After I was doing some research on primarily the safety aspect, GLA caught my eye and became one of my first choices. The safety was clearly demonstrated on their website and after being easily given contact information and talking with some very helpful staff. After looking at the destinations and what the different programs offered between my top choices, it was clear the Fiji at GLA was the perfect mix of volunteering and adventure.
Kylie was a high school student from Upstate New York at the time of her program. She had always loved to meet new people and try new things. Prior to this experience she had been out of the country on vacations but had never experienced a volunteering program abroad.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The GLA programs organizes everything that is involved in-country, leaving you to only have to organize the plane ride there. The program did give us a travel agency that they use to help set up your flights if you wanted to, which I did and had a great experience with them. GLA had transportation from the airport to the destinations for everything and there was always a leader from the program with us as well.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Be open-minded during this trip. It will bring you out of your comfort zone but you just got to go with the flow and be open to try anything that gets thrown your way. Understand that you are in a foreign country and things may be a little different but learn to be able to adapt. Also know that you will meet people from all over as well its different views, so be able to accept and understand your differences.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
While you are on the island, Monday through Fridays from 8-2 are spent at the village. The group was divided into three different groups that rotate throughout the length of the program. There was construction which build rainwater tanks, teaching in the school, and marine conservation. When in the village we would also have lunch everyday with the women who made us wonderful food while we were able to play with the little children who were too young to attend school.
After spending your days in the village you take a boat back to the home base and have until dinner to do as you please. You could swim, play volleyball with the staff, or enjoy tea time everyday at 4. On the weekends we would do different fun activities such as hiking or visiting a beautiful beach to have a cookout and snorkel with the locals.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest fear was making friends. Not that I am bad at making friends at home but I was still worried that maybe I would fluke and not be able to make any friends. Before I met all my soon to be friends, I gave myself a little pep talk to try and give myself some confidence and be myself.
Once I got to meet all the people I quickly released that all of my worries were wrong and that everyone was in the same boat as me, trying desperately to make friends out of strangers. In the end my fears were overcome by simply being myself and adapting to the new circumstance of meeting strangers who would soon be my family.
What is your favorite memory on this program?
One of my favorite memories would be the sunset hike that my group all took together one day after a hard day of work. The hike wasn't something that was very hard but just being able to enjoy the beautiful scenery around you while you spend time with your friends was so incredible. At the top of the hike was the best part though because after we all finished talking and taking picture, we were told to all sit in silence for a few minutes.
This gave myself and everyone I was with a time to think back to our first week of working in the villages and how truly inspiring and rewarding it is. There was something extraordinary about all sitting in silence and contemplating the same thing. After the brief moment, our mentors talked to us about some points of how important this is and to get the most out of it, and how we must transfer these good deeds to our own community. It was such a tender moment that made you really think deep about yourself that I feel most people don't experience enough.