Alumni Spotlight: Chanice Askham

Currently Chanice is working part time, waiting to transition into her career as a beauty therapist working onboard cruise ships. She is very outgoing and will always try anything.

Why did you choose this program?

volunteering with children in Fiji

I have always wanted to go volunteering abroad, however I never came across anything that stood out to me until I had a tutorial at college lead by Matt Ray, telling us all about the experience.

As soon as he said the word Fiji I was in, I knew from that moment that I NEEDED to go. Fiji has always been a priority on the list of places I want to travel to, and the fact that I could combine my dream of volunteering and an item on my travel bucket list was amazing.

Also, I loved the fact that in addition to volunteering, you get to see Fiji for what it is, and in all its beauty and glory! The two week itinerary couldn't of been more perfect for me.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

For this program literally everything was provided and organized for you. From activities, to travel, to food, and more. You even get your personal travel agent to assist you when booking flights.

However, if you want to take it upon yourself to book flights and go earlier you are welcome to do that as well. In the case of going out early you have to organize your own trip for the duration of the time you are on your own, but after that literally every last thing has been provided and organized for you.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Part of me wishes I had done more research on what the living conditions were like in Fiji and how poverty stricken they really were. Regardless of how much volunteering and how much of an impact I made on their lives, it hurts me knowing that I could have done more.

If I researched more myself then I would have been more prepared. However, not knowing was probably better as I feel I then got more out of the experience emotionally.

Apart from that I feel that everything we needed to know was presented to us well before. Obviously, there was always elements of surprise like what Fiji actually looked like and what we would be faced with feeling emotionally.

I can't recommend going abroad to volunteer to my friends more. It's a very humbling and amazing experience. I would just say that if you get the chance, then you should definitely take it. If there's any advice I could give anyone it would be to always go into this experience with an open mind and an open heart.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

This program particularly was very busy, but not over powering. No matter what activities you would have in the day you would always have time to relax after so you were in best form for volunteering the next day.

Typically, we would wake up in the morning get ready and have breakfast all together then make our way over to the school. On a Monday morning there would be an assembly with the whole school, which would include the students singing hymns and what to expect for the week. For the rest of the days students would just proceed to their classroom in the morning. For around half an hour the students would play a few games and then sing hymns together until all the students had arrived - some took longer than others as they were four villages attending the school.

After all the students had arrived the teacher started with normal lessons preparing them for future exams. At the beginning of the week we just assisted the teachers and got to grips with learning how all the different students learned so we could help them in the most suitable way for them. As the weeks progressed we provided a lot of one-on-one help with students that needed it.

Finally, we all started teaching lessons on our own (with the teachers assisting us). After we would teach for the morning we would go back to the house and lunch would be prepared for us. After lunch we would go to do an activity included in the itinerary, this could be visiting a local waterfall or visiting one of the top ten beaches in the world. This would usually be between one and four hours, then we would visit a local hostel on the beach for some downtime. This would give us time to relax and reflect on the day together ready for the next day.

By the time we got home, dinner would already be prepared for us and we were allowed to then do as we want for the rest of the evening.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was going into a group that I didn't know and into a really intimate situation. We did meet a few times before going to Fiji together but it was in a very relaxed situation and only for a couple of hours at a time.

I spent the first few days on my own in a city in Fiji which really made me develop this fear of what it would be like staying with people I really didn't know. As soon as the others flew in and we all met up ready for our transfer to the village of Namatakula, it was really natural and calm atmosphere.

Within a few hours it literally felt like we'd known each other for ages and all my worries just disappeared. Even now to this day I'm really good friends with the people I experienced my time in Fiji with, they were the most supportive and amazing people I've ever met and I couldn't have been luckier than to meet them in such an amazing experience.

What did you learn from your experience?

I learned how much of a closed life I live. Obviously, I always knew that in different countries people lived different lives and in different conditions, but I don't think I could have ever comprehended what it is like until I experienced it first hand. Overall, I feel more humbled and I feel so lucky and grateful for what I have.

Being in Fiji gave me a lot of time to reflect on my life and what I wanted to achieve from it. I went into the experience knowing 100% what I wanted to do with my life and what my next steps were and came out knowing about 30%.

Fiji was a massive learning curve for me. Instead of trying to map out my future I'm taking one step at a time and am making sure everything I do is the most fulfilling it can be.