Fiji orphans teach students a lot about themselves

October 28, 2013

TEN days in an orphanage in Fiji opened the eyes of two Bingara district boys to not only another culture, but themselves.

Far from doing nothing during their school holidays, Tom Southwell and Darcy Smyth spent their time gardening, painting and playing with local children, as part of a group of 15 students from The Armidale School who undertook the service project St Christopher’s Orphanage, Suva.

Darcy Smyth and friends
Darcy Smyth from Bingara (left) and Lukas Cook (Moree) with their buddy Roko, aged 3,
who they befriended during a school service visit with St Christopher’s Orphanage at Fiji
during the school holidays.

During their visit to the orphanage, which is run by an Anglican order of nuns, the group (including a similar number of girls from New England Girls’ School and PLC Armidale), painted a boys’ bedroom repaired after a fire, built tables and cupboards, created a vegetable garden, cleaned windows, and assisted in the classroom of a local school with lessons and reading.

[Left: Tom Southwell and Samson, a
resident of St Christopher’s Orphanage.

“The jobs that we did helped the orphanage in many ways – an example of this is the money we saved, using the vegetable gardens we made will cut the money the home will have to spend on food and the painting we did added colour to their dormitories,” Tom said.

While the group may have taught the locals something about Australia, they also learnt a lot about themselves.

“What I learnt on the trip is that people don’t need money to be happy. I went to Fiji and everyone is so much happier over there because they are grateful for what they have, even if it isn’t much, but over here we think we need so much more,” Darcy said.

“We keep on asking, never stopping to think about how lucky we are. Each day our buddies were in a different shirt, that had been worn the day before by someone else. The kids at Fiji have learnt to share everything, even their clothes.”

Trip co-ordinator Fiona Taber from TAS, said the pilgrimage is a transformative experience for those who attend, and is true Christian service in action.

“There is no doubt that as comfortable Australians we have plenty we can give to the kids of St. Christopher’s but every year, our students come back with more than they took away. They come back with a new gratitude, a deeper understanding of how similar people across the world really are and the knowledge that it is better to serve than be served,” she said.