Today was a bittersweet day. It was the third and final day of our community service and the end of our projects at Soso village. A few hours were spent waiting for the rain to pass over, which people either spent sleeping, or for a select few, painting. After a few hours the rain settled and everyone went back to work either fixing the bathrooms, setting cement, putting water tanks in place, etc… Everyone who started his or her work finished it. Finishing the boys bathroom was a bit of a stretch but everyone was assiduous and diligent in painting, most likely due to the time crunch and the euphoria of the project coming to a close.
After our work was finished, there was a ceremony of thanks and goodbye. The Chief of the island, Ratu Titone Vuluma even attended the ceremony, which was special and showed the impact our actions had on this village. It was incredible. The children sang two songs; the first one was a song of thanks and the final one was a goodbye song. Ms. London was seated next to the Chief and during her speech and other speeches people cried. There were also two prayers; one for good luck and the other for thanks. This was expected as Christian missionaries arrived on Fiji, and luckily outlawed cannibalism. They made it their little project to turn everyone Christian. It showed the impact and influence other cultures had on Fiji. Another example of European influence is the school structure system, which names prefects and head boys and girls.
When the ceremony was over the villagers prepared an elaborate tea and pastry party. There was tea, biscuits, donuts, roti and other treats for us, which showed the Fijian generosity. They were not forced to do this. They just did it out of the good in their hearts. The children were incredibly friendly and showed the spirit of Fiji by the way that they danced and sang. They would jump on us with joy rather than with the intent to do bodily harm and would constantly sing in a way that can never be replicated or faked. The children and the adults were genuine and kind and welcomed us with open arms.
One thing that was not shown was the hard work the villagers did to prepare for the dry season. Every bit of water, wood, tools, cardboard, paper etc. is used to the fullest. Water is a precious resource that is not to be trifled with. They have to live off the water from the wet season for six months and often times the Fijian government will not respond to the villagers’ plea for simple resources. Therefore, they have to come up with alternative means of getting water which often resorts them to reuse and use dirty water that is filled with an abundance of bacteria and other microorganisms that cause bodily harm. But our school helped provide them with over 45000 liters of potential water, and for the first time in a long time, a running toilet and the first time ever, a flush toilet.
The time was very valuable in the village with the kids and the people, in general. In this precious three days we learned many things such as responsibility, how service really benefits both sides and how we could enjoy helping people as we learned from them .
-Martin and Dualta