Wednesday
Jun112014

Teaching Coordinator blog: visting the animal shelter

Last week I was lucky enough to visit one of our community partners at the animal shelter in Suva. They care for abandoned cats and dogs. The staff at the shelter are exceptionally friendly and the manager has been there for 33 years! It is clear that they really do care for animals that are housed there. The conditions that the animals were kept in were clean, and despite being in cages the animals were incredibly enthusiastic and content. I jumped at the opportunity to interact with the animals and they seemed just as excited to have somebody to play with!

While at the shelter I met a woman who had bought a dog she had found at the wharf, they suspected it had been hit by a car, he was clearly shaken up and had been through a great ordeal. They named him Scruffy, which was quite fitting considering the state of his appearance. The shelter then took it upon them selves to de-flea, de-tick him and take care of him.

The shelter re-homes around 50 cats and dogs a week. During my short visit there I was able to see a family taking home one of the residents dogs. It was great to get involved with the shelter, there was a great atmosphere there and it was reassuring to know that there are people in Suva who do care for the animals and treat them well. Going back to the shelter and spending time with the animals is top of my to-do list while working in Fiji!

By Ria Billings, Assistant Teaching Coordinator

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

Thursday
Jun052014

Teaching Coordinator blog: Weekend Trips

There is so much to see in Fiji and I didn’t want to waste any time when it comes to exploring the island and all that it has to offer. On my first weekend I went to another island called Nananu I-Ra, it was a 3 hour bus ride away followed by a 20 minute boat ride. We stayed at a resort where we rented snorkelling equipment and some of the volunteers also went diving and were lucky enough to see 3 white-tipped reef sharks! The island itself was beautiful and very secluded. In the evening we were invited to a Kava ceremony with the staff at the resort. It was less formal than the Kava that we have at the home stay, but it was great to experience Kava in a different way.

Weekend in Nasautoka with children by river

Unfortunately the weather here has been unpredictable so the next weekend it rained non-stop! This seemed like the perfect opportunity to go to the cinema! This was my first experience at a cinema in Suva and I was pleasantly surprised by the Village 6 cinema. After the cinema I organised a quiz for the volunteers and then we played Pictionary which was a great laugh! The next evening we went into Suva and found a Karaoke bar. When we arrived there were two men singing incredibly depressing songs, but we soon changed that!

On my third weekend we visited a village called Nasautoka. The village was very basic and the house we stayed in with a Fijian family had no electricity. When we arrived at the village we had a welcome Kava ceremony at the village hall and we all got involved in traditional Fijian dancing with the local people. In the morning 15 children from the village aged between 6 and 11 years old gave us a tour of their village. We then rafted down the river and when we stopped we played games like rugby and netball in the water. Lunch at the river was incredible! I helped some of the girls to pick Fern and Taro leaves, and then our tour guide cooked prawns and cassava in Bamboo –which is the traditional way to cook food. We then had a race back to the village on the rafts and had a farewell ceremony in the village hall where a group of Fijian women presented a song they had created especially for the occasion.

The next day when we returned from the village we headed to Colo I-Suva which is a Forest Park 30 minutes away from the main home stay. The waterfalls were so cold but amazing! You can do pool hopping and there is a great path for walking as well. There is also a rope swing over one of the waterfalls which we made full advantage of.

I spent this weekend with the volunteers in Pacific Harbour which is only 45minutes on a bus from Suva. The resort where we stayed was serene and the staff were incredibly friendly. Despite the fact that it rained all weekend we still had a fantastic time. There was not much of a night life in or around the area but on Sunday evening there was live music at the bar. There was also a great beach and plenty of activities such as horse riding along the beach and kayaking.

By Ria Billings, Teaching Coordinator

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

Tuesday
Jun032014

Volunteer blog: Asia Schnell

Coming to Fiji I had no idea what to expect. I’m from the U.S. and have never travelled out of my country. These past two weeks have been a great eye opening experience. I’ve come here to volunteer in health care since it is my background and I’m so happy with my decision. My first few days here I was introduced to my fellow volunteers, my home stay family and the local city. My family as well as the other Fijian’s I have met in the city are some of the nicest people I’ve met; you definitely don’t meet these types of people in America!


Asia helping with an Environmental Awareness Day at a local school 

 My volunteer work so far has included working with The Ministry of Health as well as the disability centre. For The Ministry of Health I have been helping to collect information about the physical activity, attitudes and behaviours of mainly women aged 18 and over. They are targeting this group because there has been an increase in the rate of obesity diagnosis of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases among the Fijian women. The Ministry of Health wants to know more information as to why this is occurring as well as how they could possibly help. To collect this information I have been walking around Suva passing out questionnaires to women having them fill it out.

For the disability centre I am currently working with their “IDEA” group (Include Disability Employee Ability). This group of workers are trying to help the disabled find jobs and prove to employers that the disabled can be great employees. Last year, the IDEA members passed out application forms to the disabled and we are now calling them back seeing it they still need our assistance in finding a job. I have also helped the disability centre to distribute wheelchairs to those in need. My first wheelchair was given to a 12 year old girl with cerebral palsy. I hope with this aid it will be easier on her family to transport and move her around.

Both these jobs are so rewarding and I hope to continue to help those in need. My time here is flying by. I have two more weeks to complete as much work as possible and experience as much of the Fijian culture that I can.

By Asia Schnell, Healthcare volunteer

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

Tuesday
May272014

teaching Coordinator Blog: Birds of Fiji

My latest obsession with birds has only grown since coming to Fiji. It has been difficult to find out how many species there are on the Fiji Islands but I am determined to find out!

As I am so busy with my work I don’t have a designated time to bird watch, however as I seem to be constantly running errands in Suva this does give me the chance to keep an eye out for birds.

The first bird I spotted whilst here was the Common Myna – a species which I was already familiar with. With its recognisable yellow eye-stripe and white spotted wings I was able to easily identify it. These birds are everywhere in Suva! On an average day I probably see around 40. As they are mimic birds it is difficult to identify them by their call but their other features are easily identifiable.

I encountered a Red-Vented Bulbul perching on a telephone line on an agonisingly long 3 hour coach trip back from Raki Raki. This definitely made the journey worthwhile!

While on a mission in Suva I spotted 5 White-Faced Herons. Last weekend I went to Colo-I-Suva Forest Park where there are supposedly 13 species of endemic birds and I was hoping to spot a few but I didn’t see any! I heard a couple of calls but the forest was extremely quiet. I plan to revisit the forest park in the hope that I will see some birds.

I was most excited to spot a Fiji Parrot Finch while on the Island of Nananu I-Ra. A Fiji Parrot Finch has a red head and tail and a green body. This was particularly exciting as I have never seen such a brightly coloured bird. Yesterday when returning from school I saw 2 Parrot Finches on the washing line. Typically the moment I reached for my camera they flew away.

I am looking forward to seeing what other birds I can find.

By Ria Billings, Teaching Coordinator

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

Tuesday
May272014

Volunteer blog: Ben Cooper and Hugh Taylor

On Wednesday we took Class 202 for a game of “stuck in the mud” and before long the game had turned into “let’s chase the teachers” and Hugh and I would have a stampede of small children screaming after us and trying to catch us. After an hour of being chased by the whole class while having “Sir, Sir, catch me if you can!” taunted at us, we were in desperate need of break time.

For our second lesson of the day we took classes 802 and 803 for volleyball and a game of ‘rugby-netball’ which went down well with both boys and girls once they realised it was not just rugby or just netball and soon everyone was getting involved. The volleyball also went down a treat and ended up getting very competitive, especially when we pitched the two classes against each other.

For our final lesson we took class 601 for a similar lesson to our year 8’s, but for the boys we played rugby which being the national sport meant the kids got stuck in. In Fiji the idea of ‘touch rugby’ is lost on the children and they seem to have no problem tackling each other as hard as possible, which from the sidelines is very entertaining albeit slightly worrying from a teachers point of view.

With the lesson finished it was now the end of a very successful first day back after the Easter holidays.

By Ben Cooper and Hugh Taylor, sports coaching volunteers

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

Wednesday
May212014

Teaching and Community Coordinator blog: My first week!

After three days of travelling I had finally arrived in Nadi. The journey itself wasn’t horrendous, but the fact that my luggage had been lost along the way was definitely playing on my mind. However, once I had arrived at Smugglers Cove Beach Resort and Hotel, I was beyond excited to finally be in Fiji and begin the next chapter.

After a good nights sleep I headed to Nadi airport ­­­on Monday morning to meet my Project Manager Rowena and also the new volunteers arriving that day. Then we all made our way to the coach for the four hour journey to Suva. The coach journey gave me a chance to see Fiji and it didn’t disappoint. The flora was lush and the beaches were idyllic.

Once we arrived in Suva I was taken to the Fijian home where I would be spending the next four months. The Fijian family that I am living with were beyond friendly and extremely welcoming. Mama and Master and the rest of the family helped make me feel at home and later that evening we had a Kava ceremony. During the ceremony myself and the new volunteers were welcomed into the family and it was also a chance to say farewell to a departing volunteer.

On Tuesday I undertook some in-country training with Rowena and I got a chance to observe the departures process for outgoing volunteers. In the afternoon Rowena gave me a tour of Suva and this gave me a chance to visit the local markets and buy my first Sulu to wear at Kava ceremonies.

Rowena and I are in the process of re-arranging our shared bedroom and cleaning and creating an office area. The office is gradually becoming more organised and we now have desks, chairs and a blackboard!

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to training and filing. At the moment there is a lot to take in, everything is new and it will take a few weeks to settle in and I am excited to get stuck in and get into a routine. I am grateful for the good phone reception as despite the time difference it means I can easily keep in contact with home. I had limited expectations of the home stay situation but I feel incredibly lucky that the family I am staying with are friendly and approachable and I definitely wasn’t expecting to have reliable electricity and a double bed!

Overall, my first week has been an adjustment but I am looking forward to the next four months. I am hoping I will get a chance to familiarise myself with Suva and am excited for school opening next week after their Easter break.

By Ria Billings, Teaching and Community Coordinator

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

Tuesday
May132014

Volunteer Blog: Laura White

First things first, the suggested amount of extra money should be taken very lightly. Fiji is a beautiful place and if you’re travelling so far you’ll want to be seeing as much as possible whilst having a nice little break from the fantastic volunteering jobs you will be doing!

You don’t need a ridiculous amount of extra spends but it might be worth having a look into trips away for weekends or if possible have some extra time to explore before flying home after your project end date as I’ve been given loads of ideas and am lucky enough to have a week after my placement before I have to leave this beautiful country!

Last week after Becky and Rhiannon had found that the geography knowledge of the children wasn’t quite there – Becky, Ben, Hugh, Rhiannon and I painted two murals in the school squad-one map of Fiji and one map of the world, sounds simple right? Wrong! Have you ever named all the countries? Known their exact locations? Or even their precise shapes? A lot of research and new found knowledge went into the detail of both maps, not to mention time, energy, paint and snacks! Fully painted and labelled with a layer of varnish to keep the elements at bay both maps look bright and brilliant!

Lastly, if any of you potential volunteers are having trouble deciding on the home stay or the hostel for your time here; choose the home-stay for the following reasons:

1.            The Fijian culture is one of the friendliest you will ever encounter and you have the opportunity to live right in it. You will literally be welcomed into the family with open arms. I was here not even two minutes and received big hugs and bigger smiles from Mamma.

2.            The home is so comfortable and is a home. You’re not just staying or visiting Fiji you are living here with your second family; who needs home sickness in a place like this?

3.            Lastly, there has been a bit of a make-over within our home. I won’t say too much as you’ll have to come and see, but the painting prowess and overall creativity has definitely been brought home from school this week!

By Laura White, teaching volunteer

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

Thursday
Apr242014

Volunteer blog: Becky Medhurst & Rhiannon Fox

It's Tuesday, we're at Dudley Intermediate School, in Class 806. It's 8.30am and it's chaos. The first day back after Easter, Rhiannon's first day of volunteering and there's a complete lack of teacher, with the single most important assignment of the kids’ lives, which dictates which high school they will attend due in four days ago, in Fijian and still not completed was our challenge.

10 Kids down and we still have 25 kids worth of teeth pulling assignment finishing to go and the bell rings for lunch. We run to the food stall and get two bottles of Sprint, the drink we've just been telling our class not to consume due to the high sugar content!

Sugared up and raring to go, we approach the afternoon with the finish line in sight, little did we know that the CAT assignment completion would take another four days.

Wednesday dawned on Suva and it was World Book Day, for which headmaster Master Vola had big plans. Healthcare volunteers joined the school and delivered a healthy lifestyle speech reiterating the importance of avoiding drinks like Sprint, just as a delivery man walked through the packed assembly area, with three crates of Sprint on his shoulder, perfect timing!

We were challenged with the task of building the biggest storybook, creating the most bookmarks and making posters, while still trying to get the kids to complete their CAT assignments.

By the end of the day, 20 bookmarks and three posters had been made, as well as a giant book in which was written a rather original story about Prince William and Kate Middleton at the grocery store. Not only that, but we had completed 25 out of the 30 CATs. Our mission was almost complete, despite 'Fiji Time', no teacher and a very excitable group of 13 year olds. We went home, exhausted relieved and ever so slightly smug.

By Becky & Rhiannon, Teaching volunteers

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