Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Things have officially come to a close for HELP International this summer in Fiji. Everything ended extremely well. Many new relationships with partners were forged. Many individuals and villagers were reached and most important, all of the volunteers are safe.
As the Country Directors, we are extremely proud of all the work that was accomplished in Fiji this summer. Each volunteer really contributed to the team and we are so grateful for your decision to spend your time with us in Fiji.
We feel like we learned a lot this summer, especially from the people of Fiji. They are extremely warm and welcoming and we will miss them dearly. They are anxious for the return of HELP International next year, and we are excited for the growth and development that will surely follow in years to come.
Thank you to all of our donors and supporters. We really appreciate your contributions and for making these experiences possible for our team. We wish you all the best.
Signing off from the LAX airport,
HELP International 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
we also have been teaching some fitness classes to the villages and schools. It is a blast to work out with these people and it is funny at times. its not in their culture to do much exercise so it is good to see them get out of their comfort bubble and learn some ways to be more healthy. I also teach taekwondo and have been having fun teaching some of the kids some kicks and things. they love that kind of stuff out here. Its a big hit.
- Robert Mann
Monday, August 9, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
I am one of the leads over the fitness program here in Fiji. We go to different villages and schools and teach the importance of exercise and how it can help with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The past Tuesday we went to a village called Matanagada (which is extremely hard to pronounce in Fijian) to teach fitness to a few women. Before we went, we had to call and come at a different time because of a conflict of schedule, so not too many women showed up. But we taught those who did come and they loved every minute of every drop of sweat rolling down their faces! Usually the people who attend our fitness classes are older women and their small children trying to stretch an exercise with us. However, we also go to a senior center in Ba and teach simple exercises to the elderly population that they can do if the get stiff while sitting. I learned them from an airplane brochure. Though fitness sometimes brings its challenges such as lack of attendance or non-participation, the people here overall enjoy the knowledge we can give them about caring for their bodies.
I am the lead over Square Foot Gardening and its great! Even with the Fiji heat beating down on my back, I don’t mind leaning over some soil and planting seeds if the people are there helping and learning.
I happen to be in love with a village near Lautoka called Vanuakula. This village is idyllic, they love every one of our projects and they embrace each of them. We built one single garden in their village and throughout the last few months, they have built a new one each week. I think they have about eight by now.
The beauty of that is that that is what HELP International is all about! It’s not about us coming in and giving the people food and solving their problems for the short run. No, we are about sustainability! So I find it so motivating to see a village that learned from us and took it and ran with it! Gardens are important because they save the people here the money that it costs to get transportation to the market and also from buying their vegetables there. It may not seem like a lot but when you don’t have much, that little bit adds up. Also, they love doing it! There is a certain sense of accomplishment that comes with building your own garden, caring for it and seeing the produce that comes from your hard work.
Basically, being here is really hot, kinda hard and mostly just perfect.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
We just recently taught a dental hygiene lesson to the kids in the Vatutavui village. We just taught your basic teeth brushing and why it’s important to have healthy teeth. At the end of the lesson we gave out tooth brushes that one of our volunteers brought over from her sponsors. The children were so excited to receive a toothbrush. It made me so happy to see that giving them a simple toothbrush could make a difference in their day and life. It was a wonderful experience I will never forget.
I have also worked on adobe stoves, fitness, and nutrition. Stoves are really exciting to do because they whole village or community will generally get involved while you are making it. The experiences are never the same and they are always great. They love to help you out and make things better while we are teaching them at the same time. The last stove I did in Lautoka took us and hour and a half because we had so many people helping us build it. It was fantastic to see the community come together and build something that will improve their health and save them money. They were so grateful for the stove we built. Nutrition usually goes with the health team to the hospital to teach lessons on diabetes and hypertension. Those are two of the biggest problems here in Fiji. We are working hard to teach them about diet and why it is so important to eat right. Fitness is a lot of fun because you really get the women of the village involved. The women in Narkorakoula absolutely love fitness classes. They get so excited when we come to teach them. We finally have them teaching the classes now which is great because it will continue when we leave Fiji.
Fiji is a great place and I wish everyone could experience what the rest of the volunteers are doing here. I feel like we are really making a difference in the lives of the Fijian people, and that is all that matters.
We also do nutrition and exercise classes at the Ba Senior Center which is so fun because all the old ladies are so cute and they always have yummy food for us after. We have been doing nutrition classes with the health team in the mornings at the hospital. We usually just go talk to all the different waiting rooms and talk to them while they are waiting to be called back. Being here has been so amazing, I have learned so much and I am so much more grateful for all the amazing things I have. We met a boy at one of the projects and his parents put him in a chicken coup when he was little and that’s where he grew up. He is 15 now (I think..) and his back is really arched probably from never really being taught to stand or walk, his eyes are very cross-eyed, he cant speak and has a really hard time listening and understanding. It makes me so grateful for such an amazing family and for a home, food to eat, education, a bed, and just everything we are so blessed to have. This has been such an awesome experience and I hope we are blessing peoples lives as much as they have ours.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Crossing the river as we go to the village of Nasivi.
Some of the people who live in Nasivi. We have taught health, fitness, and business here.
Every Sunday evening the entire team gets together for a meeting in which we go through the weekly calendar. Team leaders briefly discuss their projects for the week and we each select the projects that we will work on each day. In every single one of these meetings I am amazed at how much is going on during the week. I have to pick and choose the projects I will be working on because there are so many that I would like to be doing. I love to see our large, full wall calendar because it is a good visual representation of all that we are doing. We are busy here in Fiji-teaching, working, walking, eating, learning, and having fun!
I have spent a lot of time working with the fitness classes, and have come to really love them. High blood pressure and diabetes are major health problems among the people of
Many of the women we work with are excited to be part of the program. They enjoy what we are doing and look forward to it. Although they are a little shy, many of them have begun to come out of their shells and really actively participate. Within the last couple of weeks we have made some great improvements. We have started to have a few women keep track of their weekly exercise, which is one of the things we have asked them to do. They have been so excited to turn in their forms, showing their accomplishments. We have also had a couple of groups begin to get together on their own to either do the exercises we have shown them or to go walking. We still have a long way to go in getting a regular exercise routine down, but we are seeing improvements.
Exciting things are happening here in
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
As far as projects go, we have many up and running. In the last post you read about many of them. I have been so proud of our team as we have all worked our hardest to not just serve, but create sustainable projects. When first arriving in Fiji many of us wanted to serve the people so much that we would build a garden or stove for them while they stood by as idle observers. Yet, after these experiences we saw the lack of motivation to take care of their garden, stove, etc. As a team we discussed this problem and brainstormed ways to we can improve our presentation and teaching. We determined that we need to REALLY educate and teach the people instead of doing everything for them. I believe this to have been a big lesson for many. It is easier to do everything yourself. So, we have been setting goals about how to push oursleves aside and really focus on the development of the individuals with which we work. Now, instead of making an adobe stove or garden for the villages, we are allowing the people in the villages do the building and constructing with our guidance and supervision. Many of the villagers have participated and have found it to be an enjoyable new experience.As we have implemented this new way of serving we have seen great success. The people understand more and find a new sense of ownership with the project. With this sense of ownership and excitment about what THEY made, they are more dedicated to taking care of it and sharing their knowledge with others. We are starting to really encourage those that have learned a particulkar skill to teach a family member or friend. As they have done so we have seen the people become empowered. This is our purpose...to empower the people of Fiji through sustianable development.
From the beginning of the experience to now, my vision of how to empower others has changed. I now realize to a new extent that people are not empowered until they believe in their individual ability to change and improve. As we assist them to change themselves, they then will want to improve and change the world around them. I am so grateful to have learned this and hope to take this lesson and empower others in Fiji, the U.S., and the world.
From the land of smiles,
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
We wish you were in Fiji with us to enjoy the beautiful weather, people, and culture. Life on this island is paradise. Well, it’s a little hotter than we expected, but we are getting on just fine despite the heat. And lucky you, if you faithfully follow this blog. You should be getting two updates this week. True, this post is a week late, but two updates… you can’t beat that.
The team is continuing to perform extremely well together. Everyone is working very hard and figuring out creative solutions to the daily challenges of development work and the challenges to the projects we are trying to implement here in Fiji. So far, our only real injuries are a few sunburns, some upset stomachs from some spicy curry dishes, and sadness that the first wave of volunteers leaves so soon. Then there is Dana. She got a new cut this week. Don’t worry though. We have more than enough nursing students on the team, eager to bust out their first aid kits and heal all wounds. Dana is a trooper though. She handles these types of things like a champ and gets right back to work. That’s the way we feel about everyone on our team. Everyone has risen to the challenge and excelled in the projects they have been working on for these last few weeks. This post will attempt to update you on the projects and other major developments of the HELP Fiji team from the week of May 30th – June 5th.
Square Foot Gardens. This project is really taking off. Currently, the garden team is focusing on teaching the benefits and reasons why to construct personal gardens. We have discovered that eggplant, tomatoes, long beans, carrots, lettuce, capsicum, radishes, and cucumbers grow exceptionally well during this time of year in Fiji. Growing these vegetables at home not only helps locals save money on expensive vegetables purchased from the markets, but they are also able to enhance the nutritional values of the meals they eat. The gardens that the team planted previously are beginning to sprout and it’s time to focus on the next stage of the garden project. Keeping the soil nutrient rich by adding homemade compost. After that comes seed extraction. So much more to come on Gardens as the summer continues.
Adobe Stoves. This project is also a success. We have had several local villagers approach us about adobe stoves. The stoves are great because of the chimney system, which works to divert the smoke away from the cooking area, rather than linger in the air causing irritation to the eyes and lungs for villagers who normally cook over open fires. This project requires that interested recipients of adobe stoves gather all the necessary materials before we construct a stove. All materials can be found locally and for little or no expense, leading to greater sustainability. Materials required for the stoves include, red soils, sand, water (for mixing the soil and sand together to make clay) banana stock (for the burner holes and tunnel systems) and cement cinder blocks for the frame. In exchange for this, HELP International provides the chimney and the instruction for proper construction. Everyone that has approached us has been very proactive in gathering the necessary materials and getting their neighbors involved in the learning and construction process. We are thrilled to see such a high level of interest in adobe stoves here in Fiji. All the stoves that we have been made are currently in the drying process for the next couple of months and a few are ready to have the banana stock removed from within. We did learn on valuable lesson for future construction of adobe stoves, after attempting to remove the banana stock from the first stove we built. Make sure to place the thick end of the banana stock near the top. It’s much easier to remove that way…
PRISM. This project is really exciting. A doctor, trained in the United States, spends 9 months of the year in Fiji, working on a community based health program he created called PRISM. Dr. Animesh Sinha works to prevent and treat NCDs (non-communicable diseases) primarily diabetes and high blood pressure by venturing into rural communities and settlements to screen locals for these two diseases. The goal is to recognize problems before they start and treat moderate to severe cases if they are detected at the initial screening visits. Dr. Animesh uses our volunteers to help him record and check height, weight, blood glucose levels, and blood pressure. It is a great way for volunteers interested in medical work to get hands-on field experience, while not getting entangled in medical procedures they should not be performing. PRISM has seen incredible results from there community based health efforts and considering that 80% of Fijians die from NCDs, the need is great. After all, a health community leads to a developed community.
Nutrition and Fitness. In reality, each of these is separate project, but they work so well with each other. We have really seen an increased interest in fitness and nutrition classes, especially from the women’s groups we work with. And both projects are doing a phenomenal job at helping the Fijian people to eat better and become more active. These projects also work very closely with our square foot gardens project and PRISM. Seeing how intertwined all of our projects are really increases the sustainability of each project, because without one, it is difficult to keep the others going. Some exciting recent developments in both the fitness and nutrition projects are the number of women’s groups they are meeting with on a weekly basis, holding weekly exercise and nutrition classes. They Fijian women love to do the dances, aerobics, and learn how to more healthily prepare meals for their families. We are proud of the number of people they are reaching and helping to make Fiji a healthier country. In addition to this, we will be starting fitness classes with the hospital staff every Monday evening. It’s kind of like a competition among the staff members. There will be an initial weigh in and a prize will be awarded for the staff member who loses the most weight at the end of the summer after attending weekly fitness classes. It should be fun, and we’ll keep you posted on that as it progresses. Finally, the hospital is pushing it’s Bula 5/30 program. While “Bula” is the official greeting in Fiji, it literally means health. The 5 stands for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day and the 30 stands for 30 minutes of active exercise every day. We are working closely with hospital to push Bula 5/30 in the communities we visit them and in the women’s groups we are already working on. It seems to us, that there is a nationwide push for greater health among Fiji and we feel like our fitness and nutrition can be a valuable asset to this goal.
Music. Our project leads over music are doing a great job at helping youth and adults to find recreational therapy through music. This project really helps locals understand the importance of music in daily life and also provides teens with and outlet to avoid peer pressure of getting involved in drugs, alcohol, or sexual activity. Music has partnered with FRIEND in Lautoka and every week, the music team goes out with FRIEND employees to teach basic music classes and how to deal with life’s challenges through musical theater productions. It’s a fun project and as it continues to develop, we will provide as many details as we can. Stay tuned.
Health. Health is making a big difference in the Nasomo village. Teaming with the Ministry of Health at the Tavua Hospital, the team goes out to teach Typhoid to the different parts of Nasomo. There has been a huge acceptance and wanting to change for the better, by the Fijians, to help stop and prevent Typhoid from spreading in the Nasomo area. Health is also going with Nutrition and Exercise to help teach and inform the different women’s groups throughout Tavua. The women are very interested and are willing to change because they know that not only is it better for them and their families, but better for their villages as well. The health team also goes and helps the nursing staff at the hospital by taking the vitals of the patients waiting. This helps the patients see the Dr. faster and helps the nurses move along quickly.
We have a couple of projects that are just getting off the ground as well. One of which is business classes. In conjunction with this, we are working on chicken coop construction to provide locals with opportunities to create their own business of selling small chickens or eggs. In addition to these, we have some volunteers researching teaching English as a second language, and constructing more useful libraries at the various schools that are scattered all over Fiji. All of the projects are worthwhile and the needs are great. Fiji is a beautiful country, but much can be done to help locals create better economic opportunities for themselves, leading to great self-reliance. It is through your support that we are able to have these successful projects at this time in Fiji. For that, we want to thank you for. And thank you for your continued interest in the work we are doing here.
So that is a brief look into some of the what and why of the projects we’ve currently got rolling in Fiji.
In other news, we are getting ready for another wave of volunteers to arrive on June 10th. Once they arrive, we look forward to more projects coming about and the progression of the projects that we currently have going. So, stay tuned and we’ll continue to keep you posted. We will be sad to see 1st wave leave, but the work that everyone put in over these past weeks has made all the difference in establishing worthwhile and sustainable projects for the rest of the summer. The foundation the created is strong, and we look forward to the progress the current and future volunteers will surely contribute.
And let’s give a little shout out to our Country Directors. They’re pretty cool and we’re pretty sure Fiji is the coolest and best country to be a HELP volunteer in during the summer of 2010.
Until next time,
- Team Fiji
Friday, May 28, 2010
Last week we had a fun cultural experience. After building a garden in Korovuo one of the ladies invited us to a village party. There was a guy from the village who had gone to France to play rugby and he had come home for a few weeks so they were celebrating. A Fijian celebration involves sitting in the town meeting spot and everyone drinking kava and smoking with music playing in the background. This lasts for two to three days. In order to come to the village we had to offer sevu sevu which is a gift, usually kava, to the chief. One of the women provided this for us and we were invited to sit in their circles. The people were very welcoming and friendly. They offered us kava and most of us tried it but didn’t like it. We then danced a little with the people and headed home. The people here are so open and accepting. It was neat to feel a part of their village.
We had an amazing workshop on Tuesday with Gold Foundation. All the volunteers set up a station to talk about their projects and get contacts of those who were interested. We had all the people rotate through the stations about every 7-10 minutes so everyone had the chance to learn about all the projects being done. The main projects we are working on are gardens, business classes, adobe stoves, music, health, nutrition, exercise and village construction. We have made so many new contacts this way and are reaching out to new women’s groups, schools and even churches.
This week we started up piano lessons for the first time and are partnering with FRIEND to go out to villages to teach music. The projects leads are reaching out to a new town this week called Rakiraki and we should have a stove there by the end of the week.
Wednesday Sherry and Brita taught an exercise class in Yoladro. There were five other girls who came along to support and help us with the class. This little village is about 10 minutes away by taxi. Yoladro is a village that is set up by the government so the women who live there are there temporarily. We had four women come at the start and we taught them a little lesson about why exercise is important and ways to exercise. We then started a little exercise routine. We had two more women and one man show up throughout the routine and they participated to varying degrees. The original four women seemed very interested and participated all the way through. We first did some stretching and then moved into to some easy marching and jumping around for a cardio workout. After that was finished we taught them a country line dance and played some Shania Twain. Everyone was a little tired and sweaty and seemed to enjoy themselves; it was definitely a success. We set a time to come back and do some more exercise next week and told them to keep exercising on their own. We even showed them how to use and exercise log so they can record how much they exercise each week.
On Thursday we went back to Korovuo and taught an exercise class with the children. They had fun running around with us and learning to dance. At the end we played partner tag with them and they caught on quick and loved it. It was a fun time and hopefully they learned something too.
Monday, May 17, 2010
The first two weeks most of us worked on finding contacts for our projects as well as working on some manual labor projects. We've continued a garden project the team last year started with the Tavua Hospital. We've built one clay stove, kind of a tester because most of the stoves that were built last year cracked so we're trying to find the right clay mix. We've met with a number of women's groups and contacts in villages to figure out what the different people want and need. On wednesday the 26th we're having a big workshop where most of the groups will present ideas as to what we can do for the community. At the workshop there will be a reps. from the women's groups and some villages, we're hoping to get people even more excited about what we're here to do and help the locals see what we can do for them and decide what they want us to teach them/help them with.
We've decided what project categories we want to focus on so far, we've got the following going:
- Square Foot Gardening
- Health (including hygiene, disease protection and prevention, hospital volunteer opportunities, teen pregnancy and other STDs, etc)
- Business Classes/ Business start-ups
- PRISM (A doctor from the States focuses on community health and is using a lot of our volunteers to reach out to communities to make them healthier and stop non-communicable diseases)
- Adobe/Clay Stoves
- Music Classes & Theater
- ESL (English as a Second Language)
- Schools (all grade levels)
- FRIEND Organization - (a Fiji NGO that goes out into rural communities to teach self-reliance)
- PWD (People with Disabilities)
- Village Construction
All groups are moving forward with goals and we find that the community is excited that we're here to help out.
The team is doing great and we all get along really well and spend our free time playing games and enjoying ourselves. This past weekend we went to Lautoka, a city an hour and a half from Tavua, and went a super sweet hike. It was beautiful there! Really tropical ans almost like walking through a rain forest. plus, the view was amazing!
That's all for now :)
Friday, April 30, 2010
- The Fiji Team