Fiji Islands Discovered

Season’s Report 2018

A massive THANK YOU for joining us in this beautiful country this summer. We know it’s not always easy to find the time and raise the funds.

Please enjoy reading about your groups’ achievements as this will give a more complete picture of the vast amount of assistance that you’ve given to the local community through your generosity.

And a special thank you to Tom, Megan, Tash and Luke who have been a fantastic team to lead our volunteers in 2018.

Group 1

Vitogo Village - Vitogo District School

With a lot of work to complete at the school, no volunteer ever complained and every single one worked extremely hard to complete the four buildings and construction assignments. In the famous words of Meg, ‘you guys absolutely smashed it!’

From Vitogo, the volunteers visited the Milk and Honey river on their day off where they celebrated the birthdays of Brittni and Killian. The following day we celebrated Terri’s birthday – it was great to see that we could make these birthdays as special as possible. The nights at the village hall saw everyone getting involved in brain puzzling games, which would then be the cause of humorous frustration the next day at the school.

The week of the island tour saw almost every single volunteer fall victim to dabbing. Everyone soon became familiar with Luke’s swimming abilities…or lack thereof, whilst Meg became a human floatation device helping people swim throughout the caves.

Construction

This week we refurbished and painted year 1,2 &3 classrooms as well as built an incinerator and water catchment base. We were really proud of the group’s work, the effort they gave and the impact they made in the community. Despite having a small group, we accomplished all that we set out for with eagerness and a smile.

  • Sanded & painted years 1, 2 & 3 Classrooms inside and outside
  • Painted year 1, 2 & 3 toilet block
  • Constructed a water tank base behind year two classroom
  • Built a compost
  • Constructed a new incinerator

Education

This week on education we focussed on one-on-one tutoring with students who were behind or struggling a bit. This was primarily in the area of mathematics, specifically algebra and measurement. We could see significant changes in the way students approached problem-solving questions throughout the week, and the teach Master Tev was very pleased with the progress and overall behaviour of the students, who were originally shy and reserved at the beginning of the week but opened up gradually.

We also spent the first half day doing activities in physical education (stretching and then discussing what muscles were being used) as well as poetry and wordplay.

  • Greater understanding of maths equations and improvements in problem-solving abilities
  • Developing knowledge in muscle behaviour and exercise
  • Developing knowledge in poetry and rhyme-making

Group 2

Vitogo Village - Vitogo District School

Despite a slow start on construction, the volunteer team put their heads down and worked extremely hard in the days to follow and exceeded our initial expectations.


The Sunday after church saw us visiting the Milk and Honey river again, where we celebrated Andrea’s birthday and multiple volunteers impressed us with their diving talents.
Though it was a difficult week with sickness, everyone maintained a positive and supportive attitude and absolutely smashed out the work at the school.

During the island week, all the volunteers were extremely caring, patient, understanding and supportive the entire week. All activities went ahead as planned despite the rough weather, and one lucky group of manta ray snorkelers saw 3 manta rays and a reef shark. Beachcomber saw the return of Meg and Tom, and that night the group came together as a family to celebrate the last night together. It was so nice to feel so united with the group and the support each and every single individual provided to each other

Construction

The volunteers successfully completed the ground floor level of Vitogo Village School. In this group on construction we completed the following;

  • The interior of 5 classrooms
  • The interior of staff office
  • The interior of 2 storage rooms
  • The exterior of a bathroom block
  • The exterior of an entire lower floor of the school
  • The veranda was decorated with VESA colours.
  • The walkway was mostly completed.
  • Bathroom murals were completed
  • VESA mural was completed
  • The scaffolding was used to paint the top of the back of the building.
  • Gates over the windows were removed and painted.
  • We attached a new wall panel at the back of the bathroom.

Education

Due to the volunteers refurbishing the classrooms on the bottom section of the school building, all the year levels were squeezed into small rooms on the top floor and the teachers preferred to have movie days rather than implementing lesson plans. Despite this we were still able to get into the classrooms for the kindergarten children and grades 1, 2 and 3. The volunteers showed great patience and handled the lessons really well. We were able to get the grades 6, 7 and 8 outside for the last day and organised a scavenger hunt where students would walk to different landmarks around the village and solve riddles and clues leading them to the next stage with prizes at the end which kept everybody extra motivated. We also engaged in physical education on one day where we would stretch relevant muscle groups which were being used and discussed the importance of keeping active. Duck-duck goose was the highlight of the day, with the entire senior student faculty standing on the second floor of the school cheering on the junior years chasing each other around the circle.

  • Assisted kindergarten + grade 1, 2 and 3 teachers with lesson plans through individual tutoring and different games
  • Completed a scavenger hunt around the village making the students practice problem-solving abilities and work as a team
  • Engaged in physical education with students and discuss importance of exercise

Group 3

Vitogo Village - Vitogo District School

In the space of five working days we managed to revitalize the school hall upstairs, library, computer room, office, as well as the entire back wall and finishing touches on all the buildings we’ve progressed on since beginning there almost two months ago! We also completed the water tank stand thanks to the tireless efforts of Kai, Levi, Harrison and even Kade, who later went home and died for 24 hours before resurrecting to join us again. To revamp and construct all of this creates an inviting environment for the students and the community and you did it with a whole lot of sand paper, tape, fresh paint, cement, timber, sand and a ton of hard work.

As a massive thank you for the group’s hard work, we organised a trip to the creek where people enjoyed swinging from tree ropes and swimming around and during the village week we were able to celebrate Hannah’s birthday, making it a special one for her to remember. The volunteers also really enjoyed the village talent show with their host families. Yazzi, Jena, Farrah and Anthony did an amazing beat boxing and guitar playing remix of a song their host families taught them which was beautiful.

The final goodbye ceremony was the most heartfelt and warming one yet, with many emotional goodbyes.

The island week saw everyone getting involved and having loads of fun with all the activities organised.

Construction

Group 3 were the final group to be visiting Vitogo village and were therefore responsible for finishing off the school and making sure the final product was perfect. It was all hands-on deck and the group maintained a strong positive attitude to work all week despite the endless chiselling that needed to be done - everyone has left Fiji as master pole chisellers. Not only for us, but for the group to be able to see the school in its final state filled every single person with a massive sense of fulfillment and pride and seeing the villagers’ reactions made every drop of sweat beyond worth it.

Projects completed during the final visit to Vitogo:

  • Exterior of the top of the front of the building was painted
  • Exterior of the bottom of the back of the main building was painted
  • Main hall interior was painted, leaving the full-wall mural untouched
  • Computer room interior was painted
  • Library interior was painted
  • Main staff office was painted
  • Water tank stand was completed
  • Upstairs railings were chiselled and painted
  • VESA mural was added to front of the main building downstairs

Education

We began the week in Miss Shalini’s Grade 6 class while she was absent taking her exams, and this gave us a lot of freedom to implement whatever lesson plans the volunteers were passionate about.

We focussed on nutrition, primarily what foods and nutrients were required to maintain a balanced diet, and which foods contained high levels of sugar and sodium which should be avoided, especially as these were the foods most consumed by the children in the village.

We also focussed on mathematics, primarily fractions and percentages and played games and activities where students had to draw objects or identify amounts of money and calculate them into percentages and fractions. This was awesome because you could see the students develop their understanding of the topics immediately and progressively throughout the day. For the rest of the week we covered English, anatomy, sciences, recycling and made sure to incorporate games and sports sessions to break up the lessons a bit.

Developed a deeper knowledge of:

  • Nutrition
  • Mathematics
  • English
  • Science
  • Recycling

Group 4

Nawaka Village - Nawaka District School

During the village week the volunteers worked really hard and no one struggled with sickness which was a great improvement!

On Sunday the volunteers deserved a relax and we took them to the local mud pools in Nadi which they all completely loved and had fun covering themselves and each other in mud! They then went in all the different natural hot springs to wash the mud of and make their skin feel nice and soft. On the farewell ceremony in the village the village made a traditional Lovo feast which everyone got to see being prepared!

One of our volunteers, Paul, got accepted as the chief and was always welcomed to sit beside the chief every time we were in the village hall drinking Kava, he was then called Chief Paul for the rest of the two weeks

Projects completed during the final visit to Vitogo:

Group four successfully refurbished the entire year 1, 2 & 3 building. This included five separate classrooms. This was a big undertaking for a small group of only 23 volunteers.

The volunteers pulled together and worked late on two days without any negativity despite working in intense heat while painting the back of the school and sweating their brains out.

  • Interior of 5 classrooms
  • Exterior of 1 building
  • Exterior of 1 bathroom block
  • Guttering was replaced
  • Front railings were painted

Education

This week on Education exceeded all expectations. When we approached the headmaster Mr Kumar asking what would best suit the teachers and students in terms of volunteers helping in class, he told me that each teacher would be thrilled to have some assistance and that the more classrooms we could visit the better.

Because of this, each day we were able to go into a new year level and either create our own lesson plans or judging by how confident the volunteers were in their own knowledge of the curriculum content, assist with the coursework the students were already working on.

  • Year 7 classes we focussed on grammar, syntax and storytelling.
  • Year 6 classes we delivered a lesson on clean energy.
  • Year 5 classes we conducted activities related to different parts of the body (muscle groups, bones etc) and played ‘Simon Says’ at the end of the lesson to test the student’s knowledge which ended up in a showdown that seemed to last forever between two mates sitting next to each other.

To top off the week we visited the grade 1 classes and donated toothbrushes to each student which the volunteers had brought from home.

We had a lesson in dental hygiene and tutorial on how to properly brush your teeth.

Island week brought many more laughs and great experiences, including almost every member of the group seeing a MASSIVE manta ray - personally one of the best experiences of my life. Everyone also really enjoyed the caves, with most people attempting to scale the sides to jump off the rocks.

Group 5

Balenabelo Village - Koroinasau Primary School

These volunteers used the most paint and cried the most tears. The fact that they were in the most remote village of the season gave them the most authentic Fiji experience of NH 2018. Most volunteers would be getting up and having a boogie with their host families at the kava parties in the evening. The women in the village would always pick Bruce (a volunteer) because he had such great dance moves! One of our volunteers Chris could do some card tricks and would fascinate 10’s of Fijians every night with his magical abilities. The talent show was such a success and all the villagers came out to watch that afterwards the boys in the village wanted to participate in a dance off with the volunteers, it was full of laughs and amazing dance moves.

Projects worked on:

  • Inside of the Dining Hall in traditional VESA colours
  • Exterior of Dining Hall
  • Exterior of bathroom block
  • Interior of kitchen in the Dining Hall
  • Exterior of the dorms at the school
  • Interior (Ceiling only completed)
  • Exterior of School hall
  • Interior of Library
  • Interior of Kindergarten (Ceiling only completed)
  • Constructed a compost

Unfortunately only one construction project was totally completed due to the extreme difficulty getting the materials delivered to the village (a bad case of ‘Fiji Time’).

The following groups will work towards completing the 1-3 building, 4-6 building and the 7-8 building as well as finishing the library and kindergarten.

Education

During the education week, both the students and volunteers gained a lot from the experience.

We had some unique and amazing lesson plans created by some volunteers. With so many coming from Ireland, we had lessons every day about Irish geography, history and Gaelic language. Because we were able to continue with a theme each day, the students showed a lot of enthusiasm in learning more about Ireland.

Sarah and Nicole took mindfulness classes, in which they had all the students in the classroom close their eyes, focus on their breathing, and meditate. In my experience I’ve never seen any children (let alone crazy Fijian kids) stay so still and focus on the teacher so much. It was an awesome lesson and the volunteers were blown away too.

  • Irish geography, history and language
  • Scottish history and culture
  • Nutrition
  • Physical education
  • Currencies
  • Mindfulness and mental wellbeing

On the Island week one of our volunteers Alex couldn’t swim and she was very nervous to do a couple of the activities. During Blue Lagoon Luke helped her to see all the beautiful coral and fish.

Following that we went to the Manta Ray passage and put her in a lifejacket and with a bit of persuasion she built up the courage to get in and ended up seeing 5 Manta-rays and a reef shark, we were all so proud of her!

Group 6

Balenabelo Village - Koroinasau Primary School

These volunteers were the second group to visit this village and school. During the week they completed the interior of the boarding school dorms, providing the children who stay there during the week a much cleaner, appealing, and fun environment to live in. Each volunteer who worked on this project understood the importance and significance of refurbishing this building and took nothing but pride in their work and I am extremely grateful for that.

  • Replacement of wall and ceiling boards of the interior of the hall which were all previously damaged was completed by group 5, which allowed for group 6 to begin painting the interior of this room. This was completed with light blue walls, decorated by dark teal posts. A long dining table was also constructed and painted for the hall, allowing for a more hygienic and comfortable place for the students to eat lunch.
  • Completion of the interior and entire exterior of the library and kindergarten, both of which were projects held in high regard by the kindergarten teacher as the overall appearances were made brighter and more inviting.
  • The interior and exterior refurbishment of one classroom was also completed, and the exterior of a second classroom was also started – this will be completed by group 7.
  • Three murals were also added to the school – bathroom murals for both the girls and boys. Special shout-out to Erin
  • We were also lucky enough to have Sam volunteer herself to clean the toilets of the school, which, as you would probably believe, were in a horrific state prior to this.

Education

The week of education was fantastic, and despite not having as many people interested in coming into the classrooms each day, the students and volunteers all enjoyed their time immensely.

Our first day on began with Matt, a third-year education student from Scotland, wanting to teach students about geography which is a huge passion of his, specifically volcanoes. He had bought a 2 litres bottle of coke and a pack of Mentos and after spending half an hour with the grade 5 and 6 class and the 7 and 8 class, he gathered everybody into the schoolyard and mixed the two resulting in an explosion of coke and foam everywhere. It didn’t quite go according to plan but the entire school and teachers absolutely loved it.

  • On the Monday we focussed on different languages, such as Gaelic Welsh, French and Spanish. The children loved this and picked up on the languages quite quickly. We also had a volunteer named Sam who was fluent in sign language who taught the students about the benefits of being able to communicate non-verbally, especially with people who have special needs.
  • On Tuesday we split the year 7 and 8s up into girls and boys and focussed on personal education. The girls focussed on personal hygiene and puberty specifically while the boys discussed sexual education as well as mindfulness and mental wellbeing whilst experiences puberty. This involved many giggles and shyness, but it was also clear that they took a lot away from the lesson.
  • On Wednesday we spent half an hour with the 3 & 4 class and half an hour with the 7 & 8 class and implemented a lesson on Space and the planets as well as an arts and crafts class where students learnt about fingerprints and DNA and then every student and volunteer put their fingerprints on a massive tree. At the end of the day Matt attempted the coke and Mentos experiment again this time relating it to a rocket ship en route to Space. This time it was a lot more successful.
  • Spanish
  • Gaelic Welsh
  • sign language and non-verbal communication
  • personal education such as sexual health, puberty and mental wellbeing
  • mindfulness and mental wellbeing
  • DNA arts and crafts

Island week began with a few competitive games of volleyball, from which we learnt that Conor can only aim for trees or poles, the only benefit I bring to a team is a solid serve, and that Tom should be disqualified for being too tall.

Our trip to the caves saw almost every volunteer head into the dark, closed cave despite a range of fears, my favourite of which being the two ENORMOUS spiders sitting above the cave entrance almost preventing Georgina from going in. To both her gratitude and my relief, we were able to get her through the caves without looking at them so she didn’t miss out on the experience.

The trip to Blue Lagoon was one the second group will not ever forget. I mean, not only did they absolutely adore the beauty of snorkelling amongst the diversity of fish Blue Lagoon has to offer, but the boat ride back gave us something really special….”DOLPHINS!!!!”
We were so incredibly lucky to see 7-8 dolphins swimming and diving around our boat as we cruised around back – something that we all bragged about for days to come

Group 7

Balenabelo Village - Koroinasau Primary School

Due to the fact we had a small group of volunteers we had a big task on our hands, lucky for us we had some very determined and hard workers in this group. All the days at the construction site everyone gave their best and made sure all the jobs they were allocated were completed in the period of time they were given!

On Construction this week we completed;

  • The exterior of 2 smaller buildings
  • The exterior of 1 large building
  • Interior of 3 classrooms
  • We completed kindergarten murals with the alphabet and numbers 1-20 on the wall.
  • Constructed an incinerator
  • Moped and tidied up most of the rooms at the school

We had a couple of birthdays this group, one (Vinny) was celebrated in the village hall where the village and volunteers all sang her happy birthday. Vinny also claimed it was the best birthday cake she had ever eaten which made her very excited!!

Everyone loved chilling at the beach on Sunday and all got in for a well-deserved cool down. Earlier that day everyone was dressed to impress in their beautiful chumbas and colourful bula shirts. The volunteers were lucky enough to be a part of the best farewell ceremony we’ve ever had, and we don’t think there was a dry eye in the hall! The villagers really gave their gratitude to the volunteers which was amazing! We think it’s safe to say that BELO will forever be in the hearts of these volunteers including us tour leaders! It’s been a pleasure to stay in a village filled with such beautiful and humble humans.