Helena is an Ambassador for a Girl & her world and recently visited the community we work in with a group from her school, our great supporters the German International School Sydney.
Having the opportunity to go to another country to interact with people my age and learn about different cultures from the people themselves is quite amazing. Fiji is known as a resort island. Beautiful beaches, gorgeous water and delicious fruit. I had never been to the country before and only knew what I had been told from my family who had visited it a year prior. I knew that wasn’t the side of Fiji my friends and I were going to get to know. No prestigious hotel for us! And I am so happy that we got the experience that we did. The thing about resort vacations is that you may get a great experience, but nothing that feels real, a vacation that you may forget about. We got to hang out with Fijian kids our age, we got to learn about the culture and we were taught how to cook traditional foods.
The people in Fiji are special. I have truly never met people so friendly and welcoming anywhere else. They are what made this experience worthwhile.
We had planned to visit a few rural school where a Girl & her world works and do some cyber safety and art workshops for the students there. After we arrived we were ushered into a prepared room and sat down, so that they could properly greet us. We were part of three welcoming ceremonies during our stay, and I’ve never felt as welcome as I did then. We were given flowers and necklaces, even sulus! The Fijians are givers, no matter if they already own hardly anything, what’s theirs is yours. The kids that we met were all very nice, a bit shy at first but as soon as they had warmed up to us they were friendly and open. We had expected kids that didn’t have smartphones or Facebook, we were surprised when it turned out that some of them had better phones than us! They knew all the music that we knew and we took more selfies than I can count. We realised that the kids there are no different from the kids in Australia.
They were very grateful that we came to the schools to spend time with them, and we were grateful that they opened their hearts and their homes to us in the way they did.
During the second part of our journey we did a homestay with international students. It was fun to get to know people that have had similar experiences to ours. During that time we also renovated a year one public school classroom, it was a lot of work. We first removed all the furniture from the room and then divided into two groups. One group would be outside and sanding the previous coats of paint off the furniture so we could repaint them properly, the other group would be inside painting the classroom walls. The result was a beautiful classroom with colourful furniture, a mural and the alphabet written above the blackboard in gorgeous colours.
During the homestay it became obvious to us how divided the country’s social groups are. Evidently most people that we stayed with were international students, and had moved to the country because of their parents jobs. Living with them was very different from our prior experience. I stayed with a girl who’s father was managing a hotel on an Island called which is the “resort island” of Nadi. There everything is the way Fiji is portrayed on those tourism webpages. It’s clean, there are palm trees everywhere, the pools have ocean view, the staff is friendly….It emphasized how little people know about what life in holiday destinations can really be like, and how little a lot of people care to know.
Often we go on trips like this to make a difference or to change lives. What we don’t anticipate is that the lives being changed are usually ours.
Jane for team ‘a Girl & her world’