Bula, my name is Neha Pooni. I am studying Politics and French going into second year and this summer I spent 16 days volunteering in a Fijian Village with Think Pacific and it was the best experience of my life!

I travelled for 2 days to the other side of the world and the flight was challenging to say the least! However I am proud of myself for being able to navigate my way through the airports all by myself.

Once I arrived in Fiji, I was able to meet my fellow volunteers and project leaders at a resort where we all got to know each other (and everyone was lovely!). After 2 days in the first resort, we travelled to the other side of Fiji (to Suva – the capital) and spent another 2 days in a resort where we had briefings from our project coordinator where she prepared us for village life. We also played ice breaker games that helped everyone to bond!

Then, we headed to the village on a 2 hour journey. To say I was excited was an understatement! I couldn’t wait to meet my Fijian Family and form connections with the villagers!

When we arrived, we were greeted with a welcome ceremony by the entire village (called Nasilai) and we introduced ourselves. They sang and then we all drank some kava which is a traditional ground root drink in Fiji (the taste of which I struggled to get used to whilst I was there!). I then met my incredible Fijian Family with my ‘sister’ Ishika (who was another volunteer) and we went to our house.

We had our dad, our auntie and Sid the cat and they were the most welcoming people I have ever met. Our dad ran a tuck shop for the villagers and the money he made from it was saved for the village youths to use. Our auntie was a fantastic cook who made the most amazing curries every night!

My ‘sister’ and I stayed in a separate room and we each had our own mattress to sleep on. We also had bucket showers which I didn’t mind. Our family also provided us with bottled water the entire time we were there which was incredibly generous!

In terms of day to day life, I went on a Youth Empowerment project so the day was split into 2 sessions. The volunteers would run the morning sessions and we would run workshops about topics such as: Public Health, Environment and Climate Change, Mental Health, Sports Development, Business, Leadership and Women Empowerment. Then after lunch, the youths would run the afternoon sessions where they would educate us about aspects of their culture such as: Family connections, Pottery, Weaving etc.

In the evenings, we would all congregate in the hall where we would sing and dance the night away! We would also drink kava too. The Fijian Youths also taught us a lot of different card games such as their version of Uno called ‘Trump Ten’. These nights were one of my favourite parts of my time there because I was able to make amazing connections with the villagers and have fun with them!

That was what the weekdays looked like! On Saturday, the other volunteers went out to the sea on a boat ride which I unfortunately missed because I fell ill. On Sunday, it was the day of Sabbath. Therefore, no one was allowed to work as it was the day of rest. Instead, in the evening everyone went to church where the choir sang ballads with their very powerful voices! We then repeated the regular day to day routine with the workshops for the following week.

Overall, I had an incredible time in Fiji and Nasilai village truly accepted me as one of their own. The goodbye was incredibly difficult and everyone was in tears because we were going to miss each other dearly. The bonds we had formed will always last a lifetime and I am so glad to have taken this opportunity to learn about Fijian culture and push myself out of my comfort zone. At the end of the project everyone was able to exchange social media so we are still in touch with everyone back in Nasilai which is amazing! This experience was one of the most memorable I will ever have and I highly encourage anyone to do this as it will be one of the best things you’ll do!

16 Days in Fiji with Think Pacific

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