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Fiji Habitat for Humanity

July 30, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Each year a group of Year 13 students are selected to spend ten days in Fiji over the July holidays working as volunteers with Habitat for Humanity to construct a home for a needy Fijian family. It is service projects such as these, helping others less fortunate in a new community, that give our students rich and fulfilling life experiences and a sense of their place in society.

Year 13  students, Tessa Hunt and Rachel Goldstine report on their experience:

It took three flights and most of a day for the 14 of us to finally arrive in Labasa, the largest town located in the north-eastern part of the island of Vanua Levu. Under the guidence of Mr Robinson, Mrs Slade and Mr Hart, this was the 9th year that Saint Kentigern had sent a team to offer assistance and undertake this experience. We were about to make a huge and important impact on a Fijian family’s life - a family we had not even met yet!

From the start, it was clear this trip was no holiday, and for many it reshaped what Fiji meant to them. Under a tropical Fijian sun, the team were set to work for seven consecutive days on the building site, labouring for around 8-9 hours a day. As the week of construction went by, our building strengths improved and it was during this process, that we were able to learn quite a few life lessons. There were six Fijian carpenters helping us on the site, this was fantastic - perhaps they never realised how inspirational they were to us. Knowing how little they had in the way of homes, assets and money, they showed up to work so happy just to be there, working, enjoying what they were doing and who they were with. This made us really appreciate the lifestyle we have at home.

The house we were building consisted of a large, single room with a small washing facility - it was not much, but to the family it meant everything. The smiles on the family’s faces as they watched their house progress out of the ground would have made anyone’s day; it certainly made ours! Living in the equivalent of a garden shed with six family members would be tough for us, but by building them a new home, the size of a large double bedroom, this was going to give them a better lifestyle. It made us think, what do we actually do with all that space we have?

A combination of determination, resilience and co-operation resulted in impressive progress for the team and we were rewarded with a rest day for being ahead of schedule. We spent this day on a nearby island where we visited a local school and enjoyed picturesque beaches.

Initially, the basic living conditions that we experienced were shocking compared to what we are used to back at home in New Zealand. However, over the course of the trip we gained a new appreciation for the simple pleasures in life, causing us to reflect upon our own lives with a fresh and grateful perspective. Although they had few material posessions, the locals were vibrant with a strong sense of what is important in life. The trip enabled us to really submerse ourselves in grassroots Fijian life, well distanced from the glamorous tourist resorts, and each individual came away with real gratitude for all privileges available to us in New Zealand. Although challenging at times, ‘Habitat’ was not only memorable for being able to change a family’s future, but because over the ten days in Fiji, we have made some lifelong friends.

‘Habitat’ is a humbling and rewarding experience of which we feel so privileged to have been a part of.

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