Time for another guest blog from our Intern Cameron who spent the summer in Fiji volunteering.
Volunteering is about taking you on that journey to understand what makes you an individual.
Volunteering has been an important part of my life. It has helped me to gain new skills and develop old ones. It has allowed me to network with many people and organisations. I have helped some noteworthy causes and been involved in some inspirational projects. Nevertheless, when I first began volunteering; I never thought it would take me to such an incredible place like Fiji. No, but that is exactly what happened- my voluntary experience and initiative gave me the opportunity to volunteer all the way to Fiji, nearly 10,000 miles away.
Back in September 2014, a few members of the charity, Volunteer Eco Students Abroad (VESA), came to Stirling University into my lecture and gave a small talk on the charity and what they do and then invited us along to an information session for a more in depth talk. Volunteer in Fiji? Needless to say, they grabbed my attention. I went along to the talk and after which, I applied and was accepted. I raised the money through work, friends, family and other donators
On the 1st August 2015, I was on a plane to Los Angeles en route to Fiji. I took the group flight to be with other volunteers to get to know them. By the 3rd of August, after jumping forward in time (via the International Date Line), we arrived in Fiji at 5:30am and met the VESA staff and got taken back to our accommodation. We managed to meet and socialise with the other volunteers- there were forty of us in total. The next day, we arrived at the village, Muaivuso, we were traditionally welcomed in to their village and assigned to our new Fijian family for the week.
That week at the school, we were split into groups to take turns doing the work; education, painting or construction. For my education group, we help teach English to a group of 9 – 12 year olds.
My project involved bringing letters over from Wick Youth Club’s summer holiday club, which I volunteer at on a regular basis while at home. I got the children there to write letters to the children in Fiji, and the children in Fiji practised their English by writing letters back to the youth club’s children. I did this to help practice their English, but also to set up a pen-pal arrangement.
The painting work involved redecorating the exterior and interior of the whole school, which took up the majority of the week. This is to make the school look more appealing and to renovate the tired look of the school.
We also were involved in building a base and providing a rain water catchment tank for the school and an incinerator and compost heap for the village for waste disposal.
The impact on the volunteers, including myself, for this hard week of volunteering was some great life experience, a sense of good will and reward and it also adds a bonus to your CV! However, the impact of our work on this village was life-changing. We could see this first-hand because we stayed with a family, who treated us like one of their own from day one. This really highlighted to us how important the work we were doing was to them- this was the highlight of my trip.
We managed to also fit in some leisure time and experience the typical pacific paradise atmosphere. Snorkelling, swimming with manta-rays, scuba diving, beach lounging, caving- you name it! This was another week to look forward to, although it went in too fast.
Twenty-two of the volunteers then said their farewells but eighteen of us stayed on for an optional week of volunteering-. This was a marine conservation project to help preserve the coral reefs. We went to another village, Komave, and stayed with another family. We helped volunteer and replace the disappearing coral reef there and replant some vital mangrove trees to help balance the ecosystem. The benefits of this work were to bring back the fish which left due to the lack of coral and to build a natural sea wall against flooding, to the benefit of the village. I also did this project alongside the John Muir Award, which is a conservation award, to help raise awareness of the importance of the balance between the coral marine life and the mangrove trees we planted.
I would definitely recommend volunteering as it can give you valuable life experience and transferrable skills which can take you literally anywhere! There are plenty of charities out there who are willing to take volunteers and you can volunteer in the most exotic of places! VESA also offers programs to Ecuador, South Africa and Laos. Experience some of the world through volunteering and meet some amazing people- the Fijian welcome I got was so unique and remarkable that those great memories will always remain with me. Living with them really opened my eyes. Their simple and unmaterialistic lifestyle, yet, are the happiest people I know, really made me understand how much we take for granted and how materialism consumes our lives.
Volunteering is not just about helping you enhance your career prospects; it’s about taking you on that journey to understand what makes you an individual. That is why I recommend volunteering.