Stories from Fiji – Mattie Wormald, from the University of Birmingham

Published 12/08/2019

As our June and July 2019 teams find themselves coming to the end of their adventure to the Fiji Islands, it is a time to reflect and look back at what was achieved.

We love hearing all the stories from our volunteers during project and we were delighted when University of Birmingham student, Mattie Wormald, very kindly wrote a blog for us, detailing her unique time in a Fijian village this summer.

So, without further ado, over to you Mattie!

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Words could never do justice to explain the beauty of Fiji, its people, and its culture. I had the absolute privilege of volunteering for Think Pacific in the stunning highland community of Navurevure and will never look at the world the same way again.

Navurevure is made up of over 200 villagers with a primary school filled with 100 cheeky, smiling and eager to learn children who will never cease the opportunity to catch you in the village and recite nursery rhymes or play clapping games with you as you watch them, bursting with pride and adoration. During my incredible 3 weeks in the most charming and loving village, I had the incredible opportunity to help teach the kindergarten and found myself fully immersed in the glitter-covered and song-fuelled chaos of being surrounded by over twenty 5 year old’s, that only speak Fijian and only respond to fun and contagious energy.

I was also immensely lucky to spend my three weeks welcomed into the family of Salotte, Semesa, Asita and Ysiki who will always be the most loving, compassionate and utterly hilarious people I have ever had the joy to meet.

Not only was I lucky enough to have met these incredible people, but I was made to feel like I was truly part of their family as they burst with pride over my stories of university graduation and howled with laughter over games of cards after dinner.

Our three weeks was a complete immersion into Fijian village life with rainwater showers, a bath in the river, wearing traditional Fijian sulus and eating locally-sourced and freshly-caught food every day.

Whilst all of the experiences were all a life polarizing the western culture I was used to, it completely opened my mind and was such a humbling experience to truly understand what it is to be part of a Fijian village community. I was overwhelmingly delighted on the evenings when our Fijian dad came home from night spear fishing with over 15 malea fish, grinning with triumph and eager for us to enjoy the feast together.

Sharing really is caring in every sense of the phrase. Every meal will be shared with numerous children from the village, some of whom you may have never met before, and food is even offered to people on the local bus who happen to be driving past the door at the time of serving. Experiences are shared and fully enjoyed between every member of the community with stories even from England being listened to in awe and excitement as if the villagers were there experiencing the memories with you. Even a joke shared with one Fijian child will soon be shared with the entire village including old ladies who may not speak any English at all but just gesture to you to acknowledge the mutual fun and hilarity you will soon share.

Even sat on a bench alone will not be an experience shared alone for long as multiple village children will soon come bounding along singing songs, plaiting your hair with promises of fresh coconuts for you in the morning as a treat.

Not only is the Fijian community the most beautiful extended family I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of, but the village itself was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. The sky in Fiji is something only seen in professional photos found in the likes of National Geographic. The tropical climate means the storms are intense and forks of lightning coat the sky, whilst the iron-shacks that make up the village homes means the thunder is booming. The lack of light pollution subsequently generates the most detailed night sky you could imagine with stars covering the black blanket of a sky for miles, with even the most obvious constellations hidden by thousands of other stars that emerge alongside, and the Milky Way’s cloudy ray sparkling through the middle. The sunsets shimmer across the river when in the highlands with bands of pinks, reds, purples and oranges highlighting the sky like a children’s colouring book and glowing in the faces of giggling villagers as everyone splashes about in the river whilst floating on bamboo rafts.

The sky provides the perfect metaphor as it is just as vibrant, colourful and mesmerising as the Fijian people.

Think Pacific has been an experience I could never forget where I learnt so much more from the Fijian people than I could ever hope to teach them in return. Though it filled me with so much pride and compassion to see our Fijian family learning and remembering how to perform CPR and the children never tiring of singing Incy Wincy Spider, I feel like my experience in Navurevure has truly taught me how to be patient, generous, and endlessly kind, how to love, laugh and overall, how to live life to the absolute fullest and never cease to make the most incredible of memories

Does Fiji sound like your ideal gap year destination?
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