Making a difference

A dedicated volunteer, 16 year old Madison from St Patrick's College Launceston wanted to step outside of her comfort zone and take her outreach activities to the next level. Signing up for community project in Fiji provided Madison with the opportunity she was looking for.

After many years of volunteering with Vinnies, Edmund Rice, and City Mission, I was ready and keen to step it up and take on something big! After researching and hearing inspiring stories I found the perfect opportunity through Projects Abroad that would cater for all my desires to help and learn at the same time in one big, eye-opening experience. I was granted the opportunity to meet several motivated students with similar desires and passions to help, learn, grow and become a stronger, more educated and experienced volunteer. I chose this project to gain experience, to build self- esteem, to develop skills or even learn new ones, and to feel as though I am truly making a contribution to society. 

I was one of the only volunteers who hadn't travelled overseas before so travelling seemed a bit daunting at first, however the team and coordinator’s made it such a smooth transition into a new and very different environment. I definitely was struck with a culture shock with Fiji being so different to back at home however I was quite surprised by how fast I adapted to the environment and got along with my host family. We went without showers, clean drinking water, slept on the floor in an iron broad shed, didn’t have a luxurious toilet and went without any electricity most of the time. It was difficult, no doubt about that, however it really has just emphasised how privileged and lucky we are and I truly do feel blessed.

Our typical day consisted of working in the kindergarten in the morning, running activities and educational games, small lessons, singing, dancing and overall just having lots of fun being with the children ensuring a fun-filled summer school. After lunch we would begin our community work: clean ups around the village, cleaning the school, picking up litter, renovating the classroom, ripping up carpet and getting rid of ant infested boxes. It's easy to say we worked hard and fast ensuring that our individual goals were met and that we got the most out of this short yet busy experience. The days were long and some were even draining. One day we spent collecting logs in town for the village having to walk over five kilometres each way.

Don't underestimate the power of your vision, for every little thing you do influences one or several people

The children in the kindergarten were absolutely beautiful, such little angels. They were filled with only happiness and constantly laughing. That's something I'm already missing, their appreciation for what they have, being very little. I never got sick of the many 'bulas' we received or the warm hugs and smiles. The environment and the positive atmosphere is something I really miss.

The group of volunteers, were some of the most, kindhearted people I have ever met! Each and everyone had their different talents and special aspects that made us so different. We all got along like a tight knit family and I am certainly missing each of them. Our group of volunteers worked so effectively with each other and knew that we were there for Nawaka Village more than to socialise. It was an amazing thing to be surrounded by people from all around the wolrd, igniting with similar passions and desires to do something we love so much, that being to give back.

I am missing the experience so much, my host family, the children, the yummy food and just the happy, bubbly environment. The opportunity has motivated me to take on a similar, longer project in the future. My travel has inspired friends and family also to do something similar. I can't find a fault in the experience. I never want to lose the precious memories I made and I can guarantee I will never stop talking about the journey I took on. For those who are applying, I just want to say, you are in the right spot, and you're in safe hands! It is honestly one of the best decisions I have made in my life and I wouldn't take back anything that occurred on my travel. I would just have to say be prepared, be motivated and dedicated to your work, know what your in for, do your research and encourage friends to join the journey with you! Don't underestimate the power of your vision, for every little thing you do influences one or several people and the journey you partake on may seem little to some, yet I guarantee your work is influencing, changing, empowering, motivating and changing someone or something!