Thursday, May 16, 2013
Upon waking up to another awe-inspiring Yasawan sunrise, a perfect way to great the morning, I realised we had been blessed with near perfect diving conditions; the sea was flat calm, more like a millpond than open sea and with no wind at all! The unanimous decision was that we simply had to go for a fun dive (something we usually save for Friday mornings) to one of our favourite dive sites called Bonzai. A spectacular dive site that has captured all our hearts, 8km boat ride straight out to sea, spotting two manta rays breaching on the way, Bonzai is a sheer reef wall populated with all manner of exciting marine creatures. After descending 29/30metres (our maximum depth we can go as recreational divers) below the seas’ surface with breathtakingly crisp visibility (approx 22m), we spent a very happy (if slightly narked) 30 mins swimming and exploring along the reef wall, sighting 4 humphead parrotfish, a white tip reef shark and a green turtle! Without a doubt the best dive in Fiji yet, as I was able to face my fear of sharks and it’s been an all time dream of mine to see a turtle in its natural habitat!
In the afternoon we were taken to visit a trial Seaweed farm a couple of islands away, off Namatayalevu, the seaweed farm was developed for the communities of Vuaki & Namatayalevu as an alternative source of income for them, as they can sell the seaweed to Asia where they use it in the manufacture of beauty products among other things. After a spectacular boat ride viewing another side of the islands we hadn’t seen before, we arrived at the seaweed farm, donned our snorkel masks and jumped in (once the marine research coordinator had taken the photos she needs for her records, used to estimate size and growth), our job was to help cleans the lines/ropes that the seaweed grows on of all the algal growth that builds up, a job that needs to be done regularly otherwise the seaweed crop will become smothered and ultimately die. Of course we were able to have a nice swim around and explore the idyllic turquoise waters of the bay once we were finished.
On our way back to base we even spotted a whole bunch of rubbish floating in the water so a couple of us jumped in to fish it out, leaving us all with a nice warm satisfied glow and a good feeling that today we had definitely done our bit for Yasawan marine conservation.
Rowena Johnson (Marine Volunteer 8 weeks)
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Seeing a fully erect and functioning composting toilet was, quite possibly, the most satisfying moment of my GVI experience.
From day one this proved to be a challenging project. Our first choice of location had to be abandoned as we struck rock and then a layer of corrugated iron. The next four holes rapidly began filling with water as we tunneled down into the water table, as it conveniently poured with rain. But, still we persevered.
Sawing, nailing and more sawing followed in the next couple of days. Over a period of 72 hours a pile of planks was transformed into a meter-by-meter toilet on stilts surrounded by a scattering of bent nails, splintered wood, and a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears (mostly mine).
But, as we all stood gazing out onto ‘The Throne Room”, it all felt worthwhile.
A compost toilet is simply a wooden bench with a sizeable hole in its center, upon which people can excrete into the unsuspecting barrel bellow. Those barrels are then stored for about two years until the waste inside has decomposed sufficiently enough to be used as compost for fruit-trees. The fruit trees are able to filter out any residual bacteria through their stems leaving only the nutrient-filled goodness of human faeces.
So, not only did we provide a toilet to a school, which was definitely in need of a new one (any volunteer who had to use the old loos at the school can testify to that!), but we are now, indirectly, helping the local Fijians grow their own food using the recycled waste.
As volunteers I think we gained a lot from the experience: knowledge, muddy boots and not an inconsiderable amount of blisters. We all learned a lot about woodwork during those few days- how to hold a saw, where not to put your thumb when hammering nails, and not to turn too quickly when carrying a 14ft plank of wood. But, luckily, Jon’s upbeat and positive attitude, experience and patience more than made up for our general lack of coordination, and after a lot of laughs and hard work we got the job done.
All in all, a #winning day for GVI and the community!
Posted by Nadi office at 8:11 PM
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
This week marks the end of the first term of the 2013 academic year at Ratu Meli Memorial School. In a few months time we will have been at the school for two years and, as such, we have started to reflect on the achievements that we have made.
In the short term, we have used the first term to assess the effectiveness of our one-on-one program. In the early weeks of the term, we wrote a test for the one-on-one students based on what learning aims the teachers were expecting them to have met by the end of the first term. Volunteers sat with the students as they took the test and the results and comments on areas for improvement were logged. In week 13 we repeated the tests with the students to see what progress had been made.
The results were very encouraging. Every student on the program made an improvement. The only exception was for some of the advanced students who our volunteers unfortunately did not have enough time to see during the term. However, the students who were struggling the most have shown clear improvements. For some, these improvements have been fundamental areas. For example, students in class one who could not recognize letters of the alphabet can now do so and students in class two who could not do addition and subtraction now can.
These results have served several purposes. They have shown us that our program is effective and it has justified our decision to take students out of regular lessons to work with volunteers. It has also allowed us to make the decision as to whether some students should stay on the program next term or whether they have made enough of an improvement to leave the program. Finally, by testing the students in English and Mathematics, it has allowed us to see exactly what the students struggle with and what they have now learned. Looking ahead to the new term, we will repeat these tests and evaluate if any students need to join the program and who can leave. It’s been great for both volunteers and staff to see hard evidence of the success and the impact that they have made in terms of these children’s education.
Aside from these tests, it has been another successful term at the school. Volunteers have continued the good work carried out by their predecessors and our relationship with the school is as strong as ever. Considering the damage caused by Cyclone Evan, to see the school up and running and with attendance high, big congratulations should go out to the community, teachers and GVI for working together to repair and replenish the school so that the children of Nacula Island could receive the quality education that they deserve.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
On the 25th of April 2013, GVI Fiji and the Fiji Ministry of Youth and Sports signed a memorandum of understanding to confirm an official partnership between this government ministry and GVI projects in Fiji. The idea will be to promote further youth related projects, income generation programs, and new opportunities through the shared resources of the MOYS and GVI. After various presentations and a visit to the Yasawas, the Ministry of Youth and Sports were impressed by our projects and have endorsed our volunteer powered programs here in Fiji. After speeches from Mr Sania, Permanent Secretary of The Ministry of Youth and GVI Fiji Country Director, Dan, the MOU was publicly signed. With our new Dawasamu Base and projects launching this Saturday, this government recognition and support has come a great time as we work to expand our impact and support of new opportunities for the youth of Fiji.
Check out the following links for local media coverage of this milestone for our Fiji Projects:
- Fiji One TV News Footage http://fijitv.info/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/13.11402000.wmv
- Fiji Sun Article http://www.fijisun.com.fj/2013/04/26/deal-for-youth-work-growth/
- Fiji Times Article http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=232143
- Fiji Ministry of Information Posting http://www.fiji.gov.fj/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8044:government-inks-mou-to-promote-youth-development&catid=71:press-releases&Itemid=155
- The Jet Newspaper http://thejetnewspaper.com/2013/04/25/ministry-of-information-fiji-news-summary-500pm-250413/
- Ministry of Youth and Sports Yasawa Base Visit Pictures http://www.youth.gov.fj/index.php/photo-gallery/category/20-gvi-visit-yasawa
|Ministry Representatives and GVI Volunteers group photo on Yasawa Base|
|Katie receives a token of Ministry of Youth and Sports appreciation from Permanent Secretary, Mr Sania|
|MOU signing at Ministry of Youth Headquarters|
The 22nd of this month marked the 43rd annual Earth Day. Earth Day, celebrated worldwide, is a day where events such as rallies, clean ups, educational activities, festivals and tree plantings are held to help show support for environmental protection and help inspire people to work towards creating a more sustainable future.
The GVI Fiji Marine and Conservation Research Team played our part in Earth Day by participating in a huge beach cleanup. We took to the beaches armed with a heap of empty garbage bags and 3 hours later the results were astonishing; a pile high of rubbish including around fifteen full garbage bags, old chairs, bits of tin, broken thongs (or flip flops as I keep being corrected) empty bottles, countless plastic bags, old toys, clothing and even an old kettle, and of course one very clean beach.
After a short break at the local tea house where a lot of chocolate cake was consumed, we started the task of sorting through the pile of rubbish. Living on such a small Island like we do, the structuring of recycling is something we are responsible for ourselves, so all of our rubbish has to be separated into the correct bins. Another two hours later we had successfully separated the mountain of rubbish into separate piles for aluminium cans, glass, plastics, tin and burnables.
Overall the beach cleanup was a huge success and goes to show that even on a small island in the middle of the Yasawas, everyone can play a small part in helping clean up our Earth and promote environmental awareness.
Jade (Marine Expedition Volunteer)
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
We are in week 12 now so term one is nearly finished. Most tasks and CBAs are all completed. Class one has learnt about the letters A-Z and started reading. They learned about the nurse, the doctor and the safety rules on the road. Also they like to sing the song “I am a music man” and “old Mc Donald.” Every morning we start to “read” the rhymes “humpty dumpty”, “twinkle twinkle”, “georgie porgie” and “pat a cake.”
Class two likes to write and draw stories. They often do group activities. Unfortunately their volunteer changed 4 times now in term one, but still you can see a big improvement. In mathematics they work very hard. In Art and Craft they used empty toilet roles in order to create bees.
Class three, our smallest one, is very enthusiastic. In P.E. they often play rugby and soccer. This is obvious because there are eight boys and one girl. In Art and Crafts they made very funny animal masks before they did face painting. It was a lot of fun. In their music lessons they often do rhythm games.
Class four, our biggest one (23 students) work very hard. They do lots of reading and spelling. Once a week they have a library lesson. They visit the school library, chose a book and try to read it out loud.
The upper classes also have some computer lessons. Typing and working with computers is very important, especially for the students they’ll go to high school on the mainland. The high schools expect them to be able to work with computers.
For Easter every class created something to decorate the hall. Class one drew some Easter eggs, class seven and eight made some paper chains, class four drew rabbits and butterflies. Also, some students performed a drama about the Christian Easter story.
Every second Tuesday, the volunteers take the classes for extra curricular after three o’clock. From three to four o’clock we do puzzles, paintings, drawings, games and sing and dance together with the students. During the last 4 weeks we used these lessons in order to practice a flashmob. A flashmob is a kind of dance with many people. One group starts and with the time more and more groups join the dance. They really liked it. Last Friday as the students heard the music they ran out their classrooms and started dancing. Owen sat on the roof of the school in order to record it.
By Steffi Adam (10 week Education Volunteer)
This month, Global Vision International (GVI) Fiji’s Marine Research and Conservation team were involvemed in the Great Fiji Shark Count. The Great Fiji Shark Count encourages dive operators/ companies to record any sightings of sharks, turtles or rays whilst out snorkelling, scuba diving or fishing in Fiji.
The GVI Marine team have incorporated this practice into our daily research and conservation work. Each day we log between two to three dives at selected dive sites in the Yasawas. During the dives we make note of any sightings of sharks, turtles or rays, which species they were and how many of each were seen. All data is recorded into a provided log book along with other information such as the site name, the date, the time we entered and exited the water, water temperature, water visibility, the maximum depth we reached, the habitat type (high profile reef, low profile reef, sloping drop off, wall, ledge ect) whether anyone was seen spear fishing at the site, whether there was any food added to the water to attract fish, if any sharks were seen mating and if three or more baby sharks were spotted.
Why is it important?
Globally, up to 90 million sharks are estimated to be killed every year. Commercial fishing (shark finning) is the number one cause for the alarmingly high number of deaths per year, as the demand for shark fins (used in the “delicacy” shark fin soup) in heavily increasing particularly in the Asian markets. Over the past few years alone it is estimated that shark populations have declined by 70 – 90%, with such high percentages having devastating effects on our marine ecosystems.
Sharks are highly mobile, only a few are seen at one time, making shark population data quite difficult to collect. This is where the help of local communities/ companies such as GVI come into play. Also known as “Citizen Science” by having lots of eyes surveying a large number of reefs data is able to be collected across the whole of Fiji, in turn creating the first real picture of how many sharks there are in Fiji and which species live where.
The Big Picture
Collecting real and accurate data on Fiji shark populations is essential for the adequate management of the species, and the information collected through The Great Fiji Shark Count plays a huge role in supplying this data, not only for Fiji but also for global surveys.
Mads & Jade (Marine Expedition volunteers)