Let me take you to a place, where time stands still and the worries of the world slip away. Blue oceans, white sandy beaches, palm trees, and the locals sitting around enjoying each other’s company. This isn’t usually the ideal setting for a service-learning project; however, for twenty Fresno State students and three professors, it was just right. Continue reading “My Pig Chase in Fiji”
As Ambassadors of the Richter Center one of our priorities is to ensure we are being role models for other students on campus. We are all passionate about service and as we work to share our experience with other students, some of us have the opportunity to embark on service opportunities. Not only do we want others to volunteer, but we must remind ourselves why we became Ambassadors in the first place. One of those reasons is our passion for serving others.
I am heavily involved with Greek Life at Fresno State. The Greek organization I have had the opportunity to be part of for three years, Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity—in partnership with the Fuller Center Global Builders program—provides an international service and cultural immersion program for its members called the SIG Experience. I will attend this educational experience as I travel to León, Nicaragua with some of my fraternity brothers. For a week we will provide hands-on assistance and build homes for families in need. The program is run in conjunction with the Fuller Center for Housing, a non-profit organization that builds and renovates homes internationally as a helping hand in partnership with those in need, not as a hand-out.
Housing for those in poverty is a major issue in the world today – more than 1 billion people worldwide live in substandard housing and an additional 100 million are homeless. There is a need for decent homes all over the world, and even right in our own communities. That’s why I have decided to try to help out by partaking in this build.
The SIG Experience will last from May 30 to June 5. We will spend the majority of the week working along-side the families and other local community members to build safe, decent, and affordable homes. In addition to building, we will also have the opportunity to take part in some cultural and community activities.
My personal service experience abroad is not the only case in which an Ambassador will take initiative to serve and create an impact at an international level. Ambassadors in the past have taken trips to El Salvador, Fiji, and many other destinations. (In fact, recruitment is currently underway for the Fiji 2016 international service-learning trip for Fresno State students. Visit http://bit.ly/studytours for more info!) They have used their service experience abroad and helped it reaffirm their commitment to service in our local communities. While it is important to be a factor of change in local communities, it is a beneficial opportunity to step outside our nation take a look at the bigger issues going on other less privileged areas and use that knowledge to solidify the work we do at a local level.
I have the opportunity to participate in an experience not many can make possible. The Ambassador program consists of student leaders who not only focus their efforts at a local level but also expand their service to the international community.
Have you considered serving abroad? Why serve internationally? What benefits do you think you can bring back and apply at a local level?
~Ambassador Juan Alejandre
Eyes flutter open. You see a cloud of white mesh all around. You feel thoroughly sticky and quite katakata (hot), but these are sensations you’ve come to embrace. You close your eyes once more, reflecting on your last memories before falling asleep: Fijian lullabies from the nearby community hall with the ocean gently singing along. Your stomach tells you that you drank too much grog last night, but you don’t care. Rays of light beckon you through the cracks in the door and wooden window shades, as the sun whispers, “come look.” So, snatching your sulu (wraparound skirt) and journal, you hop over sleeping girls and exit the little house to sparkling waves, white sand, sea breeze, and a glorious sunrise. You know in just a little while the village will wake up and you’ll hear friendly voices saying Yadra sia, good morning. What will the day hold?
Perhaps horseback riding, crafting with joyful children, dancing, sawing wood, nailing cabinets, going to the sea, jumping off a rope swing, painting the community center, snorkeling, finding spidery starfish, whistling to hermit crabs, weaving mats, cracking open a coconut by means of machete, singing with a famous band, reflecting with a teammate, showering in a waterfall, napping in a hammock on the beach, hauling rocks from a river to make an irrigation trough, frying up some ro-ro (my favorite Fijian food) or delicious fresh fish, starting a spontaneous limbo game, eating the most succulent pineapple of your life from Balei’s garden, singing and praying in church, drinking round after round of grog (water strained through ground yaqona root which provides a tongue-numbing sensation and a deep calm), and gazing at a sky full of stars before climbing under your net to sleep.
“Fiji is a life.”
This brief song lyric, written by my friend Inoke from the band, embodies our experience on the Fiji Service-Learning Adventure 2015 all too well. Beyond the exciting activities that fellow Fresno State students, a few faculty, and I experienced in Naboutini, Fiji was an exhilarating embrace from the villagers and an immersion in their beautiful culture of patience, overwhelming love of neighbor, and kindheartedness. There was an absence of the anxieties of our materialistic, time-obsessed world, replaced by a genuine concern for the well-being of the community. I will never forget the new “life” and perspective these Fijians gave me during my time in the village.
The trip did require, admittedly, quite a bit of endurance and perseverance against the heat, humidity, unfriendly insects and adjustments to a new way of life (diet, etc.). But I quickly found unfaltering joy amidst any slight discomfort, and proceeded to create incredible bonds with teammates and villagers alike.
It was incredible to discover that the most beautiful things on earth to one person can be commonplace to another. My breath was stolen at the wonders we saw while snorkeling, but our friend Jim just nonchalantly handed me sea cucumbers and bright blue starfish and couldn’t begin to fathom my wonder at his backyard coral reef. Also, Mere, our Fijian mother, must have thought we were overly dramatic during our cool, refreshing waterfall showers. The once-in-a-lifetime experience for us was her washing machine. She looked so beautiful, perched on a rock, scrubbing and rinsing her many sulus.
The lesson I took from my experience that I am bringing to Fresno is this: kindness must be a culture rather than a series of acts. The vastly different culture of Fiji stole my heart and broadened my perspective. From here forward in all aspects of my life and especially when serving others, I plan to be more intentional with my words and deeds and willing to make new connections.
The villagers showered me with love and incredible generosity and changed my life, but the question remains: how did I impact them? I brought guitar strings, water colors, crayons, and construction paper with some donations I was given beforehand, and they were received with gratitude. Many beautiful memories came from using these supplies. However, I feel like our team’s presence and willingness to serve meant the most. I loved the villagers back to my best ability. I loved their home, culture, music, lighthearted personalities, and traditions, and I carry that love in my heart still.
My Fiji experience has developed my heart for international service and broadened my worldview in the best way. I look forward to giving more love and employing the lessons I learned in future service endeavors.
Interested in international service? Check out Madventurer–we had smooth sailing with this incredible, inspiring organization. Also, for students, keep an eye on the Division of Continuing and Global Education for upcoming opportunities, or contact the Richter Center to answer any questions regarding volunteering, community engagement, and service-learning.
Life is short; the world is a vast place. How will you step outside your comfort zone to share your time and talents? What need do you see here at home that you can fill? Would you consider international service?
When I got the opportunity to participate in the Fiji 2014 Service-Learning Adventure last January, I was impacted in ways I never thought possible. I began my journey expecting to give to the people of Naboutini and improve their lives, but in reality, by the end of the week, I felt like they had given more to me than I could return.
Being a culture that is centered on relationships, mutual aid, and togetherness, the people of the village expressed a need for a place to meet, socialize, eat, give medicine, and house visitors. We were able to meet that need by funding and helping them finish a beautiful hall in the center of the village. However, the giving did not stop there. Coming into the village, we too expressed a desire to live amongst the people of Naboutini and learn from them, and they exceeded our every expectation, giving us more and teaching us more then I could have ever predicted.
The people of Naboutini that I met and built relationships with mostly taught me about how to treat others. Despite their lack of material things, they exhibited the most hospitality I had ever experienced. They gave us a place to live, more food than we could eat, and someone to guide us through the area, everyday activities, and Fijian customs. The people of Naboutini were also some of the most welcoming and kind people that I had ever met who embraced us into their community. They constantly taught us about their home and culture. Many invited us on adventures in fishing, snorkeling, hiking to waterfalls, dancing, fan weaving, horseback riding, grogging, and many more. The embracing and loving attitudes of the Fijians made me feel at home in a matter of days and showed me how important it is to treat people with such compassion.
In addition to learning about others, through this adventure, I learned a great deal about myself. I recognized my ability to handle rough circumstances and different living situations as long as I maintain a positive attitude. This experience of immersion in the Fijian village taught me that I could thrive in new places and situations despite them being so much different than to what I am accustomed to.
This service-learning adventure in Fiji gave me new perspectives in the areas of service, community, self-awareness, and international travel. I was able to give a little something to a village in need and gain new friends, thoughts, and viewpoints. International service is a truly rewarding way to travel where you can really learn about the place and the people.
I had such a life-changing experience in Fiji and you can too! Apply for the Fiji 2015: Intergenerational Service-Learning Adventure! The deadline is this TODAY, April 25th at 3pm. For more information, contact Chris Florentino, email@example.com, 559.278.7079 or Continuing and Global Education, 559.278.0333.
Are you passionate about volunteering your time to community service? Are you interested in traveling out of the country?
Try combining the two, and consider community service abroad! Kofi Annan once said, “If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” There are many different organizations providing opportunity to travel the world and engage in service. Some of these include:
These all include various projects and sites that you can choose from. If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved in community service abroad or different organizations you can travel with, there will be a meeting on International Community Service on February 22, 2013, at 3:00 pm in USU 308. We will be discussing various organizations that provide opportunity to travel around the world, as well as fundraising tips to get you there. Also, pizza will be provided, so please stop by!
So, what do you think? Who’s interested in taking their passion for service abroad? Where would you like to go? Has anyone engaged in international service? Share with us!
We serve because we want to trade in our time, money, and talents for the knowledge and satisfaction that someone’s life was bettered because of our gifts. We want to share what we have to make a difference to get some warm fuzzies. Many of us want to give back to our community and impact the area that has impacted us, creating a local service focus. Our country, our state, and our city are all far from perfect, and it is very understandable and very noble for individuals to want to direct their efforts to create improvements in these areas. It is a common sentiment that we need to fix our country before we can begin to think about giving globally. While I wholeheartedly support, encourage, and participate in local service, I also want to encourage people to zoom out a little bit and take a look at the bigger picture. Local service and global service do not have to be mutually exclusive, being involved in both offers wonderful experiences and multiplies the possibilities for meaningful change.
We are constantly reminded of all of the problems our local areas have ranging from poverty to poor health care to pollution. While these issues do exist and are important, it is also important to take note that compared to many areas of the world we are incredibly blessed. Being an American is such a beautiful privilege as we have the freedom to sustain our own beliefs and the opportunity to pursue them. Sure, we are far from a utopia, but we are certainly much closer than other parts of the world. Whether you believe it was luck or a divine act that got you to this country, it is something that should not be taken for granted for it is important to remember that we all could have just as easily been born into a third world society. I say this not to impose guilt or a sense of obligation, but rather as a reminder that we all have been granted with an incredible opportunity. We have been given an ability to give that is larger than most. This is a gift that allows us to help both our local neighbors and our neighbors around the world if we so chose. So next time you are considering where to serve or give, don’t rule out the global community. Your impact will still be felt and you can still get warm fuzzies even from across the globe.
Here are some neat global service organizations to check out:
West African Vocational Schools: http://wavschools.org/
Charity Water: http://www.charitywater.org/
Amor Ministries: http://www.amor.org/
International Student Volunteers: http://www.isvolunteers.org/
Or consider purchasing some goods that benefit global communities (It’s a win win! You give support and get some cool stuff in return):
Toms (Shoes and Eyewear): http://www.toms.com/
Krochet Kids (Crocheted goods): http://www.krochetkids.org/
Global Mamas (Tons of handmade items): http://www.globalmamas.org/