1. For my STEP Signature Project, I traveled to Silana Village in the Dawasamu District of Fiji. While there, I was part of a small group of volunteers that worked with the community health partners in the village to help foster healthier livelihoods through teaching about preventative health measures and conservation. We contributed to these teachings through things such as building recycling points as well as having healthy cooking workshops for new mothers.
2. When we arrived in the village, one of the first things that stood out to us was how “poor” the villagers were. Comparatively, when thinking of our western lifestyles, they seemed to have very little. The interesting thing is, in actuality, they really had so much. The village we were in had such high importance of families. This value towards family is something that I saw as being very different because, in the US, we seem to have everything we could ever want. We get caught up in having the newest phone, the best Instagram, or even the nicest car that we lose sight of what matters most; our family. Learning about the value of family has been one of the biggest transformative experiences of my STEP project.
3. In the US, we have a very individualistic type of society. People tend to do things for and by themselves. We basically like to have our own space and “thing”. In Silana, that was not at all the case. Everyone loved doing things together and being part of something. The villagers always went fishing together, ate with their families, and they even came to our work sites and did the work with us. We were told at the beginning of our trip that we may be going out to do work but end up being on the sideline because the villagers might takeover but not to look at it as a bad thing because the villagers would much rather have us as company because they love engagement.
Even outside of service work, we saw how close the villagers all were. Our first night in the village, we were all adopted into a different village family. This allowed us to get to know our families better and learn more about the village’s culture. Throughout our time in the village, we would regularly have lunch or dinner with our families, learn Fijian recipes, play with the kids and explore the area with them. For some of us, we got so close to our families that it was hard to say goodbye at the end of the trip.
When we were not doing work and not with the villagers, we were with all the other volunteers. We were a very diverse group in that we had people from places as close as OSU to as far away as England and New Zealand. Pretty quickly though, we all got very close. Once we were all done with obsessing over each others’ accents and word meanings we started hanging out, playing new games, and traveling around the country on different adventures. Being on this trip together brought us all so close together that we even planned a time when we all are planning to see each other again in the coming months.
4. Learning of the value that the villagers have in having in such close relationships with each other showed me how we tend to value superficial things too often and forget about the things that really matter. It showed me that I should really be thinking about the things I have and learn to appreciate them more rather than be continuously wanting. Being on this trip taught me that, if I take a moment, turn off my screen, and look out, I will see all the things that I already have that actually matter in the end. Reminding me about the people I have in my life that I keep close to me, is why this transformation is significant in my life.