ENTERTAINMENT | Island News

Living life Fijian style

By SALASEINI TAWAKE Twenty-five volunteers from the United States of America (USA) who arrived in Fiji eight weeks ago were sworn-in as Peace Corps Fiji Group 89 on Thursday at
11 Nov 2012 10:02

Some of the Peace Corp volunteer Group 89 members performing a ‘seasea’ at the group’s swearing-in ceremony held at the Forum Secretariat Fale in Suva on Thursday. Photo: NAVNEET NARAYAN

By SALASEINI TAWAKE

Twenty-five volunteers from the United States of America (USA) who arrived in Fiji eight weeks ago were sworn-in as Peace Corps Fiji Group 89 on Thursday at the Forum Secretariat Fale in Suva.
This is the first time an entire group is sworn-in after eight weeks of training. The volunteers are health staff aged from their early 20s to late 60s.
This is an initiative of the Ministry of Health and is supported by the Peace Corps Fiji to help the people of Fiji reduce common lifestyle diseases known as non-communicable diseases.
Director of Peace Corps Fiji Eddie Stice said these volunteers have minimum qualification of degree and among them are nurses and doctors. Last Friday, the volunteers were deployed around the country to begin their two-year long programme.
Present as chief guest at ceremony was the Minister for Health, Doctor Neil Sharma, accompanied by US Ambassador, Frankie A Reed, and Mr Stice.
Host families for the eight weeks training from Burerua, Lodoni, Sawakasa Village One, and Two were also present.
Tricia Buzzard and Stewart Lowery were chosen to represent Peace Corps Fiji Group 89 in sharing their eight-week training experience to the guests presented in a story and traditional meke.
The story was narrated in English and translated into the iTaukei Bauan dialect which they learned from their host family.
After getting accustomed to the change in time zone at the Coral Coast Christian Camp, the volunteers were taken straight into village life where they tasted kava for the first time.
“We acclimated to the weather, the time change and each other. We enjoyed our sevusevu and our first numbing taste of kava. Life did not seem too bad and we were eager to jump into “village life” in the Sawakasa district. Host families, dress codes, and something called ‘turaganikoros’, here we come,” Ms Buzzard said.
Life was also changing for these volunteers as Mr Lowery puts it.
“Life suddenly changed a lot for us ambitious Americans: the often heard folklore of a rooster alarm clock was real, water wasn’t always running, and it was sometimes dirty. Twenty different ‘Nana’ and ‘Tata’ and the life of privacy was suddenly a distant thing” Mr. Lowery said.
As weeks passed by the volunteers grew accustomed to the support of their host families and they learned more about the Fijian culture and language.

Volunteer members of Group 89 during the swearing-in ceremony held at the Forum Secretariat’s Fale in Suva on Thursday. Photo: NAVNEET NARAYAN

Mr Lowery said: “We became more and more comfortable with the support of our loving host families and communities. The language and cultural teachers also made sure we learned without committing any faux paus”
He added: “We learnt how to Tulou, masu, sua niu, cook palusami, planted gardens and sang in church choirs”
They learned more about the health and well-being of families and demonstrated to people how to live healthy by exercising, cutting down on sugar and salt intake, and eating healthily.
A teary-eyed Ms Buzzard said the departure from their new families was difficult but they left with an immense sense of gratitude and growth.
They remain thankful to the host families and unknown individuals who took them with open arms into their homes and treated them as one of their own.
The love and care provided helped the volunteers push through the many challenges and Fiji began to feel like their new home.
The swearing in ceremony ended with a cultural seasea meke performed by the volunteers.




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