Fiji is a small island nation steeped in tradition and proud of who it is. Despite a century of colonization, the country has maintained strong indigenous identities and cultural practices. Fiji’s lands remain fertile, its oceans full of fish, and its villagers born into communal systems that still guide and support them through their lives.
Through history, most Fijians have been happy to live within their means in a bartering-based society. Today, however, the importance of money is rising, leading to a transition as people begin to see the value of adapting traditional mindsets and behaviors to accommodate contemporary capitalism.
This is where Peace Corps Volunteers offer support. Fiji has the resources to see an economic growth that is shared broadly, but there are a variety of enabling skills that do not come naturally within the indigenous context: financial literacy and money management, recordkeeping, project design, monitoring and evaluation, and business development, to name a few. Volunteers are uniquely positioned to support the development of these skills.
Nearly all Volunteers are placed in rural villages. Their goal is to help community organizations—such as women’s and youth groups—improve their project design and management skills, and to help individuals and families build income-generating activities and related money management skills. To accomplish this, Volunteers generally follow this sequence of activities:
1. Upon arrival to their communities, Volunteers spend several months focused purely on integration and language learning, settling into local rhythms and joining their neighbors’ daily activities, such as farming, fishing, washing, cooking, and drinking kava.
2. In time, Volunteers begin to more actively collaborate with counterparts, such as village mayors, leaders of women’s and youth groups, and other community members who carry a spark of initiative. Volunteers use a variety of participatory activities to mirror their counterparts’ economic development-related enthusiasms, gently guide their thoughts down efficient paths, and offer background support as community members mobilize and prioritize their efforts. Activities may include the development of cooperatives, communal projects, community savings groups, financial literacy trainings, and an array of income-generating activities.
3. As needed and appropriate, Volunteers scaffold their community’s efforts to find and solicit support from the myriad of government ministries and NGOs that provide relevant resources, which include some trainings that Volunteers may co-facilitate.
4. Finally, Volunteers use coaching skills to help community members deepen and leverage their new abilities, cheerleading and celebrating successes along the way.
The focus of this approach is sustainable capacity building, and Volunteers generally do not take the lead in identifying priorities or executing projects. The Peace Corps defines Volunteer success by the quality of community learning and empowerment that they facilitate, rather than the number or size of the projects they complete. For Volunteers who arrive to Fiji fresh out of the achievement-driven pulse of many U.S. colleges and jobs, the quiet pace and hands-off approach of Peace Corps’ development model can take some getting used to. Rather than managing much themselves, Volunteers help their communities build a suite of basic organizational and economic skills that, when understood deeply and wielded with diligence over time, can be revolutionary.
Let it be clear that this job begins and ends with heartfelt integration into rural, conservative, unhurried villages. Volunteers’ first priority is to be engaged neighbors and friends, loving community members as they want to be loved. Along the way, there are vibrant opportunities for Volunteers to leverage their business skills and passions, empowering the economic advancement of the community around them.
Health coverage, Housing, Living allowance, Non-competitive eligibility (federal jobs), Stipend, Student loan forbearance, Training
Prohibits paid work outside of the sponsoring agency at any time
Subject to criminal background check