By TAGIMEUCIA KOROIVUKI
Elisa Hofmann (18) came all the way from Germany to volunteer under the Care Project in Fiji. Elisa had recently completed her studies and she chose to take a gap year travelling and doing social work.
Working with children with special needs has always been on Elisa’s best interest.
“I chose to work with disabled children because I previously worked in Germany at an institution for disabled people and I wanted to gain further experience in this field,” she shared.
“These children with disabilities need a lot of help because they depend entirely on the teacher or volunteer to be that link to the community. I came to give all my love and help as much as possible,” she added.
Elisa believes that more volunteers should be encouraged to help out at the Nadi Centre for Special Education.
“I definitely think this placement needs a huge help from Projects Abroad in terms of more volunteers, I recognized this problem on my first day,” she enthused.
“There is a lack of teachers and considering that each of these children, has a disability makes it difficult as we cannot give individual attention,” she added.
Daily tasks for Elisa would include “assisting the teacher in everything such as projects, lessons, games and I also contribute ideas such as painting and arts & craft,” she shared.
“Recently I’ve recognized that some students have difficulty in reading so I have sessions with students to improve their reading skills,” she added.
Volunteer work in Fiji has definitely given Elisa a surer path to follow in the future.
“My experiences from Fiji and Germany and seeing the differences in children with disabilities have really helped me in handling different situations. I’m thinking of studying a subject with disability after I finish my volunteer work,” she opined.
“I really learnt how to be strict because I’m usually too friendly to the kids and I need to be firm at times. I have helped by assisting and giving individual attention towards the children by involving fun activities such as singing, arts & crafts and games which makes them more interested in learning,” she remarked.
Elisa loved the Fijian culture the very moment she arrived.
“We were greeted by a small band at the airport. They were smiling, singing and welcoming us with Bula! It was like ‘WOW!!!’, I’ve never seen that before. From the first second you step into the airport you feel welcomed,” she enthused.
“The people are so friendly and the country is amazing but I have to admit I really miss the food in Germany,” she added.
Her best experience would be at the Holiday school where “I taught two girls an English rule which didn’t make sense to them. After explaining for more than 20 minutes, they understood clearly which made me feel so good afterwards,” Elisa shared.
“I’m so proud that I had the patience to go through it all,” she added.
Elisa concluded with her thoughts about her overall Fiji experience.
“I love that I experienced the difference in culture. We are not here as tourists, because tourists usually get to know the best side of the country whereas volunteers live the real Fiji life with the locals,” she shared.
We eat and live the way locals do, which is a very important part of volunteering. You can’t help them if you don’t know what they are going through,” she concluded.