The Waidina Secondary School was a huge project to take on and required two large groups of volunteers to finish. During group two, we had rainstorms almost every day, which made it extremely difficult to finish our painting projects. When group three arrived at Waidina, it was clear that they had a lot of work to do in the next week, completing some projects and starting their own. The volunteers worked extremely hard all week up until the last few minutes of school on their last day to complete the nine buildings of the secondary school!

  • sanding and painting of main school building (main office, two large classrooms and small bathroom block), workshop building, and three small classroom buildings
  • sanding and painting of four offices
  • construction team built compost and painted that and incinerator constructed by last group
  • touch ups and finishing of overhangs/high bits of buildings completed by group 2
  • continued to fix guttering
  • continued to fix broken ceiling boards, walls and notice boards
  • fresh coat of blackboard paint
  • VESA logo on front of workshop building (closest to the road)
  • School crest of the side of the home-ec building (facing student walkway)
  • painting of school sign and walkway posts

Waidina Secondary School

On the first day of our education project, we focused on nutrition and healthy dieting and the benefits of physical activity. They presented to four different classes in the afternoon.

We also spent time on English language lessons at the local village primary school. The primary was so welcoming and let us go over English basics and sentence structure as they are aware of the lack of English spoken in that deep interior. The volunteers were treated to a performance by the entire primary school thanking the volunteers for what they had done.

On the final Saturday, when the kids were out of school, we split them up into three groups and they had to find fifteen locations and then solve a clue to find the final object (Me up in a tree!). The kids were running all over the village with the volunteers and even though they were tired at the end, each of them had a smile on their faces!

On the islands everyone came to the Sunset cruise on Korovou and there was an amazing sunset which lit up the sky with pink and purple clouds.

Lots of volunteers opted to do Scuba Diving for the first time which was really exciting.

Group 4

Sawani Village

This village was very near to Colo-i-Suva, a nature reserve home to rainforests, natural swimming pools and tropical plants and bird life

On a Sunday, after a beautiful church ceremony the group took the short walk through the forest where we came upon a waterfall emptying into a swimming pool with a rope swing that has two different heights you can swing from. Some of our families from the village joined us which made it even better being able to let loose with the locals. We spent the next few hours hanging out in the freezing cold water, swinging on the rope and watching the village boys do back flips from the tree tops. Colo-i-Suva is one of the top tourist destinations on the eastern side of Viti Levu so it was amazing to be able to experience it with the group and Sawani village.

Construction

This was a really big School for the size of the group, they embraced village life and work incredibly hard in order to complete the massive Sawani district School.

However, not only did the group complete the two main buildings, large kindergarten and bathroom block that we agreed with the school community on, but the volunteers smashed out the last two untouched buildings. Vesa left the entire Sawani Primary School beautifully painted in the Vesa bright colors: it was honestly amazing!

The school buildings refurbished consisted of a large three classroom wooden building, a very large cinderblock building containing 6 classrooms and a kindergarten building with a small bathroom.

  • Two beautiful murals were added
  • Painted the outside of two small wooden buildings (used for dinning, staffroom, common room and a storage room)
  • Painted the outside of two bathroom blocks with two beautiful murals on them and their broken toilet seats replaced
  • Completion of refurbishment consisted of 2 coats of the classic VESA colours, missing louver blades replaced, and damaged walls replaced. All buildings received two coats of the classic VESA colours.
  • An incinerator roof was also constructed
  • Two water tanks had also been originally installed incorrectly ie placed too low to the ground so nothing could be placed under the tap to fill, so we laid another layer of cinderblocks raising the water tanks, then installed guttering systems so it’s still able to collect water.

Sawani District School

Our volunteers were invited to speak at Adi Cakobau School (ACS), an all girls secondary school. The teachers had asked us because of the wellness/drug awareness week that we had previously held at a different school. During the afternoon announcements, we mentioned this opportunity the girls and it turned out that twelve volunteers came to the assembly and three were willing to speak!

We can’t speak highly enough of these people that shared their stories with approximately 500 of these bright young girls; to speak in front of that many people in general can be terrifying and it would have been even harder given the subject. They spoke about everything from the effects of pharmaceuticals to personal stories about the effects of drug abuse. Each of the volunteers that spoke also did an incredible job of showing how a negative can be turned into a positive! You could tell that the students really took something out of the it!

  • The volunteers were broken into threes and taught their lesson to each of the four allocated classrooms. They spoke about peer pressure and puberty with the students aged 12-14 and did some English lessons with the younger kids aged 7-11.
  • On the third day of education most volunteers were busy working away on the school but a couple of volunteers spent some one on one time with students. One female volunteer gave a lesson by herself to an entire class.

During the island week, there were a few volunteers that had never swum in the ocean before, so this was a great new experience for them.

These people then went on to snorkel at Blue Lagoon which they absolutely loved.

Group 5

Nauluvatu & Namuka Villages

While working at the Nakelo Dictrict School, we stayed in two villages Nauluvatu and Namuka that were separated by the church in between them.

When we first arrived for the Sevu Sevu, one of the village elders addressed the group with a beautiful welcome. After which, coinciding with most our volunteers being either Scottish or English he proceeded to tell a very interesting story. Back in the early 1900’s the HMS Encounter docked near the two villages that make up Nakelo. The chief of the village at the time told the villagers to provide food to the people of the ship. Some years after that the HMS Repulse returned and thanked the members of the community for the hospitality that they shown. Some nicknames have arisen from this relationship; Nauluvatu is nicknamed little London in Fijian while Namuka is nicknamed little Scotland. It just goes to show that even places that seem so far apart on a map can be connected in more ways than one and no matter where we are from we should care for one another!

Nakelo District School

The school buildings refurbished consisted of:

  • A huge double story 8 classroom cinderblock building.
  • The outside of one bathroom block, including two beautiful murals
  • The outside of a wooden library.
  • The group also made a start on the outside of the kindergarten building completing the overhangs, poles and some sections of light purple.
  • Completion of refurbishment consisted of 2 coats of paint, missing louver blades replaced, and damaged walls/celling’s replaced.

Education

  • First day had volunteers teaching on the matters of puberty, healthy eating, drug awareness, the benefits of physical activity and a touch of Oceania geography. The volunteers were working with students in years 6-8
  • The second day had volunteers teaching years 3-5, they were reviewing seasons, creative writing as well as math to prepare for their final tests the following week.
  • The third day of education was on a Saturday so we did a village scavenger hunt with 12 clues. The kids and volunteers seemed to really enjoy it!
  • Day four of education had the volunteers working with the little ones – kindergarten, years 1 & 2. They reviewed the alphabet, played basic math games and went over different animals as well.

This group really embraced the hall in the evenings during the village week and the majority would get up and dance all night which was very entertaining. On Friday night the village performed a Meke for us which was fantastic. Probably one of the best Meke’s we’ve seen On Sunday we organised a trip to a waterfall Colo-I-Suva which the volunteers loved and got the opportunity to swing on a rope swing into the refreshing pool of water.

Group 6

Nauluvatu & Namuka Villages

Nakelo District School

This group had a massive task in getting the school completed and really embraced the challenge. It was very enjoyable watching how happy they were with the progression of the school buildings which they were working on. There was also a playground we were refurbishing and we needed a new tyre for the see-saw. Me and Michelle went into Nausori to try and find one and then we came across a tyre on the road and went in and asked if it was okay if we could take it for the playground at the school and they said they would be happy to help towards our cause!

  • refurbished the interior of 6 classroom. We refurbished the complete exterior of a double story building.
  • refurbished the exterior of the Kindergarten and painted all the metal poles and railing
  • refurbished the exterior of another bathroom block and added murals.
  • added a roof to the incinerator to protect it from different weather conditions.
  • replaced Louvre Blades that were missing or broken in the classrooms.
  • refurbished the playground and rebuilt the slide because it was damaged, repaired the see-saw and painted the other equipment in bright colours for the children.
  • removed any hazardous areas of the playground.
  • improved the compost that the school already had in place.

Education

The volunteers did three days of education at the village school:

  • On the first day volunteers worked with Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5 students – they went over the difference between organic and inorganic waste, different climates and animals that are suited to those climates. They did some creative writing and how to read a hand clock.
  • On the second day volunteers worked with Kindergarteners, Year 1 and Year 2 – they reviewed the alphabet as well as things starting with each letter, colours, numbers and simple addition.
  • On the third day volunteers worked with Year 6, Year 7 and Year 8. They taught the benefits of physical activity and did a physical education lesson with that. They spoke about puberty as well as the effects of teenage pregnancy to the older students. The volunteers explained what they were studying in school and other occupations available to theses kids in the future and did a small geography lesson as well.

During the Volunteer week some of the Volunteers were lucky enough stumble upon a fresh litter of new born puppies in the village.

This then became a regular routine for some volunteers, visiting the adorable puppy pile after a hard day of volunteering at the School.

Upon arriving at Korovou, we were told the good news that the manta rays were back after a month of not being seen. The researchers at Barefoot Manta Resort told us that there wasn’t any plankton in the water which meant incredible visibility, but unfortunately also meant the manta rays went elsewhere for food. After a week of hard work finishing the huge project of Nakelo School, this group was lucky enough to be treated to the reappearance of the manta rays. We had to do three trips in order to get to the passage way during high tide but every group had snorkelling success. I went with the last group and to say the rays put on a show is an understatement. They let us chase them back and forth while they cruised on the surface just below us doing back flips every few minutes. It was an amazing day back with the manta rays and was definitely the highlight of the group’s island week.

Group 7

Nasamillia District School

The location of the School was right next to the ocean so during the Volunteer week we were lucky enough to have after work swims in the sea including a few bonfires on the beach.

We had the opportunity to meet a Rio Olympics’ gold medallist from the Fiji 7’s rugby team. He came to the hall and everyone got the chance to get a photo with him which was amazing! Everyone seemed pretty star struck especially all the volunteers who were really into Rugby. Lots of the volunteers stayed behind after work to play Rugby with the local guys in the village even in the rain!

Construction

The school buildings refurbished consisted of:

  • A 2 classroom cinderblock building
  • A 2 classroom wooden building
  • The outside of one bathroom block, with a beautiful mural on it.
  • The outside of another bathroom block. This bathroom was very damaged we installed two missing doors, fixed 2 broken toilets and replaced a missing roof.
  • improved an incinerator by replacing missing/damaged blocks
  • Constructing a compost

Completion of refurbishment consisted of 2 coats of paint, missing louver blades replaced, and damaged walls/celling’s replaced.

Education

Did three days of education as it was the final week of classes before the students had a two week winter break.

  • On the first day volunteers worked with years one and two we reviewed the alphabet as well as basic words that related to each letter. We reviewed numbers as well and the Fijian kids even did some teaching – showing the volunteers to count to 10 in Fijian. Some games were played outside following the classroom lessons.
  • Day two was spent with years three, four and five the volunteers each gave a synopsis of what they were studying in university and what they were planning to do as a career in the future, they also did a story telling aspect where students were taught how to use different grammatical elements to make a story interesting and well written. This day also had a physical education portion.
  • On the final day of education, it was the students last day of classes and it was also their sports day. The volunteers ran the kids through a warm up, then a series of line games before splitting up into three groups to do various other activities.