A trip to remember

04 November 2022 | Ellen Baker, Bursary recipient 2022
Ellen Baker, a JOA bursary recipient, recently travelled to Fiji with ThinkPacific to take part in the Youth Empowerment project for four weeks.

My time volunteering in Fiji has now come to an end, and so it seems fitting to write a blog about
my experience there.

Needless to say, it has been a month that I will never forget. As partially expected, the cultural
exchange aspect of the trip was, for me, the most enriching aspect. Undergoing the privilege of living with a Fijian family was exciting, immersive and daunting. We were placed into a village in the rural highlands in the West of Fiji, ‘The Burning West’ as it’s dubbed by the locals, due to the high temperatures. We enjoyed delicious local food, such as cassava pies, taro leaf meatballs and lots of dahl, and were looked after by our families with such care.

In the mornings we facilitated workshops surrounding topics such as leadership, mental health, public health and enterprise. These workshops ran for a couple of hours, and aimed to start conversations within the village community. For instance, mental health is a topic which many of the youths had never been introduced to. Our role was merely to introduce conversation, key words and ideas. In many aspects, I feel as though we made a positive change within the village community. Engagement within the workshops was often paramount, and we felt proud when the youths asked questions and began facilitating conversions between themselves too.

The afternoons consisted of the culture course: dedicated workshops where the Fijians taught us
skills, traditions and customs within their culture. We learnt how to weave mats, make Bilo
(traditional cup made from coconut shells), and cook various dishes such as the Lovo and squeeze coconut milk. I found these workshops deeply fascinating and important for both us and the locals.

As some of the villagers explained, the culture course was allowing both us, and the younger
generations in the village to learn skills and traditions.

Overall, my month in Fiji was an intensive glimpse into the Fijian way of life. I met some incredible people, leant invaluable skills, and made lasting memories.