On the first day we were met by the GVI staff members and treated to a delicious breakfast of local fruits. Before long, we were on our way across the lush, green island to the small village of Silana. Our arrival was eagerly anticipated by the other GVI volunteers, who welcomed us with smiles and lunch!
Our first Sunday was spent in church and getting to know our Fijian families. A traditional Fijian meal was prepared and we were supplied with pillows and told to ‘take a nap’ for the afternoon, happily following the local custom that no work can be done on a Sunday.
The following weeks involved getting to know our class at school. The level of spoken and written English varied dramatically throughout the class but all the children were keen to learn and practice, particularly if that involved gossiping about other class members or volunteers! I was struck by the enthusiasm of the children in my class – something that I never experienced whilst I was at school. They had dreams of being doctors or teachers in order to help out their community, but most of all, they wanted to travel.
My experience in Silana was one of the most treasured moments of my life. The village was so welcoming, always ready to teach you Fijian or inviting you into their house for dinner. The evenings were spent drinking kava in the community hall or watching exceptional performances of the Meke – a traditional Fijian dance.
Almost as soon as we arrived it was time to leave. The morning came for us to leave and the women of the village came to say goodbye in the traditional way – through song. By the time the stunning harmonies of Isa Lei had come to an end there wasn’t a dry eye getting in the van to leave.
I know I speak for all the volunteers when I say that being in Silana was a truly special experience and that we would all do anything to go back. Four weeks was definitely not long enough and I would thoroughly recommend this program to anyone and everyone!