The Real Fiji. That is what myself and 20 other students from the University of Technology, Sydney were able to experience in the early summer days of 2019. I had heard about the beautiful sunsets but I have never seen a place so green and met people who are so welcoming, in my life.
It was smothering hot to be honest. A different kind of heat that I have never experienced before. Very tropical, very wet and very humid. Despite this, our stay at Waivaka Village and Namatakula Village made me forget about this and immerse myself in the beauty of the villages – both internal and external.
Externally, the landscape was beyond. Mountains, rivers, coconut trees and a lot of Kava. Also a lot of rain but I didn’t mind that because it cooled things down. Internally – the people, the families, the connection and ties with oneself, each other and nature surrounding them. The culture was rich and there was so much positivity, happiness and comradery. The stories were motivating and amazing.
When delving into the causes of the current climate situation and disruptions that climate change has caused in Fiji, it was clear that these villages were affected. “Certain fruit and vegetables do not grow anymore”, said one villager. However, their resilience was awe-inspiring and empowering.
Based on this we formed groups and chose the topic of Storytelling in order to tell stories of resilience and empowerment towards climate change and how Australians can transition from a disengaged attitude to one where they can act upon this in their daily lives.
We created a social enterprise called ‘Vanua’ – a Zine to showcase these stories in an innovative manner that BCII has taught us in order to help solve this issue that affects us all.
Overall, Fiji was a life-changing and educational phase of my life that I will never forget. It will never escape my mind how nice, friendly, unconditional and positive Fijians are. “If I say I love people then I love nature – we must preserve that”.
By Amartej Dhami