Fiji Cultural Immersion Experience 2013

22 students and 5 staff/parents spent 10 days in Fiji during the holidays, exploring the Fijian culture from the inside. Time was spent in four schools – three primary – urban, highland and island villages and an urban high school, with two homestays included. In an acknowledgement of the much greater financial ability of Australian schools to maintain excellent education resources, the group fundraised and both took and purchased locally resources for these schools, including AV and IT equipment, sports gear and much stationery. When the response from one principal to our request to what resources the school needed is “exercise books for the children”, one sees the resource gap.
But what we received in return will and can never have a dollar figure attached. These comments from the students speak for themselves:
The highlight of the trip for me was the rawness and realness of the children from Solevu Village. They are the cheekiest and happiest kids, and the way they interacted, welcomed us into their school and homes, and lived was just beautiful. Their 'home' isn't the house they sleep in. Their home is the entire village. The beach, their cousin’s house, their friend’s house, the school, even the comfort they have in each other and their surroundings... that is their home. They aren't swamped by the materialistic life that we are familiar with here, and therefore they live more freely and comfortably than any other children I have ever seen, and to me that is wonderful.
Maddy Casely
I really learnt to understand the different lifestyles we live compared to them and it made me realise how much we take for granted. We have so much materialist items that we think makes us happy but my Fijian families proved to me that you can be just as happy without all of that. Also I’ve learnt about our cultural differences and how strong the Fijian culture is to them which is really amazing and interesting. Even how different their schooling was to us... military training was so unexpected but pretty cool.                      
Amy Thelning
 I think we don't fully appreciate what we have here and from this experience I have learned to make the most of what we have, especially the education we receive. I believe it has been the most rewarding and enjoyable experience in my life so far.        
Isabel Parker
I learned how easy it is to make a positive difference in others’ lives, such as donating the laptops and sports gear. I also learned the value of being able to open yourself up and release your inhibitions, which the Fijians do naturally. They accommodate everyone and genuinely help you feel you belong. I learned how important it is to seize the moment, because Maddy Caselythese kids have very few opportunities to forge a better life for themselves, particularly the kids on the island.                                                                                           
Dan Mahon
Many thanks to my fellow travellers – it really was like travelling with one big family, but without the arguments, so supportive were the students and staff of each other, particularly with the inevitable tummy troubles. My particular thanks to parents Monique Stewart and Greg Mahon, Campus Minister Esther de Schone and College Secretary Evie Brown for your excellent company and support of the students, especially to Evie for all the planning and organisation.
This is a biennial trip – we will see how numbers go before committing to 2015.                                     
Graeme Hight