April 4, 2023, by Leah Sharpe
Think Pacific: A Summer With a Difference in Fiji
By Sam Killick, International Relations and Global Issues graduate
At the start of August, I had the pleasure of travelling out to Fiji and participating in one of Think Pacific’s month-long Community Build Expeditions. This blog will tell you a little bit more about the work that Think Pacific does in Fiji as well as my experience on the project.
About Think Pacific
For over ten years, Think Pacific has offered a variety of volunteering projects in Fiji that are directed towards the needs of local communities and run in partnership with the Fijian government to foster sustainable and equitable development. Think Pacific’s in-country projects have subsequently contributed to the improvement of the health, education, sports development, and life skills of young people in Fiji!
A few challenges along the way
For three weeks my fellow volunteers and I lived in Nadavacia village, located along the Northeastern coast of the island Viti Levu, where we built a medical dispensary. This project aimed to contribute to the Fijian government’s National Development Plan by improving access to healthcare and promoting early intervention.
Whilst the project was a success, it is safe to say that we experienced a few challenges along our construction journey. For example, many of us on the project (myself included) had never so much put up a shelf on a wall let alone construct a whole building from the ground up! So, I certainly faced a steep learning curve but can now proudly say that I have developed some form of DIY skills.
A cultural exchange
Alongside the build, a major component of the project was all about cultural exchange. As volunteers, we were divided up into pairs and then allocated a host family to stay with during our time in the village. This meant that I was able to immerse myself into village life which included experiencing getting woken up by cockerels at sunrise and eating meals with my hands instead of using cutlery.
The youth in the village also ran several engaging sessions on Fijian culture, which allowed me to further expand my cultural awareness. During these sessions, I was able to learn about their sustainable farming practices, how to weave traditional handicrafts, how their traditional way of life has adapted over the years, and the etiquette around drinking Kava.
Kava, not to be confused with the Spanish sparkling wine, is a ground-up plant root that is mixed with water and then drank during ceremonial and social occasions. Each Friday the community held a village-wide Kava session which was extremely fun to experience as it was always accompanied by live music and lots of dancing!
Having the opportunity to stay with a host family was by far the biggest highlight of the project. I felt extremely lucky to be welcomed into the family with open arms and be treated as one of their own. And because of their incredible generosity and hospitality, I have now left Fiji having gained a massive extended family and formed bonds for life!
A more confident individual
I believe that this whole experience has fostered my own personal and professional development. Throughout the course of the project, I have strengthened my ability to successfully adapt to challenging environments, communicate with a variety of audiences and hone my teamwork skills. As a result, this has helped me to prepare for my upcoming graduate employment with the Financial Conduct Authority and made me feel like a more confident individual.
Overall, I could not recommend a Think Pacific volunteering expedition enough! It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I won’t ever forget as well as being one that has left a lasting positive legacy in Fiji and on my development journey!
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