From the Director of Student Programs
Off the grid
St Catherine’s School has a range of experiential learning opportunities in the Beyond Boundaries Program. Each program is sequentially planned and offered to each year level with specific learning outcomes. The Year 9 Heyington to Highlands (H2H) program provides our students with an opportunity to be immersed in a Fijian Village and school as a service learning experience, to deepen the students’ understanding beyond School life.
On Tuesday 25 July, the Year 9 students and staff departed Melbourne ready to embark on the adventure ahead of us, with an understanding through preparation workshops on developing countries, Global Goals for Sustainable Development and setting personal learning goals. It was evident as we drove through the highlands looking out onto the farm land, that Fijian Villagers lived a vastly different life to our lives in Melbourne. It was difficult not to compare the perceived lives of those who lived in the Highlands as our transport drove on gravel roads to our village. We observed plantations of bananas, karva, cassava, spinach and more, as we drove through the mountain roads. Every now and again we saw the homes of the villagers who waved, smiled and said Bula (hello) at any opportunity. It was evident from day one, that the Fijian people were happy and hospitable to anyone who came past.
I was lucky to spend eight days in Kenani, visiting the village of Nasivikoso. During this time, we lived in Bures on a hilltop, three kilometres away from the village of Nasivikoso. We visited the Nasivikoso Primary School on four occasions, where our girls were welcomed in to the classroom and surrounded by children from Years 1 to 8. During this time, our students assisted in the classroom with work that was prescribed by the teacher. Our girls engaged with the children by teaching them songs and dances, which were reciprocated by the children. We were welcomed by the people of Nasivikoso, welcomed into their homes, provided with dresses to wear to church and shown how to make a fan, bracelet, ring and mat out of coconut palm leaves.
Back at Kenani, we were looked after by Fonga and Jo and their family as well as a team of villagers. Each night, the children at Kenani taught us songs and dances that were well known by the locals. While there, the three villages visited by St Catherine’s girls came together to compete in the ‘Village Games’. This was a highly competitive event with local villagers being able to compete in the areas of Dance, Song, Nueput (shot put with a coconut), spear throwing ( javelin), a water wade relay, 100m sprint and a sulu tying competition. Congratulations to Navagna for their victory at the Village Games.
As we came back down from the highlands, revisting the same scenery as we had on the first day, we observed the same sights as on our way up and viewed their life with a different perspective. We had experienced a rich culture of inclusion and one that shares their belongings and produce with those around them. We respected the Fijian culture and way of life in a significantly different way. Without social media and the technological world we live in, we never knew what time it was. We just went with Fiji time (meaning there was a time-frame for things to happen, not necessarily a specific time), allowing for all of us to be present in each conversation and interaction, not looking ahead or being consumed with what else had to be done. Each of us was challenged with how can we utilise this experience and share these learnings with those at home. The learnings of each student are best captured in their reflections below:
“My opinions on what happiness means definitely changed when viewing how and where Fijians lived. The Fijians do not rely on materialistic things like clothes or the size of their house to be happy; moreover they gain their fulfilment from making each other happy by sharing and loving each other. On this program, I learned that I do not need ‘things’ to give me happiness.” Laura Glaspole (Year 9)
“Each morning, when I woke up in Nasivikoso, I felt as if I was at home and could imagine myself staying and living in the highlands for the rest of my life. This made me realise that where I live, nor what I have, can waiver my happiness. I am happy when I am surrounded by people I love and that support me. Through this I have learnt to be present with people because time flies and if you are busy thinking ahead, you will miss what is in front of you.” Chloe Rodgers (Year 9)
“I learnt to appreciate the things I have in my life, such as fresh drinking water, resources, food and the home in which I live in. I learnt to respect people and to be grateful for the things other people do for you willingly.” Ella Stefanis (Year 9)
“I learnt to appreciate the importance of having a strong community.” Astrid Low (Year 9)
“The most significant change for me was learning to be more positive and appreciative for what I have. I used to be a person who would always be on my phone and did not appreciate the opportunities I have been given but after seeing how happy the Fijians are with their lives and how happy they are to share what they have, I’ve realised that always searching for the positive side of things and being happy to share that with everyone else is an amazing thing that I’d like to focus on.” Alice Menzies-King (Year 9)
“I learnt that I am incredibly lucky and fortunate to be able to have a roof over my head, a good education and an amazing family. I have also learnt that wealth doesn’t always mean having lots of money, but being happy, having an open mind, respect and a loving community.” Charlotte Murdoch (Year 9)
“I believe throughout this whole trip, I was able to find happiness or joy in everything. Through this, I think I am now able to appreciate everything I have available to me and also enjoy it more.” Lindsey Ware (Year 9)
“The most significant things I have learnt are to be grateful, to share and to look at the world. It has showed me that the work is way bigger and better than what I saw before. Don’t close your eyes while seeing every opportunity go by, take it and appreciate it.” Zara Gracinin (Year 9)
The girls in Kenani, wrote a song they performed at the Village Games to reflect on their experiences. The words to this song and the tunes are written below.
(To the tune of Fresh Prince of Belair…)
In West Nasivikoso born and raised
In the highlands where I spent most of my days
Chilling and relaxing and acting so cool
Just shooting coconuts outside of the school
When a couple of Fijians who were up to some good
Started making donuts in the neighbourhood
I went on one too many hikes and my feet got sore
So I called in the Kenani Kings Army Corps
(To the army corps tune…)
Left left left right left
Left left left right left
I don’t know what you’ve been told
Kenani’s army will win gold
Sound off dua rua
Sound off tolu va
Sound off dua, rua, tolu, va TOLU VA
(To the tune of Mama Mia…)
I’ve been greeted by you from the day we arrived
So you made the trip easy and that’s how we’ve survived
Look us now, we’re a family
We don’t know how, but it’s happening in our souls
It’s a feeling we can’t control
Just one look and it drew us all in
One more Bula and I here it again
Nasivikoso, here we go again
Nene Fonga we will miss you
Nasivikoso, can we come again
MoMo Jo can you please drive us home?
Yes, we’ll be broken hearted
Blue from the day we parted
Why, why do we even have to go?
Nasivikoso, now we really know
We will miss you
More than we can ever know!
Each village visited by St Catherine’s girls, offered a different experience. This is written as a reflection of the experiences of those in Nasivikoso. Thank you to the staff who worked with each of the villages on this trip. The experience of our girls was strengthened by your willingness to be a part of this successful program.