Mursal Volunteered as a Teacher in Fiji
I spent seven months volunteering in Fiji for my Lattitude placement. I got to do a huge variety of work because I had so much time there. One term I taught full time and the next I spent teaching part time whilst organising school clubs, events and working on my biggest project, the Bure that would house future volunteers. A Bure is the Fijian word for a wood and straw hut. I think that my favourite aspect of the volunteering in Fiji was the flexibility in terms of work. The sky really is the limit, it’s all about using your initiative and finding something to do that you will enjoy and that will be helpful to the community. It always helped that the people were grateful for anything I could do to help them out.
My experience has made me a much more independent, self motivated person. From living in my parents’ house to living pretty much alone without my friends and family was a challenge, but it made me take control of the situation. I think those initial couple of weeks have helped me so much now that I have left home again for university, most people are slightly shell shocked at not living at home anymore whereas, this time, it has been a really smooth transition for me. I also found that without my mum or teachers nagging at me to get things done, it was up to me and only me to make sure I got myself out of bed in the morning and did something productive with my day. I learnt that I was my own master and what I had achieved at the end of the day was in my hands alone
I went to bed feeling exhausted but exhilarated knowing that I had just achieved something amazing. My time in Fiji has also made me a lot less judgemental about people from different backgrounds than my own.
It’s so easy when you are constantly surrounded by people who live similar lives to yours, but when you experience life through the eyes of someone whose life is completely different on every level, you end up feeling that people may lead different lives but as long as they are happy it doesn’t really matter, and in terms of the Fijians, they were pretty happy people.
Another reason my placement was so great was the role that Lattitude took in it. Many of my friends have taken gap years abroad, some volunteering, others merely travelling. What Lattitude does best is locating placements in places that are off the beaten track and more importantly giving the volunteers enough time there and independence to completely immerse themselves in the culture and become part of the community. We are also given the encouragement and freedom to take our experience into our own hands and make it our own – I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that I would be building a hut on a tiny island in Fiji but with the freedom to take my own initiative and given great support from Lattitude when I needed it, it was a great success.
I arrived full of nervous energy and enthusiasm, I left Moturiki thinking “This is my village. Those are my people”. I didn’t just live there, I wasn’t just visiting; I was a member of their society, a kaiviti not a kaivalagi. I have a Fijian family, colleagues and friends.
What made them so special to me was their open armed policy and their acceptance. It didn’t matter what the colour of my skin was, what my parents did, what school I went to or where I come from. I have found that I am now more accepting of people from different backgrounds to my own. Volunteering has also made me more aware of social projects in my own back yard and I am now a more active member of my own community. I plan to take another year out after uni – Fiji gave me the travel bug and I can’t wait to have my next adventure! Oh and my Bure is still standing by the way.