Thursday, July 29, 2010

[cream] buns of steel

Bula bulumakau!

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.

Moce doce

Gardens that will knock your socks off (You don't want to be wearing socks anyway, it's pretty hot)

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

My first month in Fiji has been an experience I will never forget. The people and the culture are amazing! I am project lead over health and we are mostly working with the hospital in promoting health. Every day volunteers go over to the hospital to teach lessons on hand washing and other various health subjects like scabies, STI’s, family planning, drug abuse, cough, fever, and hygiene. We teach about 50 people a day. We taught a lesson in Nasomo village on STI’s, family planning, and drug abuse. After the lesson they all wanted to get tested for HIV, which we were so happy for. We were excited that we had finally got through to the people that they need to get tested and it’s good to get tested. It was a big accomplishment for the health team.
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.


">BULA! Fiji has been so so amazing! My 6 weeks is over in 11 days and I am so sad it went by way too fast! I am lead over nutrition and recently a project I just proposed called the Ba Boys Home. The Ba Boys Home is an orphanage and vocational school. There are 10 orphans who live at the home and while they are at school during the day they have 60 boys ages 14-18 who go to school in the classrooms to learn skills like welding, carpentry, mechanics, and agriculture. Most of the boys dropped out of school due to financial reasons or a death in the family; the other boys failed or just were not motivated to finish. We go teach the boys English classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2pm-3pm and then they go home and the orphans come home from school and we teach them a little English and then play games with them from 3:30-5pm. It has been so amazing, the boys are so sweet and always answer “yes Madame”. We did an exercise the other day to see how their English is and we wrote four things up on the board and had them write as much as they could about them. The four things were: 1. Tell us about your family. 2. Tell us about your hobbies. 3. What do you want to do in the future? 4. What is your favorite thing about Fiji? We graded the papers the next day and there answers were seriously adorable. They gave answers like, “My favorite thing to do is be friends with those who don’t have any” “I like to give service, carry groceries and help people” “My favorite thing about Fiji is the nice friendly people and the peacefulness, I like to have a picnic” and “In the future I want to be a mechanic so that I can take care of my family”. I almost cried reading them because they were the sweetest answers ever, and some of the boys told about deaths in the family. We taught our second lesson yesterday and split the boys up into 3 different classes, levels 1, 2, and 3 and it went really well I am really excited for this project; the boys at the orphanage are maybe the cutest boys in the world. There are 10 of them and 3 have disabilities. We go there Tuesdays and Thursdays also and we usually just work with them and their English and then we play soccer and games. It has been so fun and I am getting really sad to say goodbye to them.

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

Lessons in Fiji

Making a garden.
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 Fiji, a lot of which can be attributed to diet and the lack of aerobic exercise. Most of the women here are extremely strong and hard workers in their homes, but they have no concept of aerobic exercise. Our goal has been to teach them the importance of exercise and help them to start a regular program for themselves.

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 Fiji! We each hope that we are making a difference in the lives of the people here as we come to serve and love those we are working with. The Fijians are wonderful people who are daily teaching us life lessons that we will never forget. We have come to teach, but really we are the ones being taught.