project review

"Voluntourism" is growing here - Fiji Sun, 7/6/2010

Review submitted by Kateryna Lazoryshynets
Review date 7 Jun 2010


"Voluntourism" is growing here

Fiji annually receives an average of 500-600,000 visitors to its shores. It has now been increasing in popularity not only amidst tourists but the world over.
Whilst having a strongly developed tourism industry, the national Bureau of Statistics shows that the country gains approximately FJ$853 milion in tourism per year - there is yet more to be gained from visitors than just profit.

Each month there are groups of volunteers coming to Fiji from the UK, US, Canada and all over the world hoping to make a positive difference to the lives of Fijians.

'Voluntourism' is a relatively new holiday idea which gives the holiday makers an opportunity to really get to know a country and its people rather than the usual superficial beach holiday.

It also gives something back to the host country in the form of new interactions for the locals and increased tourist dollar.

I, myself as a member of Frontier Volunteers group here in Fiji believe that we are bringing in the best of our knowledge and skills because when you combine it with the one of the local's, it gives a truly invaluable experience for both sides.

This June, there are five of us who have come through Frontier to do projects in Fiji.

The most popular ones are two British girls Gillian Mitchell, Charlotte Richardson and a Canadian, Samantha Hull who are taking part in teaching at the Suva Methodist Primary School.

Each of the girls assists teachers with a class of 7-12 year olds in all their lessons.

“Having an assistant to teach in the classroom, that extra support from us definitely gives children an extra boost,” Charlotte Richardson said.

That is why it feels that by volunteering at a primary school, she is really making a difference to the children.

But there is also a lot of experience and fun that she gains from this work.

“This is a two-way process because I am learning from the children every day as well as they are learning from me.

“Being a native speaker helps as well,” Samantha Hull adds.

She explains that knowing the Fijian language helps them interact with those who cannot speak English, and because they do not have a chance to travel to the environment from which we, the volunteers come from, they learn from us when we bring our culture and environment to them.

“Things are made so much easier for and we can impact them so them about us in their language,” Ms Hull says.

“Moreover it brings us so much joy to work with the children. They are so excited to see me every morning, you cannot not be happy to be there with them,” she adds.

Head teacher, Atunaisa Sokosoko, expresses his approval of foreign teachers’ participation in the school's educational process.

We are looking forward to having more teachers from Frontier, he says.

Mr Sokosoko said he can measure the success that such an experience brings to the school by the excitement coming from students and the children.

“Children learn fast things totally new to them.

This in return makes the pupils more enthusiastic about the learning process which in the end improves their overall academic performance and motivation,” he says.

Gillian Mitchell, who also currently volunteering in teaching, shares why she chose to come specifically to Fiji.

“I always wanted to do something teaching-wise and there are many projects in places like, for example, Asia and a lot less in Fiji so it felt like it had a need for help.

“Moreover, Fiji is a country I have always wanted to come to because I have only ever heard good things about it.

“Teaching is what I have most experience in so I felt like it was the area I could give most in.” Ms Mitchell says.

Another volunteer, Jenifer Shattuck who is a biochemistry student from New York, USA, is participating in a medical programme.

She works at a Colonial War Memorial Hospital, where she takes part in a daily routine of a biochemical laboratory.

For four weeks she will be shadowing a laboratory technician in four rotations so that she can learn to perform it herself and help the staff out.

Due to the laboratory being short of staff, it is a very timely placement.

Apart from being a helping hand, she also gives the technicians an insight on how the same industry works in the USA.

“I enjoy learning the culture through working with the people who have lived here all their lives, it gives me an insight that’s different from just another traveler”, Ms Shattuck says.

As for me, I am a Ukrainian doing a journalism programme here in Fiji. This is a truly great chance to work alongside the charming professionals of the Fiji Sun newspaper.

Absorbing the spirit of the day-to-day running of a newspaper, I try to bring in my own vision into some of the assignments.

It is a wonderful opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade from the competent reporters who day and night keep an eye on the pulse of the capital city Suva and the whole of the country.

As a media and communications student, there can be nothing more exciting than to dip into that varied experience and bring in the best of my own knowledge here.

The hospitality and openness of the nation allows the volunteers to enjoy the best of our time here whilst we share our experience so different from the one of an average Fijian.

That is why Fiji is a great destination for those willing to make an impact while travelling abroad. Such programmes are a great chance to familiarise with the rich culture of Fiji islands and make our very own contribution to its well-being.

Find out more about the Fiji Teaching project