Posted by: Alicia Phillips | October 11, 2011

Why Yes, I do actually do work in Fiji….

Some of you may be wondering what it is that I do here in Fiji to take up my days? Well….I’m  glad you asked.

There are two types of volunteers in Peace Corps Fiji; Urban and rural.  The urban volunteers (me) live and work in cities for one of the Ministries, and the rural volunteers (almost everyone else) live in villages. The few urban volunteers that are here have actual jobs that we go to every Mon-Fri during an allotted time, much like the jobs we left in the states. The upside is that we have a little bit more freedom with our schedule than the rest of the staff because we don’t actually get paid to be there.

Before coming to Fiji we all had to turn in our resume detailing our volunteer and work experience. One line on my resume determined the next two years of my life: I had experience working with the elderly.

My specific job is quite unique compared to other volunteers; I am the activities coordinator for the Natabua Golden Age Home.  The GAH, as I shall now refer to it, is a senior citizens home, but in all honesty it is also home to the mentally handicap, the disabled, and the abandoned people of western Fiji.

Now, I understand if some of you may think that it’s unfortunate that I got placed here. At first I was a little apprehensive too, I thought “I joined the Peace Corps and got sent all the way to Fiji to work in a nursing home?!” But after just 2 days being there I was in love! The residents and the staff and the location are all so amazing.  The staff takes such good care of their residents, it takes a special person to do what they do and you can tell that they genuinely care for these people and are happy to come to work.

Richard, our cook. Reminds me so much of Lafeyette from True Blood it's scary. He is my favorite!

Once I got there, got to know the people, figured out my place and my role, I saw the potential and realized I can actually make a real difference in these peoples’ lives. My sole responsibility is to make sure the residents are happy and enjoying life. What could be better than that?! SO I got started with a small project, I introduced them to BINGO. And they went B-A-N-A-N-A-S over it!  Slowly I started to see the residents interact with each other in ways I hadn’t seen yet. I saw them help and support each other, and cheer for each other when someone wins. It is so much fun! Whenever I walk in in the mornings they all look at me and say “Bula Bula! Good morning America! Bingo! Bingo!!” Makes me smile!

I got some big projects planned for the future. I’m experimenting with some occupational therapy, figuring out what they did and what they enjoyed before coming to the home and finding a way to incorporate it in to their daily lives. I’m working closely with the Hard Rock Café/Fiji to take them on a picnic lunch for Diwali and Christmas, they also have been a big help with the OT. Monthly picnics and field trips are in the works.  I’m trying to do small things too; celebrating birthdays, playing cards, reading clubs, music hour, etc. I’ve also got a crazy idea rolling around in my head that may take some time to incorporate…..wheelchair Olympics. Oh yeah, get excited!

Mostly though just being there is enough for them. Just being there and being a friend, helping them get from place to place, holding their hand when they are sad, helping them eat, joking around with them, and listening to their stories. My Hindi is still elementary, but everyday it gets a little better and every day I learn something new.

Peace Corps encourages us to take on secondary projects as well. So I have been talking to a few of my friends who live in villages and we have discussed having a healthy living seminar/nutrition class/aerobic boot camp sort of project. Since I have a background in nutrition and exercise I will go spend a few days in the villages, working with the women and youth groups to help educate on the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. So I am looking forward to that.

So yes, friends and family, I do actually do work here. If it looks like I am having the time of my life it’s because that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Vinaka Vakalevu! Moce!

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Responses

  1. I so enjoy your blogs. Thank you Alicia.

  2. Hi, I am Maridelle Wright, a friend of Stella’s. We live next door. We love your blog, and think you are doing a wonderful job representing our USA. You are very brave and loving to do what you are doing. We love the pictures. We will look foreword to more. We definitely want to meet you when you come home. We enjoy Stella every day. I see you two are much alike. We have fallen in love with Stella, we don’t meet many people that is as wonderful as she is, what a big heart she has!! Our standard Poodle has fallen head
    over heels in love with her, and I think he is gradually winning her over.
    Keep up the good work!
    Best wishes,
    Maridelle and Jarold Wright
    Lancaster, CA

  3. Hey Alicia!! I love reading your blogs and seeing your pictures you are doing and amazing job!! So glad to see you doing well

    Renee Williams

  4. Alicia!! This is so wonderful! I love BINGO!!!! I actually bought an app for my iPhone and play it literally everyday. I miss you so much, and I am so happy that you are making such a difference in our world! LOVE LOVE!!!


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