Monday
Sep012014

Staff blog: Beqa Wedding

A couple of weeks ago I attended my first wedding. Two volunteers on the marine conservation and diving project on Beqa had a traditional wedding in Fiji and I was lucky enough to attend. I arrived in Beqa for the first time the day before the wedding. From the boat from Navua the scenery was amazing. The island looked incredible with high mountains covered in dense forest. Although I love Suva and it feels like home, this felt like the perfect escape from the busy city life. The Frontier camp was basic but at the same time it exceeded my expectations and I could easily understand why the staff and volunteers loved living there.

On Saturday morning we were all working to finish the final preparations for the wedding. I was on coconut duty with Mama Sokosoko and the bride and groom to be. Our job was to take the shells off of 70 coconuts, open them with a knife and then shave out the inside. Sounds easy right? When Mama showed us what to do she definitely made it look easy. I was keen to start and was surprised at how difficult it was. When I finished my first coconut it was a great accomplishment and then I realised we still had 69 to go!

The ceremony was beautiful and I definitely started to well up when Tom and Rina said their vows but managed to hold it in. After the ceremony we took some pictures and then we all sat and drank kava for a very long time! In the evening some of the guests from the village joined us for kava. A couple of the young children were showing us some of their magic tricks. Some were fantastic but some were so bad it was hilarious! One of the bad tricks involved me picking a card and then the boy but the card on the top of the pack, he then picked up the same card on the top of the pack and presented it to me asking if this was my card!

Overall, it was a fantastic day and I feel incredibly lucky I was able to be there and experience the wedding.

By Ria Billings, Project Coordinator

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Fiji.  

Saturday
Aug302014

Volunteer blog: Sports Day at John Wesley Primary School

At the end of my first two weeks in Fiji and volunteering at John Wesley Primary School it was time for the schools yearly sports day. Over the previous two weeks Katie and I had been assigned a house team within the school and had been coaching the kid’s athletics. We were approached during our lunch break on our first day by one of teachers asking us if we would be interested in coaching team yellow otherwise known as “Team Hunt” for sports day. We jumped at the offer and started taking the kids for athletics the very same day.  The kids were coached events including the long jump, shot put, 2oom sprint, 100m sprint and the 4X100m relay. The kids where very enthusiastic about taking part in these events especially the track events as most of the kids enjoyed the sprints more than anything else. 

After two weeks of daily afternoon practice in the blistering Fijian sun, sports day was upon us. Katie and I arrived at the ANZ stadium where the athletics would take place. As we walked up the steps towards Team Hunt we where greeted with clapping and cheers from the whole school as recognition of our volunteering over the past two weeks. Once we got settled in we were told that the event we would be adjudicating would be the girl’s long jump for ages under 9 to under 14. For each group Katie and I took turns in explaining the rules and demonstrating the technique to the long jump. After that we let the kids take numerous practice jumps just to get the used to the technique and then it was time for their jumps to be accounted for. As each group took their jumps we could hear sections of the crowd cheering for their team mates to succeed in their jump, it was thrilling to watch.  Once the long jump event was over and Katie and I had collected the results we decided to watch the other events that were taking place. The most exciting event that seemed to get most of the crowd’s attention was the 100m sprint, as all day the atmosphere had been building up for the final. When the time came for 100m final for each age group I could see the crowds eagerness for it to begin, even the kids taking part looked nervous as they were getting in position at the starting blocks. There was deafening silence before the starting gun and once it was set off the crowd erupted in excitement, the atmosphere was electrifying. This type of atmosphere continued throughout each 100m final for every age group.

Once all the events had finished the principal said a few words, thanking everyone for taking part and thanking all the organizers. The next day Katie and I found out that our house team, Team Hunt had finished last overall at sports day. We were a bit disappointed until we ran into some kids from the school and they were saying how much they enjoyed our help for sports day. I found the sports day at John Wesley was an amazing day and truly shows the schools spirit. Although I was a bit disappointed that our team finished last, there is always next year, good luck Team Hunt.       

By Joe Billham

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Fiji.  

Wednesday
Aug202014

Staff blog: Animal Rescue

Earlier this week I was on my way up to the home stay where I live Suva and by the side of the road inside a cement wall I could hear a faint meowing. I stopped and went over to the wall and looked inside. Inside the hole in the wall were two small kittens approximately 5 weeks old. 

I tried to reach in and pick the kittens up as they were clearly trapped and could not get out however I couldn’t reach. The hole was dark and full of spider webs and a lot of litter. The hole seemed too high up for such small kittens to have got in there by themselves as there was nothing to climb up either. They had been dumped there and left to die.

Then I ran across the road and luckily there was a man selling coconuts by the side of the road that I see every day on my way to the home stay. I told him that I had found two kittens trapped and he came with me to help them. Luckily he managed to reach them both. After searching the wall for any other kittens and unable to find any more I headed to the home stay. I put the kittens in a cardboard box lined with a blanket and before taking them to the animal shelter where we have our animal welfare project in Fiji I attempted to clean the kitten’s eyes. Their eyes were clearly infected. Both kittens were unable to open their eyes and they were covered with crust and puss. Although this site was extremely upsetting the time I have spent at the animal shelter had prepared me for this and I was used to see injured and sick animals.

I headed to animal shelter with the help of some of the volunteers we got the kittens to the shelter safely. At the shelter I had seen this procedure many times, people bringing in sick and abandoned animals and filling out the form which explains what happened, I never thought I would be the one filling out the form.

After leaving the kittens in the capable hands of the staff at the animal shelter I patiently waited for news. After what seemed like an endless wait I went into the operating room and was informed that the kittens had been put down. Unfortunately the infection in their eyes could not be cured and they were in such a poor condition that the chances of recovery were minimal.

Although the kittens did not survive I am glad that they are no longer trapped in the cement wall on the side of the road and that they are no longer suffering.

At the animal shelter there are daily occurrences just like these which you can expect to witness first hand. One of the staff members informed me that a few weeks ago there were puppies abandoned on the side of the road in a potato sack. This poor treatment of animals in Fiji is shocking and incredibly disturbing which is why the work on the animal welfare project is so rewarding.

By Ria Billings, Project Coordinator 

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Fiji.

Wednesday
Aug202014

A Day in the Life of a Fiji Teaching Volunteer

8:00-8:15 – Arrival and supervision of class duties.

My class are growing a vegetable patch they tend to each morning.

8:15-8:30 – Devotion

The children sing beautiful Christian hymns in Fijian and English which is followed by a short prayer.

8:30-10:10 – Periods 1 and 2

Usually double maths

10:10 – 10:30 – Recess

Fijians are all about food so you’ll notice most of the children’s lunches are eaten during break!

10:30-12:30 – Periods 3 and 4

Often this is science and English/Fijian.

12:30-13:00 – Lunch

Teachers will normally sit together but I sometimes enjoy lunch time with the students.

13:00-14:30 – Periods 5 and 6

PE, arts and crafts, or a science experiment. Attention is wearing thin so we often plan a practical activity in the afternoon.

14:30 – Home time

Students are dismissed and teachers may stay on an extra hour to tidy up or prepare lesson plans.

Useful Tips:

  1. First class starts at 8:30am but most children do not arrive until 9am, “Fiji Time”. Buses always run late and consequently so do the classes.
  2. Fijians do not manufacture their own chocolate; everything is imported. As a result it is very expensive (for them) to buy. I found that an incentive for the children with a reward of chocolate not only saves the need for the stick, it also increases enthusiasm.
  3. The school I am placed at does not stream classes (Year 7 and Year 8) so expect a huge range on abilities. My class are 11/12 – some can already understand algebra whilst some still cannot perform their 2/3 times tables.
  4. Discipline discipline discipline – A typical Fijian class is lively. Controlling the students is 80% of the challenge. Once you have their attention, the rest is a breeze!
  5. Finally…enjoy! The kids you meet here will be like no other. They are cheeky, interesting and love the chance to spend time with someone from the other side of the world!

By Abbi Ravi-Raj, Teaching Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Fiji.

Thursday
Aug142014

Staff blog: Teaching in Fiji

Teaching – whether it is your first time or not is not always easy. Teaching in another country where English is a foreign language is a challenge however, English is one of three official languages in Fiji and this makes teaching much easier. The other two official languages are Fijian and Hindi.

The children in the schools speak fluent English although not to the same standard as you would find in schools in England. All lessons apart from Hindi and Fijian will be taught in English so for first time teachers Fiji is a great idea because you don’t have to worry too much about a language barrier.

During the Hindi and Fijian lessons the students will always take up the opportunity to teach the volunteers as much as they can and it’s a great way to learn simple words and phrases to help you get around.

You can expect the teachers to encourage you to take you own classes and although at first it can be daunting it will feel so rewarding. The students will not always ask for help when they need it and like to pretend they understood everything which is not always the case and as teachers you don’t expect them to understand everything either and therefore it is important to encourage them to speak up and to talk with them in smaller groups to recognise what they do and don’t understand.

Students thrive off of positive feedback, any encouragement given whether it’s a “Good Work!” in their work books or a “Well Done!” after getting an answer correct, the change in their confidence is immediately noticeable and definitely makes a difference in the students attitudes towards learning.

Even if you feel you have taught one student something that will stick with them or made a difference to their leaning, it is a great feeling and working with the schools in such a friendly environment is something you won’t ever forget.

By Ria Billings, Teaching Coordinator

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Fiji.

Thursday
Aug142014

Volunteer blog: First Day At School

The thought of a 20 minute walk to school up hill first thing in the morning did not sound appealing, however the beautiful views of the sea and rural areas definetly made it worth it while.

Our first class was 202. WOW what a very energetic and lively bunch of children. They were all very enthusiastic to get stuck in with the rugby and netball sessions we had planned for them. Despite the kids all looking very cute and innocent they are so mischievous which means you have to ensure that they are entertained at all times. Once the session was over the class refused to go back to normal lessons as they wanted to stay and play/talk to us.

After recess we had classes 802 and 803. Taking full advantage of having two classes together we decided to do a relay circuit against each other. All the kids were super excited and got stuck in straight away. When it came to me and Joe’s turn to do what ever activity they would all go crazy and cheer us on. The sprinting part of the relay was definitely enjoyed the most by the kids as it went on much longer then intended.

After an action packed morning we then had athletics training, as the school have their sports day coming up. Facing 80 over excited kids all ranging in age was a very daunting thought as first but it turned out to be a massive success. We had 5 different stations that the kids would move around. The stations included: Illinois test, shuttle runs, 100m sprints and change of direction runs. The kids thrived in all aspects of this session but they put extra effort into the Illinois and change of direction runs as they have never experienced this before.

I have to say it most definitely was the best first day at school I have ever had and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the week brings.

By Katie Vokes, Teaching Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Fiji.

Wednesday
Aug062014

Volunteer Blog: Kajal

Kava is a type of root that is ground up and turned into liquid. The local Fijians call it “grog”. It is definitely an accustomed taste, but after being given bowl after bowl I can finally say I’m used to it! Kava has the ability to make your mouth go extremely numb and make you lethargic. This probably explains the idea of “Fiji time”.

The Kava ceremony is supposed to be used for welcoming and saying farewell, but a lot of Fijians just drink the root every night! Since volunteers are constantly coming and going here, this is something I get to experience a lot! We all dress up in our sulu’s (sarong) and go out to the “mango bar” (hut type area) and drink Kava until our mouth’s can’t take it anymore. It is definitely quite a unique ceremony, but I won’t give everything away because you might get to go to one!

I also got to go to a Fijian Village! It is easy to employ an ethnocentric mindset in our everyday lives because we are constantly surrounded by people that are just like us. However, this weekend I was pulled out of my ignorance and got to experience a completely different reality by going to Korovisilou Village.

Apart from having minimal electricity the people of the village live a simple life, and it was great seeing them so happy to be this way. The village was filled with kids running every which way and adults singing and drinking Kava. I realized that every one in the western world is given items that make our lives easier. For instance, shoes. No one in the village wears shoes unless they are going to work. I ended up giving my shoes to a friend I made, and tried to survive bare foot for some of the day. This was a big mistake as my sensitive british feet made me at least 5 paces behind at all times.

The whole experience made me feel very privileged to live where I do, but at the same time very envious at how happy these people can be without things we consider necessities. I wonder what would happen if people in England and America were stripped of all these things?

The volunteers and I also went to visit the local school, and had a swim in the river!

By Kajal, Journalism Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Fiji.

Tuesday
Jul292014

Volunteer blog: Tori Leach

Definitely among the most amazing experiences I’ve had since arriving in Fiji was the day me and of the other volunteers spent the day at a high ropes centre in an idyllic setting in the beautiful Fijian countryside. The two best elements of it were undoubtedly the giant swing and the incredible 440m zip wire.


The giant swing was comprised of a wooden pole 15ft high which we had to climb by means of metal staples that protruded from its sides. At the top was a small metal platform which had railings on three sides, and the other side was where we had to jump from. When I reached the metal platform courage to jump off was hard to come by, but with a little (slightly sarcastic) encouragement from my friends, I jumped.

Of all the rides and roller coasters I’ve been on, none have given me an adrenaline rush like that giant swing did. I began to scream but the sound was torn away from me as I sped towards the dry earth in freefall, and it took seemingly forever for the upwards tension of the rope to pull on me, so that I felt like I would plummet to the ground with nothing to break my fall. After this initial descent I began to rise again, reaching the height of the forest canopy and levelling the tops of the surrounding palm trees, and after the heart-stopping moment of being completely stationary at that highest point of the arc, I began to accelerate down again, this time with my body facing the flawlessly blue sky. I screamed and laughed with utter exhilaration and gratitude that this moment had been accorded to me.

The zip wire took my breath away in a very different way. It was much slower at first than the giant swing, I suppose because of the friction between wire and harness, but I was glad of the more leisurely pace because it allowed me to make the most of my achingly beautiful surroundings. Layer upon layer of tree-covered mountains stretched away to my right, the nearer ones pine-green but dashed with yellow and white where the blazing sunlight proved too much for the wide tropical leaves to absorb and the distant ones hazy and blue, like a huge far-off fish in a vast expanse of ocean. Before me was a tranquil, shady valley that contrasted exquisitely with those majestic tree-lined hills. A shallow stream snaked through it and trees with bent boughs were clustered around its gentle banks, as if kneeling to drink from its cool crystal waters. Where there were no trees, there was grass which from my height seemed so perfect that it reminded me of a golf course I used to pass on my way back to from school. Here and there, a rustic bridge spanned the brook with sturdy, un-manicured logs that perfectly suited their surroundings. As I descended towards the tree tops, this wind whistling through my hair, I knew clearly that this was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to me. The exhilaration and gratitude flooded me again.

By Tori Leach, Journalism volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Fiji.