Report on Fiji Build for Habitat for Humanity - Suanna Smith
On the 27th of September I embarked on an amazing journey. 16 New Zealanders including my self and my sister set off to Labasa, Fiji. After a 30min bumpy bus ride from the air port we made it to the Habitat for Humanity main base - an ex school facility. The buildings consist of 4 classrooms, and an ablutions room. The first of the old class rooms was the sleeping area for the Fijian builders we were working along side, the next class room was the room the 11 women in our team shared, the next room was storage of tools and valuable building materials and the last class room was still being used by the kindergarten that was run alongside the school. The kindergarten is currently waiting for their new room to be built on the new school ground. The men from our team slept in the houses of two families next door to the school.
We had lots of adventures in Labasa: sleeping on the floor of a classroom, the logistics of sharing one shower, travelling on the back of utes to the building sites, and of course building in the humidity and heat. Our first building day we worked in small groups, painting the frame work walls (me), strapping the joists down (my sister), while another group started prepping the deck area. By the end of the day we had a large portion of the deck done and all of the wall frames were painted and most of them were up and in position. The second day we continued strapping and bracing the wall framing, started digging a massive hole to be dug for a tank, and there was more painting to be done also - a combination of awesome orange for the doors and window shutters and purple for the window sills and frames – my work shirt is very colourful!
We go so far through the first house that they decided to take the women to a second build site to repeat the painting, decking and strapping process. The men from our team stayed at site one to help out with roof cladding and framing the windows. This meant we got to know two families, and two building teams, which was great – lots more people to answer our questions about Fiji, their cultures, the sugar cane burning process etc.
I was absolutely blown away with our hosts - they worked so hard and even organised a special birthday dinner for the two birthday girls, complete with cake and ice-cream!
Day Six was our final build day. The women headed off to house two to finish off what we could. At lunch time we wrapped up and headed back to base to prepare for the blessing ceremony for house one. Andrew from our team had made a special plaque for the house which said ‘Kia Kaha’ – Stand Strong. The house was blessed, we sang a song for the family, then it was hugs and time to leave. It was very emotional for both us and the family as we could see that what we had achieved in a week would change their lives. And that was the most special gift we could give.
That night, the Fijian builders put on a special lovo for us (similar to a Hangi), and we shared in a feast and the special Kava ceremony, where we sang and shared stories together. I think it was quite an awesome experience for all. We packed up our base camp at the Habitat base the next day and said goodbye to our hosts and the awesome team, both Kiwi and Fijian, as we were all off on our own adventures.
My Habitat build is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life and I would like to take this opportunity to thank my amazing church family for all their support both financial and emotional that helped get me there and be apart of something so amazing. For those keen to learn about Habitat’s work locally please contact Katherine Granich on 09 2713357. Habitat will be sending two teams to Fiji in 2015 – if you’d like to volunteer please contact LJ or Jane on 09 2713357. If you’d like to volunteer in other overseas countries please contact Kosala 09 5794111.
With Love and gratitude,