Danika Young - Teacher, Fiji
“Madam, what’s that?” a young student asked me, her brown eyes were wide with curiosity. “Oh, it’s paint,” I replied, surprised that something I grew up with in Australia was such a strange concept to her. I knew at that moment that this experience was going to impact me; I just never knew how significant it would be.
Living in a rural village in Fiji and volunteering at the local school for three months was by far one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Some days we travelled to school by bus; my placement partner Kaitlin and I would quickly plonk ourselves down before it took off. The students were always quiet on the short journey to school in the morning, but when we started dancing to the reggae-remixed version of a song they would always break out into giggles.
That’s the thing about Fijian people; they are happy 99% of the time. Every day I was in Fiji I couldn’t help but smile with them.
When most people think of Fiji they think of crystal blue oceans, palm trees and coconuts. I know my first thoughts were also along those lines. However, now when I think of Fiji I think of the children I met, their beautiful smiles and their crazy laughter. I think of the teachers who love what they do, and how caring and devoted they are to their students, always encouraging them to do better. I think of my new friends, and the incredible hospitality of my second family. I think of swimming in the river with the village kids, having a bucket of water to bathe in and singing in Fijian with the choir on Sunday’s at church. I think of eating fish with its head still attached, drinking tea, all the time, and eating cassava covered in tomato sauce.
When I think of Fiji, I think of my island home.