My LIA reflection

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My summer this year has been one of the most developmental and culturally rich experiences of my life thanks to Think Pacific and the Laidlaw Foundation. As part of my Laidlaw Scholarship, I have conducted a ‘leadership in action’ period in which I spent 6 weeks living in Fiji, primarily in Toga village, located on the Sigatoka River.

Myself and 18 other Laidlaw Scholars spent our first few days learning about Fijian culture and daily customs, equipping us to be fully immersed into village life. Whilst the days leading up to entering the village were nerve racking, my Fijian family welcomed myself and Mindy Duggan into their home with open arms. Our Nene and Tou gifted us with homemade garlands and performed the traditional sevusevu ceremony to invite us into their family. We were looked after, fed and loved as if we were part of the family, and I will be forever grateful for the hospitality they showed us. Despite the massive difference in culture and daily life, the friendliness and generosity of the entire village made it very easy to accustom to the Fijian way of living. We were given Fijian names on arrival which were very quickly learnt by other members of the village and close friendships were developed within a few days.

The main purpose of our visit to Toga village was to build a health clinic to enable the facilitation of primary healthcare to the villagers. Toga had been selected by the Ministry of Health as in need of a healthcare facility as access to healthcare was limited. The scholars alongside many Fijian helpers hammered, sawed and painted in the heat to create a space to enable more accessible healthcare following the instructions of our building manager. Whilst we were presented with many obstacles that were out of our control, such as late delivery of building materials, the build was completed and a traditional opening ceremony was held in appreciation.

Alongside the build, the villagers very kindly facilitated culture sessions to enable us to learn more about Fijian history and way of life. This varied from tours of the family farms, in which a sustainable ‘farm to plate’ way of eating is adopted, to weaving classes where we turned bamboo leaves into fans. In addition to this, we were lucky enough to attend a Nadroga rugby game with the villagers in Sigatoka, an invaluable bonding experience. A highlight of this trip for me was the truck journey on the way back to the village, where the community were singing and celebrating the win.

Throughout the latter part of our stay, we took part in workshops delivered by AFG (Alliance for Future Generations), discussing the topics of climate change, gender and human rights. Working collaboratively with the Fijian youth, we learned about climate change from the pacific perspective, who are experiencing the detrimental effects of global warming in a much bigger capacity than the western world. In the next couple of years, it is likely that the farms which provide the village’s income will be flooded, leading to a complete destruction of their livelihood. We created posters and visual aids to be taken and used in COP27, which is being held in Egypt.

My time in Fiji was invaluable and I have learned a great deal from my Fijian family and friends and someday hope to return to my second home. Sote Tale Fiji!

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Go to the profile of Victoria Lynn
5 months ago

Holly this is amazing, well done !!!