South Sea Sensation

A brief blog about LiA with Think Pacific
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From the 16th June to the 28th July I was privileged and humbled by the opportunities and experiences with which both the Laidlaw Foundation and Think Pacific (TP) provided me. Leadership in Action (LiA) has been profound in providing me with a new sense of gratitude and perspective. Now that I am back in the UK I am able to reflect upon what I have seen, done and learnt over the past 6 weeks. I will summarise the lessons learnt through discussing some personal highlights. 

First, some background, I was thoroughly prepared for my time in Fiji, and confident I would be able to make the most of every minute through pre-exisiting friendships with my Fijian Dreu. A strong foundation is crucial in building anything lasting, and through being physically, mentally and socially prepared I was able to approach LiA with zeal.

Arriving at my new home in Toga village we were warmly welcomed by all, with special mention to my Fijian parents Mitieli and Lice who can only be described as top drawer. Mitieli Aka Vakatawa (Pastor) and I found common ground quickly in both rugby and faith, facilitating a smooth integration into his family and the community at large as a consequence of his high standing. I was proud to be presented my first opportunity at leadership on project by my new father, when he invited me to read the miracle the feeding of the 5000 in front of the congregation. An experience I will never forget, but more significantly the lesson learnt from it will stay with me forever, to show compassion, charity and kindness. In the village it is evident they practice what they preach, with a palpable sense of community and togetherness. Despite having little with regards to possessions, they were generous, rich in spirit, and as a consequence fulfilled. 

The second lesson and another one close to my upbringing - being educated in Lincolnshire - farming. The people of Toga village, and their neighbours are notorious as being from the salad bowl of Fiji. The benefits of this some self-evident, such as being active, eating well, and reaping what is sown stand the community in good stead. However, the nature of our visit felt significant with a portion being focussed on climate change, and through discussions and co-education alongside the youth we were to discover the effects had been felt here in recent years.  Examples included failed crops and cyclone Winston. A connection with those who will be first and worst effected by climate change in the South Pacific focussed minds, and gave a real sense as to what it means to be an ethical leader, and the consequences of unethical and unsustainable practices. As such it is important we support communities like those in Toga, and globally enabling them to enjoy the fruits of their labour for years to come. 

The primary objective of our time spent was to provide a legacy, in the form of a health centre for our new families to use. This objective was completed with great success. In doing so, we have secured a brighter future for the next generation, but also learnt valuable personal lessons. Through operating with an unfamiliar group, in an unfamiliar environment, tasked with an unfamiliar challenge I am able to reflect upon the importance of leading with adaptability, and whilst in a group with differing skill sets seeing there is strength in a variety of proficiencies and interests and it is only through adversity that we as a collective and as individuals may rise. 

There is a unique charm about the South Seas and the Pacific apparent since they entered the British psyche through novels such as Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island. Over the last three centuries we have got to know their ecology, heritage and peoples; and through immersing myself fully in the Fijian culture through LiA I have been captivated, grown as a person, and made a positive lasting contribution, something I will be grateful for, for the rest of my life.

Vinaka vaka levu

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