Habitat for Humanity 2015

July 30, 2015 at 8:33 AM

With thanks to student reporter, Caitlin Dodd

On a bleak June morning in the first week of the holidays, fourteen Year 13 students, Ms Cussen, Mr Hart and Mr Stead met at Auckland Airport, ready to undertake the annual Habitat for Humanity trip to Fiji. All of us were anxious but excited at the challenge that lay ahead of us. We arrived at Nadi International Airport to a brilliant hot sunny day; there we were greeted by our gregarious Habitat for Humanity co-ordinator, Sam, who took care of us for the duration of our stay.

After a bumpy fifteen minute drive on mainly unsealed road, we arrived in Saunaka Village which was our home for the next seven days. There, we met our host family, who greeted us with open arms and generously shared their home with us for the next week. It was explained to us that the village was quite conservative and that outside of the house, it was essential that the girls wore their long sulu and sleeved tops at all times.

Arriving in Saunaka Village, none of us really knew what to expect, however, I think we were all pleasantly surprised to find that our accommodation had electricity and running water! We were all given a thin mattress and pillow to sleep on. The eight boys, Mr Hart and Mr Stead slept in the living room of the house whilst the six girls and Ms Cussen were given one of the bedrooms to sleep in.

On our first night, the chief of the village welcomed us with a kava ceremony and not wanting to be impolite, we all graciously accepted a bowl. I don’t think many of us will be in a hurry to do so again as, if I’m honest, kava tastes like bitter, muddy water! After officially being welcomed into the village, we were served a dinner of chicken curry with roti and dhal soup, it was delicious. The women of the village cooked all our meals for us and their food became something that we looked forward to.

Every morning, we were woken at seven and after a quick breakfast we had a short drive to Legalega settlement to our building site. Arriving in Legalega for the first time was an extremely shocking and humbling experience as the families we were building for had been so severely devastated by the cyclone in 2013. They were living in literally nothing more than corrugated iron shacks. Our time there was spent building new, more robust shelters for two families which would provide them with protection and extra living space. A highlight of the trip was handing the houses over to the families. Seeing their thankfulness to us was an utterly overwhelming and emotional experience.

Our time in Fiji really highlighted to us how material possessions do not necessarily equate to happiness. The families in the villages we spent time in had relatively little in comparison with us, however, they were some of the happiest people I have ever met. When surrounded by such eternal joy, it is very hard not to feel happier yourself.  Even after a few days of living in Fiji, we all had forgotten our own hectic lives in New Zealand. We immersed ourselves in our new routine of building during the day, going to the beach and playing with the kids in any spare moment we had.

We left Fiji, immensely proud of our contribution, knowing that the work we had undertaken would be of real benefit to the families of a quiet Fijian village. Many of us in New Zealand have visited Fiji as a holiday destination and as fabulous as resort life can be, nothing compares to the true hospitality when you are welcomed into day to day life in a true Fijian village.

Year 13 student, Ethan King has documented the student’s week working with Habitat for Humanity. Click below to watch his video:

Watch his video here

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