This article was first printed in The Anglican Magazine from the Auckland Diocese
Supported by the Tikanga Pakeha Missions Council Grant »
Shipping a playground to Fiji and then taking a group of yr 12 and 13 students over to construct it was an ambitious and somewhat daunting task but due to the support of the Diocesan School for Girls community as well as the local community in Fiji, this project gained a momentum of its own, complete with a number of ‘wow’ moments where things simply fell into place.
In the July school holidays 19 Year 12 & 13 students from Diocesan travelled to Fiji to build a playground for the kindergarten at St John’s Anglican School in Wailoku, Suva. The Service Trip itself was self-funded but resourced with the materials through the fundraising efforts of school’s Giving programme. As an expression of our school motto, Ut Serviamus (That We May Serve), each term is devoted to either a local or international agency and every student in the Junior High and High School is involved in fundraising for that cause with their Tutor Group. The Junior School students traditionally focus their Giving through chapel offerings but this time caught ‘Fiji fever’ and went above and beyond with additional initiatives. Together the student community raised around $10 000 and, in doing so, created a sense of connection between the whole school and the Service Trip itself.
Support also came from the wider Diocesan school community. The Shipping costs, as well as storage and delivery on both shores, was sponsored by companies associated with families of the school as were donations of key play equipment and a water tank and filter. A generous private donation was gratefully received, as was the grant from the Tikanga Pakeha Missons Council which further enhanced the sense of connection with the Church for the endeavour.
For the school’s senior students, the opportunity to engage in practical acts of service was grabbed with both hands. Remarkable for their tenacity (if not their building experience!) they immersed themselves in every aspect of the project: clearing the site; building a fence; laying safety matting; and installing the freestanding play equipment – every challenge was met with enthusiasm and commitment. As one student reflected, ‘It was an amazing experience which really changed the way I view everything in life. I loved getting to know the children at St John’s, to see that they were so content and happy made me realise how much we take for granted.’
Most notable of course was the relationship that was forged through the whole experience. The desire to deepen our connection with our Tikanga partners sat at the forefront right from the beginning and it was with a deep sense of connection with the Church that we received Archbishop Winston’s blessing to travel to his diocese in this way. Indeed the whole exercise from the initial stages of communication and planning, through to the completion of the playground was a profound experience of partnership and mutuality.
Once we arrived in Fiji, the support of the local community was amazing. At every turn there were people to contribute to as well as enhance the experience. From the genuinely pleased customs officer who cleared our container in record time, to the good natured bus driver who rolled up his sleeves each day to labour with us, everything we experienced amounted to a profound sense of privilege to be part of it. Each day at the kindergarten men from the village arrived to work alongside the students, offering their skills and strength to the girls’ offering of resources and a willingness to serve. It was a special time, punctuated with stories and laughter, which crossed barriers of cultural, language and socioeconomic differences.
Acts of hospitality appeared at every turn; from the lunches that arrived every day to the feast after the Church service and farewell ceremony, we were humbled to be cared for so generously by people who had comparatively little. It was upon reflection of this that it became apparent to the whole team that any efforts made on our part to gift the community at Wailoku through our service, had been surpassed by their gift of themselves and their embrace of us into their community. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the school and its kindergarten in the future.
The Reverend Sarah Moss