Rachel Drayton - 2015 Program Participant

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I always knew I wanted to travel but never had any clear ideas of which countries I really wanted to visit first. From what I found out about Fiji, it seemed like the ultimate place to help others, learn about new cultures, chill out, and be happy!

Students at Navunisea District School in Fiji

Working with class 8 at Navunisea District School

Why did you choose GVI?

I have worked temporarily with primary school children before, mostly through dance, and have always enjoyed it. As the curriculum in Fiji is taught and tested in English, I thought I could really bring some value to the children's education. I had heard about GVI through a friend who highly recommended the education programme here in Silana, Fiji.

What is your favorite part about Fiji?

Fiji is such a beautiful country filled with some of the most kind-hearted and welcoming people you will ever meet. Living amongst and socialising with the villagers who all become your extended family is such a unique part of being in this location. Also, being able to work with the children at school and have such amazing views of the sea, mountains, other islands, and overall lush greenery is priceless. We live as environmentally friendly and self-sustainable as we possibly can here, being around nature 24/7 and caring for it is one of my favourite things about living here.

Volunteer with host brother in Fiji

Me and my little brother, Peni

What has made your program experience unique?

The education programme here in Fiji is so unique, as we live in Silana village and are welcomed in as family. We are able to live communally with the children we teach everyday at school, which is such a privilege for us. It is also amazingly beneficial for the students as they are surrounded by fluent English speakers, allowing them to really get to grips with the language both inside and outside of the classroom.

How has the local staff supported you throughout your program? 

The staff here in Fiji have become very good friends. They are so supportive, and have so much experience and so many great ideas. If you ever have an issue whilst here in Fiji, any staff member is more than happy to help and fix the problem effectively and efficiently. Now as a scholar here, working with the staff is a pleasure, we gel as a team and all have something unique to bring to the table.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I feel that everything happens for a reason and have learnt to try not to regret anything, therefore, I feel if I could go back, I wouldn't change anything.

This experience has really allowed me to grow as a person and I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

Teachers social at Navunisea District School, Fiji

Teachers' social at Navunisea Disctrict School

Describe a day in your life in Fiji.

We all eat breakfast together and take turns to cook this in groups. We usually head to school around 8 a.m., where on Mondays and Fridays we sit in on assembly, which is a great chance to check in with the school. The average morning on project will consist of running small literacy workshop sessions with children from each class, taking out remedial students for extra one-to-one literacy support, and planning ahead for other lessons during the week. Once a week at recess we will hold a teachers' social at the school to chill out, chat, eat cake, drink tea, and get to know the Fijian teachers we are working alongside.

After lunch, we usually run PEMAC (physical education, music, arts and crafts) lessons for every class, before finishing the day at school at 3 p.m. Again, we take it in turns to carry out simple chores to maintain the upkeep of base. Depending on your group, these are usually done straight after project to get them out of the way so the rest of the afternoon is downtime. We eat dinner at 7 p.m. and usually head to Kava, play cards, watch a film, or just sit and chat afterwards.

What is your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program?

My favourite activity outside of our day-to-day schedule is definitely just sitting or lying in the sun with friends from the village and from GVI. Relaxing, getting to know each other, and living on ”Fiji Time” is the ultimate thing to do in your downtime!

What type of accommodation do you have? What do you like best about it?

All volunteers and staff members here live in the village, in allocated GVI bures (sustainable and traditional Fijian houses made of bamboo). We have a communal kitchen, dining area, bathrooms, and common room. The best thing about the accommodation here is that we live within the village, therefore all volunteers and staff members are free to venture through the village, where you will definitely be invited into someone's house for tea, cake, and stories about everything under the sun! We also spend a lot of time drinking Kava in the Community Hall, which is also a great time to get to know the village members.

Beach in Silana, Fiji

Beach in Silana

How has your time in Fiji impacted your life?

During my six months of volunteering here, I was offered a scholarship contract, which I was thrilled to accept. I am so happy that I have been able to stay in the village for a longer period of time. When I get home, I will definitely consider the alternative career paths I can take instead of the office job I was working before coming out to Fiji.

Being here makes you realise how valuable and fulfilling experiences and relationships with others are, over material possessions; this is something I will be reminding myself when I get home. I have met so many amazing and interesting people over my time here, some of whom I'm sure will be friends for life.