Schools’ Service Trip to Fiji

August 10, 2017 at 4:39 PM

Over two successive weeks during the July school holidays, two groups of twenty students, along with parents and staff from the Boys’ School, Girls’ School and Preschool, embarked on the third annual service trip to the Nawaka District in Fiji.  Over the last two years, close ties have been established with the village to provide both time and resources to assist both the local school community and the Nawaka Medical Centre. This year, a further special connection was also made with Vatutu Preschool. 

Prior to trip, the Saint Kentigern community once again rallied around to fill a 40 foot shipping container with donated goods organised by parents Greg Horton and Troy Hageman. 160 litres of paint, scaffolding, outdoor tables and chairs, surplus classroom desks and uniforms, an adventure playground and benches (kindly donated by the Auckland City Council), shoes, sports boots, stationery, health products and so much more were tightly packed in. With this phenomenal response from our school community, the key projects were all well supplied. These included painting the community centre, installing a new adventure playground in the school, and installing outdoor furniture in the school and community. The preschool playground was also furnished with new swings, and a computer and printer were installed in the preschool office. 

Year 8 student, Thomas Hiddleston reported on the trip:
‘After arriving in Fiji and unpacking, we were driven to Nawaka District School. The school was not what we expected; it only had two main classroom blocks and a big rugby field in the middle. We were then taken around the village by the Chief’s spokesperson, Botica. This first walk to see the conditions that many of the people live in will stand out our minds for a long time. The village houses were very small, made of tin and had dirt floors. The washing and kitchen facilities were often found outside. In the village, we were not allowed to wear hats and the women had to wear sulus, which is a wraparound skirt.

The Chief’s house is very special and only the chief and his family are allowed on the grounds. We were lucky enough to go inside the house as visitors, as part of the chief acknowledging the work that Saint Kentigern has done over the years.

Once the official welcoming was over, it was time to start unpacking the 40-foot container that awaited us that was loaded with the materials the Saint Kentigern community had donated for our service projects. 

The service projects included putting together and securing five wooden outdoor tables and chairs for the school, installing an adventure playground and to paint the community centre. There were also lots of donated clothes and shoes which were set up on tables for the Fijian school students.

The work over the next few days was hard. The first group started to put together the playground for the school, as well as starting to paint the community hall. We worked in smaller teams to paint, build and shovel sand and wood chips (5 tons of it!) to get their playground finished. Other small groups worked on spouting for the community hall and an incinerator to burn rubbish.

The trip to Fiji showed me what it means to be grateful for what we have. The Fijian people have very little in our terms but for them it seems like a lot. Our effort in their community has had a big impact in terms of childhood playtime. I also learnt that lots of people wanting to help, makes a big difference to finishing a project. None of us could have done this on our own.’

For our students, their previous experience of Fiji may have been to a resort on a family holiday. It was a special opportunity for our students and their parents to share this service experience together and, once again, this year’s trips opened the eyes of another set of our students to the hardships that those in developing countries can endure. Students and parents alike felt a huge sense of pride at what they had been able to achieve in such a short period of time with great teamwork and a strong work ethic. However, perhaps the greatest impact on our students and parents came in unexpected ways: The friendships forged between our students and the Fijian students as they worked together and played together. The experience of shopping in a Fijian market and taking turns at making lunches for our own team hard at work. The rugby games with the Fijian students at the end of the day, visiting and playing with the pre-schoolers, and witnessing the school and village thank the teams at the end of each trip. 

Of course, no visit to Fiji is complete without spending a few hours enjoying the sun on one of Fiji’s tropical Islands. Each team had earned a well-deserved rest day, which included a trip to the golden sands of a nearby island and a visit to the famous Bula Water Park. It was a day enjoyed by students, parents and staff alike, but it was experiencing true village life that will have the greatest memory.


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