An archipelago of more than 300 countries, the South Pacific nation of Fiji is best known through tourist brochures advertising its picturesque blue lagoons and arching palm trees, and certainly it is one of the most stunning corners of the globe, much of it relatively untouched with a population less than one million.
Fiji was originally settled by Austronesians, followed by Melanesians, declared a Crown colony 1874. In 1970, it gained independence, leading to a series of leaderships coups and sometimes hostile military takeovers, ending most recently with a democratic election in 2014.
Although it boasts one of the more developed economies in the Pacific with thanks to its forest, mineral and fish resources, more than 250,000 of its residents live in poverty. This is compacted with several other issues, such as a lack of quality health care (only 50% of the population has access to safe water and proper sanitation) and local infrastructure, youth unemployment, and a lack of educational and extracurricular activities for young people.
Why volunteer in Fiji
Beyond the rewards of assisting a local community, expanding your skill set and experiencing a different culture, volunteering in Fiji offers the chance to experience the beautiful country from a different perspective than that of typical tourists, with many programs offered in working class areas and with home stay placements. Given that many of Fiji’s social issues affect its youth, many volunteer programs are in place to assist this demographic, such as orphanage volunteering, remote island teaching, special needs school volunteering and English teaching. Beyond that, Fiji’s unique environment, like all small Pacific nations, is at risk from rising sea levels caused by global warming, deforestation and pressure on marine ecosystems. Some volunteer programs include disaster management, organic farming, and turtle and marine conservation.
Fiji can and does experience cyclones, typically between November and April, and further information on what to do in the event of a cyclone can be found here.
Endemic mosquito-borne illnesses, including dengue fever, are common, so inspect repellent is recommended.
Your passport should have at least six months validity from your intended date of return to Australia.
When travelling in rural communities, you should be respectful of local customs. Open displays of affection can offend, and the dress code is typically conservative.
Visit the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website for more details.
Image: Fiji Tourism
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