Twenty-two Sequim students, parents and volunteers are preparing for a summer vacation they'll never forget.
Through the organization Kadavu Connection, the group will travel to Kadavu, Fiji, where they'll stay from July 8-29 as they will:
_ Perform community service projects at Nakasaleka District School
_ Bring educational materials to the Fiji youths regarding preservation and protection of natural marine resources, particularly turtles
_ Donate financial aid, school supplies and library books, and
_ Experience a culture rich in tradition.
Participants will engage in village festivities and learn mat weaving, Fijian song and dance, and how to cook on a wood fire. They will teach villagers about American culture, art, sports and more.
While this is the first Friends of Fiji-Veitau ni Viti summer tour, Kadavu Connection sponsored schools and students in Fiji for the past five years and has given more than $20,000 from donors all over the world.
Connie Durant - group leader and Kadavu Connection founder - lived in Fiji with her family for three years from 2004-2006.
"After being in Sequim for a couple of years, I could see that the students here could really benefit from the students there," Durant said.
"What I think is so special (about this project) is that it's not a one-way trip - us helping them. They have so much to offer us."
Kadavu is the fourth-largest island in Fiji. As a remote island with only a few roads near the airport, people travel by boat or foot.
Households have no electricity except for some generators. Flushing toilets and showers are available, but refrigerators and stoves are not.
Lomanikoro Village, where students will spend most of their time, has about 100 residents and 80 children at the school.
Like Durant, other volunteers have close connections to Fiji.
Karl Hatton, an emergency medical technician, lived in Hawaii for seven years and worked in Fiji for one year. Hatton said he's excited to share the Fijian culture with his 13-year-old daughter Olivia.
"I'm excited for my daughter to see other people's perspectives and learn that the world is bigger than what you can see," Hatton said.
"This country is great and this town is great but, until you see the world and how others live, you can't truly enjoy where you are from."
Students are encouraged to keep journals during the trip.
Six spaces still are available on the tour, which Durant hopes to fill with students, an art teacher and a sports instructor.
Each participant must raise $3,000. Scholarships are available.
As a group, Friends of Fiji-Veitau ni Viti is trying to raise an additional $15,000 to help fund the tour and Fiji School Fee Sponsorship Program.
Upcoming fundraisers include selling beaded bracelets for $5 at various Sequim locations, a marimba band and teriyaki dinner in May, a silent auction and raffle, a car wash, a garage sale, and a bake sale.
If Durant has her way, the trip will become an annual event.
In the meantime, students - ages 11-18 from Sequim Middle School, Sequim High School, Olympic Peninsula Academy and Helen Haller Elementary - are meeting monthly to learn about Fijian culture and discuss appropriate summer tour behavior.
A kayaking adventure is scheduled in Port Townsend so students won't experience the activity for the first time in Fiji.
Durant also plans a trip to Victoria, British Columbia, so students can practice using their passports.
Durant said she hopes the project will make a complete circle, allowing Sequim to host students from Fiji for three weeks.
For an application, itinerary and informational packet, call or e-mail Durant at 683-2249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information is available online at www.kadavu
Ashley Miller can be reached at email@example.com.
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