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Fijian orphans at the heart of volunteer mission

Published:17 January 2017

TOP: CQUni Mackay Nursing student Claire Kelly tutors Fijian orphanage children on her volunteer mission. MIDDLE: Project Fiji team members (from left) Caitlin Kennedy, Matthew Stewart, CQUni Nursing student and mission co-ordinator Claire Kelly, Katrine Sellar, Georgia Vaughan, Luke Kelly, Zoe Vaughan, Matthew Gover, Ally Cotchin and Zoe Barnes make the most of their time at Treasure House Orphanage in Nadi. BELOW: Project Fiji team members visited the local mud pools on their volunteer mission to the Treasure House Orphanage in Nadi.

Armed with 100 kg of donations, CQUni Mackay Nursing student Claire Kelly and a contingent of 11 high school and university students set out on a two-week volunteer mission to Fiji.

“CQUni paid for the shipping of five boxes of donations, which was an incredible help,” Claire said.

“Donations of toys, sports equipment, school books, clothes and shoes, craft, school supplies, toiletries and lunch boxes were enthusiastically and gratefully received by children at Treasure House Orphanage in Nadi.”

Each member of Project Fiji chose how they wanted to volunteer their time at the orphanage.

They taught English and Maths, conducted health classes and Christmas craft sessions, played lots of sports like cricket and soccer with the kids, fixed bikes and other equipment and entertained toddlers and babies.

Unexpectedly, they also taught the children to dance the Nutbush.

“One of the many highlights of our trip was when some Sunday School children came to visit the orphanage to perform traditional dances,” Claire said.

“The children were a bit shy; they sat back and watched for a while – but we couldn’t have that!

“Our Project Fiji team got up and started dancing with the visitors and we took the orphanage kids up with us.

“When it was our turn to share a dance, all 12 of us took centre stage in the dirt and started dancing to the Nutbush.

“The laughter was infectious and soon everyone was up on their feet joining in – it was a special moment of pure joy for all of us.

“The children hold a very special place in my heart and I’m missing them so much now that we’re home again,” Claire confessed.

This was the third overseas volunteer mission the former Mackay North State High School student had undertaken, and the first she’d coordinated.

Hailing from throughout Queensland and New South Wales, team members ranged in age from 15 to 25 and all were self-funded.

“By travelling together we were able to take advantage of group discounts and fundraising opportunities, which made a huge difference to the overall cost,” Claire said.

“Instead of paying in the realms of four-or-five-thousand dollars per person, each participant only paid about one thousand for the experience.”

CQUniversity’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Engagement, Campuses and Mackay-Whitsunday Region, Professor Pierre Viljoen said engagement, giving back and social innovation were at the core of the University’s strategic vision and values.

“CQUniversity strives to empower its staff and students to make a difference, create an impact and influence the world in which we live for the betterment of society,” he said.

“We are very proud of Claire’s efforts and were honoured to have the opportunity to support her and Project Fiji.”

To find out about upcoming group volunteering opportunities with Claire, or to provide support and assistance for her next mission, make sure to ‘Like’ the Project Fiji Facebook page.