Fiji immersion trip a life-changer for St Clare’s students
This was St Clare’s sixth trip to the Pacific Island of Fiji but the first to span 10 days and include a home-stay in the Highlands.
The group of twenty senior students plus two teachers were ready to immerse themselves into Fijian life after spending five afternoons during Term 3 preparing for the trip.
Upon arrival into Nadi the students were welcomed by the Rustic Tour Leaders, Mandy from San Francisco and Semi from Nausori, Fiji. The traditional welcoming Kava Ceremony at the Eco Lodge in Momi Bay certainly set the tone for the days to come.
The following morning, they travelled back into Nadi to shop for supplies for their trip to Nausori Village in the Highlands. The village is only 22 kms out of town but a world away from the comforts of home that they are all familiar with.
Time with Fijian families
Each pair of students was carefully allocated to a family and spent three nights in the homes of their adopted Momo and Nana’s. All the meals were beautifully cooked by the ladies of the village and shared together in the main house. These gatherings became celebrations, times to share the day’s activities, discuss new found information, consider their role within the community and to appreciate each other.
The days in the Highlands were spent creating a 70 plus metre long footpath which would allow easy and safe access around the village especially during the wet season. They also painted the nurse’s station, inside and out.
They played impromptu games of soccer, stuck in the mud, duck duck goose with the village children and elders after school. The students swam at the waterfall and spent precious time getting to know their homestay families.
On the last night the group dressed up in traditional Sulu chumbas, received salusalu or flower garlands, shared a celebratory meal together, sang and danced and participated in farewell kava ceremonies. The final farewells on the Thursday proved to be extremely emotional, the villagers of Nausori will forever hold a special place in their hearts.
On their return to the Eco Lodge in Momi Bay the St Clare’s group participate in many local service projects including those in Bavu Village. Here the girls had the opportunity to construct framework, concrete and build infrastructure needed for the upgrade of sanitation facilities.
A challenging but rewarding 6 km hike through the Sigatoka sand dunes gave the girls a chance to assist with beach clean-up and dune stabilization. They collected and replanted mangrove seedlings and learnt about the importance of the mangroves to the villagers of Momi Bay while kayaking through its waters.
The students prepared home cooked protein rich meals under the guidance of Shalini and delivered these to the residents of Navaki Hart House. This affordable housing community available for low income earners, single mothers and orphaned children in the Sabeto region benefit greatly from the meals prepared as well as having the opportunity to interact with visiting students.
They also learnt how to make salusalus from women working at a local market. These women travel hours each day to sell and create these arrangements for the tourist and local hotel chains. It was a wonderful opportunity for the students to sit and learn more about their personal stories.
The group attended Mass on Sunday at the Catholic community of St Michael’s. The beautiful singing alone was something to behold.
Down time included an afternoon chilling at Natolda beach, shopping in Nadi, swimming at the lodge, relaxing in the Sabeto mud pools, watching Fijian fire dancing and singing, nightly discussions, journal writing, and our final Kava ceremony.
Each experience offered the students a new perspective and opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in Fijian culture.
The Fiji Immersion Trip was an incredible experience. The students have learnt a lot about ourselves, about Fijian life especially the importance of family and community, the benefits of disconnecting from social media and how even a small contribution can make a significant difference to the lives of others.
- Article submitted by Marie Manning, Mission and Ministry Coordinator