It’s hard to believe how much my life has changed in the last few weeks. I went from living in bustling Edinburgh, full of shops and cars, to the remote and beautiful Silana Village. I went from being a student and server in a restaurant, to the Community Projects Leader for GVI Fiji on their Dawasamu program. One month ago I was wearing a scarf and eating haggis, and now I am wearing a sulu and drinking kava.
|Me, Lauren & Katie wearing our Fjian Best dress at the feast to celebrate the new project
My role in Silana Village is to assist with the Education Project in Navunisea Primary School, and to kick start the environmental protection and sustainability program in the village. I did my masters in community engagement with the environment and environmental ethics, so the position GVI offered me was a dream come true.
Since being here, a lot of volunteers and villagers have asked me why I chose to come, and why GVI? The answer is pretty simple, really. After travelling in isolated areas of Siberia and Mongolia on the Trans-Siberian, my eyes were opened to the reality of small villages and how much I could make a difference through education. I was inspired to use my experience and knowledge in areas where the resources I have taken for granted for so long, are not so readily available. It is GVI’s mission to empower communities to live healthy, sustainable lives through education, and I couldn’t support that ethos more.
My first week in the village has warped my sense of time completely. I feel so comfortable here with the community and school; it’s like I have been here for months already. Walking to school every day and saying good morning to everyone who passes, dancing with the villagers at night as they play music and drink kava, and having dinner with my newly appointed Fijian family. My “mother” has already invited me on boat trips, to her farm, and promised to teach me how to weave bamboo mats.
The project in Silana is coming into full swing, and watching the volunteers interact with the students is amazing. Even after school, our time with the children continues as we play with them on the beach and explore our surroundings together. One of my favourite moments so far was when a few volunteers and I walked along the shore with some village children. We each grabbed a hermit crab that naturally recoiled back in its shell. The volunteers and I put the crabs down, hoping they would eventually come back out, but the children knew better. They each took their hermit crab and started whistling into the shell, and like snake charmers, coaxed the hermit crabs out with their simple tune. It was incredible to watch, and I can honestly say I had no idea hermit crabs enjoyed whistling.
It’s become very apparent to me that while I’m here in Silana, I may be working to educate the community and children, but they will be teaching me just as much. I couldn’t be more excited to see where this next year leads, and the close relationships I’ll make with volunteers, and the community in Silana Village.
Kendra White – Community Project Leader