Putney Student Travel: Community Service Fiji

Putney, VT

Overview

Join us in the South Pacific on this community service program for high school students. Work with community members on a construction project and volunteer at the local kindergarten. Experience this unique culture first-hand as you get to know our Fijian hosts and explore the mountains, coast, and coral reefs.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Volunteer with community members to complete a construction project at the local school.
  • Try your hand at spearfishing or free dive in search of giant clams.
  • Snorkel or scuba some of Fiji’s most phenomenal coral reefs, considered some of the best in the world.
  • Start an after-school arts and crafts club for local youth.
  • Learn some basic Fijian phrases from our village hosts.
  • Participate in a traditional Fijian kava ceremony with community leaders in a typical welcoming ceremony with the village chief.

OVERVIEW

Village Life and Service

Fijians are considered to be among the most friendly and hospitable people on earth. From our home base on one of Fiji’s smaller islands, we become a part of the community as we volunteer alongside members of our host village to complete a variety of community service projects. Projects are identified by the village council and selected by the Chief, and community members work alongside our group throughout the program. Volunteer projects may include constructing a playground or classroom at the local elementary school, painting a mural in a classroom, or running an after-school camp for village youth. Wrap up the workday and join a game of pick-up volleyball, take a hike, or go for a swim in the ocean. Learn some basic Fijian phrases or simply relax with new friends during akava ceremony. Students can expect to complete between 50 – 70 hours of community service work on this program.

Independent Projects

Choose an independent project and explore an aspect of Fijian culture of particular interest to you – go spearfishing with local fishermen, spend a day learning traditional weaving techniques, learn themeke, a traditional Fijian dance, or discover how to make local specialty dishes such as rou-rou.  

Excursions

During excursions, we head out to explore the surrounding areas. The Fijian Archipelago is home to one of the most extensive ranges of coral reef in the world. Head out to snorkel or scuba dive among the abundant marine life. Other activities may include heading inland to hike mountain trails to remote waterfalls, visiting a local market, attending a Fijian dance performance, or learning to surf.

Final Adventure

We wrap up our South Pacific community service adventure at a rustic resort on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. Our last few days as a group are spent relaxing on the white-sand beach, exploring the multicultural city of Nadi, and visiting artisan markets, hot springs and mud baths. Contrast the bustling and westernized way of life in Nadi with the slow-paced traditional life experienced in our host village. Use this time to reflect as a group on our time spent as a part of this incredible culture.

Accommodations

We stay in various types of accommodations throughout this itinerary that range from rustic beachside bungalows on Taveuni to dormitory-style accommodations at a beach resort in Nadi. While in our host village, we stay in a house or a community building at the center of town. Accommodations are basic: we use sleeping bags and sleeping pads on the floor and have separate sleeping spaces for girls and boys. There are simple showers and running water. There is limited electricity. We have access to basic kitchen facilities and local women will prepare meals for the group.

Physical Challenge Level

Our programs are active. Days are filled with movement — snorkeling or fishing with new friends, working on a community service project, swimming, or going on a hike. Pick-up games of volleyball or rugby, or a swimming group can be organized by leaders and students.   You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

A Typical Day

7:30 a.m. — Breakfast
8 a.m.–12 p.m. — Community Service Work
12 p.m.–2 p.m. — Lunch and rest
2 p.m.–4 p.m. — Community Service Work
4 p.m.–6 p.m. — Work on independent projects, play volleyball, swim, relax
6 p.m. — Dinner
8 p.m. — Group Meeting and/or group activity with the community

During the week, we wake up between 6:30-7am, eat breakfast together as a group, and then head to the worksite from 8am-12pm. Work may include mixing cement, painting, or teaching local kids. We’ll break for a long lunch and rest time, then return to work for a few hours in the afternoon. After work, relax, play volleyball with local friends, help cook dinner, or pursue independent research. After a group dinner together, participate in a meeting to discuss the day, plan for upcoming excursions, or simply play a game together. Weekends and day excursions are a time to explore – take a surfing lesson, hike to remote waterfalls, or ride down a natural waterslide.

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