Last Day of Service
We woke up to howling winds again this morning, but thankfully we were able to make it out to our last day of service. Despite a very wet boat ride over there we were all thrilled to finally be able to go back to the school. Eddie and Ash’s group spent the morning rehearsing an authentic Fijian dance taught to us by Tema to perform to the high school in the afternoon. With the help of some of the Yasawa students singing along we managed to pull together a really special performance. After we performed our Fijian dance, we showed off some “American” moves with the ChaCha slide- much to the students delight. Of course they blew us away with their phenomenal singing skills once again when they performed for us one last time. Some of the male students gave a thrilling dance performance and Henry took advantage of the opportunity to join in in which he described as “unexpected and exhilarating”. The girls put on another dance for us before all of us were called upon to join in and dance together as a group. The program ended with a final goodbye song from all the students and a delicious lovo with fish and chicken cooked by kids at the school. Heathers group spent the afternoon painting a water tank at the school and saying their final goodbyes to the kids before returning to the island.
Going with the Flow
Due to the windy weather, GLA students unfortunately were not able to go to service in the neighboring villages today. Despite this challenge, we still accomplished many service tasks on Barefoot Island. One group of students participated in marine service, working with the Dive Shop, to plant coral in the nearby waters. Elisabetta Pittarelli spotted Crown of Thorns Seastars (COTS), which are extremely harmful to the coral reefs, so that they can safely be removed.
Other students painted signs for the chicken coop, which was created by the first GLA session in Fiji. After our morning tasks, when the winds weren’t as bad, we took a short boat ride to Backyard Beach for some trash collection. As a team, we managed to fill ten garbage bags full with plastic bottles and other items that are harmful to the environment.
Before dinner, Joelle Gordon and Nathan Huang played a game of beach volleyball with local staff members including our boat driver Lemeki. We look forward to our daily mentor sessions in which we gather together to talk about our days and important life lessons.
-Sarah Lashovitz and Jennie Shaw
Today, students started their day learning all about the marine life surrounding the Fiji islands. After an educational presentation from Dan, a member of the Dive Shop, everyone went out for yet another fascinating snorkel adventure.
Then, we continued with the activities from yesterday. Kayaking, abseiling, and making jewelry out of coconuts, we were able to experience it all. Madison Henry fearlessly lowered herself over the edge of a 70 foot tall cliff while Zahkiniah Maynard paddled diligently through the crystal clear waters.
Unlike our strictly busy weekdays, our weekends give us a bit more free time. Using this time to their advantage, Samantha Faden and Rachel Esham washed their dirty clothes in the sink, knowing full well that they will likely become dirty once again when we return to service for the upcoming week.
Last night, some of the students enjoyed a late night screening of the movie Zombieland. Perhaps after a sandy game of beach volleyball, we will be able to unwind before sleeping. We are all very excited to get back to service tomorrow.
-Sarah Lashovitz and Jennie Shaw
Lots of Adventures!
After a long but rewarding week of service the weekend kicked off with a bang this morning. We started the day with an authentic Fijian dancing lesson taught by Tema where Dylan, Zac, Henry, and Nathan took advantage of the Fijian costume wear available consisting of grass skirts and expressive face paint. We split up into three groups to do different activities on the island including coconut jewelry making, kayaking, and abseiling. Conquering their fears of heights, Alex Cline, Melanie and Nathan did an exceptional job of abseiling down a rocky cliff by the ocean- and Alyssa loved the experience so much she even went down a second time. During kayaking Emma caught a gnarly wave which rocked their boat. Two of the three groups spent time making bracelets and rings out of coconut shells and some students even used their free time later in the day to finish up on their work. The rest of the group spent time catching up on much needed showers and laying out on the beach. Tonight we’ll be enjoying another traditional Fijian lovo which was prepared earlier today.
-Sarah S. and Lexi
Today, Heather and Eddie’s Group had an opportunity to shadow Fijian families in Kese Village. After being greeted by a warm welcome, the families taught us how to cook, clean, and live the day in the life of a Fijian. We learned how to weave bracelets, cook cassava, and herd chickens. The experience was eye opening and life changing. Ash’s group continued their service by having the chance to shadow the Yasawa High School students. We learned how classes and course content differ from our home countries. It was interesting to compare and contrast the education system of the two cultures. It was a sour ending to the day as we found out that our amazing friend Maddie Alexander is heading home because she has been sick for the past week and never got to experience service in the village. We will all miss her so much and hope she gets better soon.
Exhausting, but Rewarding!
If there’s one thing that GLA students have learned this week, it’s that service work is exhausting. But more importantly, we’ve learned that it’s immensely rewarding. And even so, after a long day of hard work, we were able to come back to Barefoot Island yesterday for an unbelievable night of stargazing with Ash, one of our mentors.
Today, the focus shifted gears as each group of students was able to participate in a new and exciting activity. Tifannie Lamb, for example, bonded with kids in Year Two at the primary school while working as a teacher’s assistant. Singing, coloring pictures, and playing with blocks was a great way to get to know these kids. Other students, like Nathan Huang, worked in the farm by not only hauling wheelbarrows full of sand to and from the worksite but also impressing his fellow peers with his machete skills. Alexandra Cline volunteered with some older students by joining in on their English and Arts & Crafts classes. All of us have been very tired from these past few days, but the satisfying feeling we gain each day pushes us to continue the hard work.
-Sarah Lashovitz and Jennie Shaw
Successful Day of Service
Today was another successful day of service for all three mentor groups. Eddie’s group worked on finishing up construction of the greenhouse for Yasawa High School with the help of some of the students. Rachel Esham, Tiffany Lamb, Suwei Liew, Adrianna Sanchez, and Mia Sutherland spent time picking coriander to sell back to the island, which helps bring in profit for the high school. With the help of some music from Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift we managed to finish construction just in time to watch and cheer on some of the primary school rugby games.
Ash’s group spent the day educating themselves on threats to the reef, such as Crown of Thornes, then went on a snorkeling expedition to spot and remove these creatures which cause damage to coral in the reef when overpopulated. Isabel Shepard and Emma Peltzer showed tons of enthusiasm for the sea cucumber count during their snorkel. Heathers group spent the day building a foundation for a water tank which will be used to collect rain water for the students to use. Alyssa Huang showed a really positive attitude about her work and encouraged the group to get the job done. The afternoon was spent chilling out on the beach and relaxing before mentor sessions and evening activities. Shoutout to the mentors for being resourceful by sharing clothes to expand their wardrobes.
Moce – Sarah Shutt and Lexi Stravato
Another great day!
Lots of very positive feelings after a top day at service. We came away from today feeling like we’d all been very productive. Ash’s group working with Koroi on the greenhouse did an unbelievable job working so well as a team. With some inspirational tunes they were able to get toward the end of their project. The frame is done and looking solid. Just the netting to go. Grace rocked her hat whilst Adzra led the group like a pro!
Eddie’s group continued to build their new found friendships with the high school students. Lots of new perspectives gained and lessons learned from their experiences and captured in their journals. These friendships will continue as we visit Yasawa High School throughout our service days with opportunities to join in games and social activities. Sewei and Sarah in particular were barely seen through the day spending all their time with their year group and choosing to spend break times with them too. Truly positive cultural exchanges.
Heather’s group arrived with great spirits and high energy levels to take on the tremendously excitable and ever ready Yasawa Primary School students. Lizzie, Joelle and Alissa did a top job with the one on one reading program whilst the rest of the group took on the daunting task of working with whole classes! A very busy and productive day for the students at both ends. Congratulations team!
We all walked to Kese Village in the afternoon for a local market run by the women of Kese Village. Koroi told us stories of his growing up and walking the route and showed us where the old palm tree line once stood before raising sea levels which have caused them to retreat. The market was held in a community hall with mothers and their young children selling hand made and other found objects. Nothing like some retail therapy, and the enormous tree at the centre or the village, standing wide and tall outside, added something extra to the occasion.
A new day tomorrow and new service projects for us all. Exciting prospects! Over and out.
Today was the day we started doing service on the neighboring island. We broke up into our three mentor groups and each group took on a different task. It was a great challenge to wake up at 6:30am in order to leave the island by 7:45am. Ash’s group did not leave until 9:30 because their service started later. Heather and Eddie’s groups worked with students, while Ash’s group was working on constructing a green house. It was a hot and sunny day when we arrived, Ash’s team was struggling to keep up because of the heat, but it all got better when it started raining. Melanie and the rest of her group were hard at work, they had to dig 9 holes and plant posts in order to build the foundation for the greenhouse. It was intense manual labor, but they all had a great time because they accomplished a lot after very few hours. Heather’s group worked as teachers’ assistants and as reading helpers in the primary school. Sarah L. worked with the students of year 2 (6-7yrs) as a teacher’s assistant and helped the kids draw pictures. Joelle worked with students who needed reading help and chatted with those students. Lastly, Eddie’s group shadowed high school students through their classes. We all got back at around 3:30pm and we had a fee hours of downtime before Mentor groups started. It was overall a tiring but very productive day.
One Week Down
Bula! After yesterday’s fun filled and educational activities, GLA students enjoyed a relaxing movie night. We gathered together on the sand, nestled between Palm trees for a viewing of the popular comedy “I Love You, Man”. Many were not able to stay awake through the entire showing, but needless to say, we all slept very well.
Waking up to loud drums and shouts of “MANTA RAY!”, we ran to the northeast beach with flippers and snorkels in hand. Following employees from Barefoot Island’s Dive Shop, we swam with manta rays measuring up to four and a half meters long. It was a spectacular experience and we were so lucky to be able to participate in an activity as beautiful as this.
After some free time, where students such as Lindsay Chevlin were tanning on Sunrise Beach, everyone joined around for a Fijian language lesson from Tema, one of our local staff. Henry Liu, among others, nailed the accent almost immediately. Though not everyone caught on as quickly, we all learned the phrases “Na yacaqu ko…” and “Au domini iko” which translate to “My name is…” and “I love you,” respectively.
We spent the afternoon participating in Beach Olympics, with an intense competition between the “Young Wild and Free” and the “Oldies”. With games including tug of war and hermit crab races, Dylan Macy carried the team of older students to victory.
While we’ve been here in Fiji for six days already, we finally get to start our service projects tomorrow. We look forward to another two weeks in paradise!
-Sarah Lashovitz and Jennie Shaw
Arrival to Barefoot Island!
Yesterday, after a three hour boat ride, we finally arrived at our new home for the next 2 weeks, Barefoot Island. With a view of crystal clear waters all around us, we were greeted by the GLA island staff standing on the shores of Manta Ray beach. We spent the afternoon settling in and snorkeling above vibrant coral reefs and schools of tropical fish. However, today the real festivities began with a scavenger hunt to help us get acquainted with the island. Caroline Franz helped lead her team to find clues around the island, and during an epic rap battle Alyssa Huang wowed the crowd with a backflip. Then we moved on to a Fijian cooking lesson where we shelled coconuts and prepared spinach leaves for an authentic Fijian Lovo. We used the coconuts to make coconut shavings and cream- where Mia Sutherland took the opportunity to give herself a facial with the leftover shavings. We even had to weave our own plates out of palm leaves. The day finished with down time by the beach with the option to go snorkeling again followed by a much needed movie night. Moce!
Hello from Paradise! We are so happy to have session 2 with us here at our mainland home base! All students have arrived safe and sound. Yesterday we played some fun games on the beach followed by an afternoon outing to the sleeping giant botanical garden, and to the famous Fijian mud bath. This was a great bonding experience for everyone. We are so excited for this group of students. Please stay tuned and follow our adventures in Fiji!
– Ashley Link
International Program Director
All students have arrived safely in country and are ready for an amazing program! Stay tuned for blog updates and photos!