On Saturday morning a mini bus of 6 GVI volunteers left Nadi headed for the Silana Village, in Eastern Viti Levu, to begin working with a new community and primary school. When we arrived in Silana on Saturday evening we were welcomed by a chorus of villagers and their guitars. With the help of some Fijian muscle we moved into our new home which is a beautiful, traditional Fijian bure constructed by the village youth for our arrival.
We then made our way down to the village hall for a traditional Sevu Sevu ceremony where we presented a waka of Kava to the head men. We were officially accepted into Silana village by the elders and would now be treated as members of their community. We all celebrated together with a Fijian feast, followed by a few bowls of kava and a dance lesson. Then on Sunday we were introduced to the whole community during the morning church service.
On Monday morning we were very excited to meet the teachers and pupils of Silana District School for the first time. SDS is a locally run school attended by pupils from Silana and the surrounding villages. At the school there are 7 teachers for 6 classes and a kindergarten. The whole school community was very welcoming and appreciative of our support in the classrooms. They were particularly delighted with the few books we managed to bring with us as there is no library at the school and hardly any books for the pupils to read.
The volunteers have spent the week assisting in class and, with the guidance of their teachers, leading lessons themselves. Our books have already seen a lot of use during story time in class 1-3 and also when listening to the older pupils read individually. The classrooms are looking noticeably more colorful as volunteers have been testing out the creative skills of their pupils during arts and crafts lessons. On Thursday the Class 5 and 6 teacher had to attend a meeting in a nearby town and one of our volunteers, Georgie, was able to step in and teach the 35 pupils that would have otherwise been left unattended.
On Friday we were invited as guests of honor to judge a talent contest at the local secondary school. This involved an elaborate display of drama, music and dancing performed by pupils aged 14-18. It was tremendously entertaining, all the pupils were extremely talented and it was refreshing to see them participating in creative arts subjects at school. The raucous laughter from the mothers for the duration of the show also added to the entertainment.
We have all had an excellent first week living with the villagers of Silana and they have made us feel extremely welcome. During the days we have been getting to know the pupils and teachers of SDS and our evenings have been spent cooking with the women, eating delicious food, dancing to Fijian music, learning the local language and having a go at traditional mat weaving. We were lucky enough to end our week by visiting the local pod of dolphins then returning to Silana where the villagers had prepared us a lovo (underground bbq) filled with chicken and fresh fish.