Fiji Immersion Experience 2012
During the September holidays of 2012, nine students participated in a life changing trip to the Fiji Islands. Students were immersed in the Fijian culture, giving up their mobile phones and iPods for two weeks, and finding themselves in a very different world from that of Australia.
Students experienced living with Fijian families, going to school with them, eating Fijian food, and serving others. They built relationships with students at St. Joseph’s (Suva), The Cathedral College (Suva), Marist Brothers School (Suva), St. John’s (Cawaci) and St. Vincent’s (Natovi). We visited the special school in Suva which is sponsored by AusAid. We spent time playing games, learning sign language, writing notes and face painting. Some school items that were donated by the communities of Mackay, were left with them.
On our last full day in Suva, Filo, our contact in the Fijian Archbishop’s office, accompanied us to a retirement home for nuns that is located just outside of Suva. The Nazarene Sisters were very welcoming, greeting us with a beautiful morning tea. Highlights of this visit included singing, praying the Rosary in a combination of Fijian and English, and dancing. The sisters also invited us to see their Convent which was nearby. We walked around the complex, met some novices, and experienced the local miracle water. One of the nuns took part of a wild ginger flower to plant at the retirement village in memory of the HSC students who visited them that day.
After a day of travelling, we were welcomed at St John’s School in Cawaci on the island of Ovalau. We started with Mass and were in awe of the strong sense of spirituality present in their music; the harmonies, the way the students not only arranged but led the music, and the way the Sacred is a part of everyday life. Our students participated in the classes at the school, played touch with the boys, and assisted the nuns at the Nazareth Renewal Centre that afternoon. Fr Equawce, the Principal, led us on a tour of the town and boarding facilities the following day and we learnt about the strong Catholic Culture that is present in the original capital of Fiji.
In the village of Tokou, students were invited into the homes of the families there. Students developed relationships with young people in very different circumstances to their own. One stand-out relationship was with a young man named Apisai Kalou. He is a very promising young artist and hopes to travel to Australia one day with his artwork. We felt very blessed especially being invited to attend the first Holy Communion service of students from Levetto School.
After a farewell ceremony at St. John’s we travelled back to the mainland to stay at the St Vincent’s school in Natovi. Fr Joe took us for a tour around the school and to a naturally occurring swimming hole. After meeting the students, we were invited to celebrate Mass with the school, and were honoured to be Eucharistic Ministers. Mission work is about relationships. This experience has enabled us to establish relationships with some key people in Fiji, and it is our hope that these relationships will continue in the future.