In 2014 I was lucky enough to receive an Australian Government grant to travel to Fiji to work in a school as a part of my teaching degree. The organisation that supported the project is called the SEE Foundation, a Brisbane based educational outreach community group. I found myself on Taveuni, the fifth-largest island in Fiji working in a school in the village of Somosomo. At the school I helped create a library with books donated from Australia. I also provided support to the teachers with using technology in their classrooms, using computers donated by Queensland University of Technology. During the 10 days that I spent working at the school, that was accessed by a tough 15 minute uphill walk through dense tropical forest I learnt some incredible lessons about the integral role of community in Fijian culture. The experience that I had changed my perspective of my role in my community and my career as an educator.
When I came back to Australia I was speaking to my friend Mel about how touched I was by the people that I had met in Fiji. I shared my desire to do more work for the community of Taveuni. Thankfully Mel was in the process of starting the Rotaract Club of Brisbane CBD. I joined the club and was able to share my story of my experience in Fiji and my dream of giving more to the community. The wonderful members of the club shared my joy and we decided to use Taveuni as a fundraising focus which was later named ‘Books for Somosomo’. As a group we arranged a lovo (a traditional Fijian method of cooking food under the ground) with the help of the Fijian Methodist Church in Brisbane. From the night and various donations from schools in the Brisbane and Redlands area we managed to raise enough money to send some books in a shipping container to Taveuni. The Rotary Club of Taveuni has since distributed the books to Somosomo District School, for which the students and the teachers are extremely grateful.
Following the completion of the fundraising project I packed up my life and moved to Fiji. I am working with the Fijian division of The SEE Foundation in Suva on projects to help provide local schools with resources. Some of the books that were shipped to Taveuni have since been forward onto Suva. The books will be distributed to various schools in the Suva area. A box of books has already been donated to the Suva City Library.
I would like to say a massive vinaka vakalevu to the Rotaract Club of Brisbane CBD for assisting me in my dream of helping the children at Somosomo District School. A particular mention to Mel, the club president at the time, who had the enormous task of ensuring that the books made the journey from Australia to Fiji. The children of Somosomo District School’s educational outcomes have been greatly impacted by everyone’s hard work.
- Lauren Edmondson is a qualified Primary School teacher from Queensland, now working in Fiji