Philanthropy During Your Fiji Holiday

June 26, 2017

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One of the most common questions travelers to Fiji ask me is, ‘what can I take or do to help people in Fiji?’ Often this is from parents who want to have their children engage with local children and gain an understanding of the Fijian schooling system. Many individuals just want a chance to experience life in Fiji and develop an appreciation for the issues faced by citizens daily. Here are some suggestions for individuals or families looking to become involved in communities around the country during their stay.

Check with Your Hotel
Many hotels have ongoing community projects with local villages. In most cases, hotel staff are residents of nearby visits and visits to the community, or schools can easily be arranged directly through the hotel. Those who have opted to try this have had the best results when setting up the visit once they have arrived in the country. In this way, a community visit can be scheduled on a day where other plans get cancelled due to poor weather or other unforeseen circumstances. Some hotels engage in educational projects, environmental ones or health-related projects, all based on the location of the community and the most urgent needs.

Libraries
A visit to the local library will give you a good sense of the importance placed on education and learning in Fiji. While many libraries are inadequately resourced, they are brimming with vibrant hope. There are over 900 libraries in Fiji. I suggest libraries because you (and your family) might have the opportunity to engage in afterschool or holiday programs (where they exist). There is also scope to offer your story reading services or lead a craft or musical activity. Libraries are also a good place to donate. Many libraries use the donations to give children, who otherwise cannot afford the minimal membership fees, the chance to become members.

If you are interested in donating books I would consider newer titles. Browse through the shelves of many of these libraries and you will notice the absence of the current reference books, the latest pop culture titles, or new titles in general. Too often it is ex-library books from the developed world that gets sent to developing countries. While books of any nature are an asset, it is rather unfortunate for children, and adults for that matter, to miss the Harry Potter series for instance!

Hand Over Your Cash – In-Flight
If you fly Fiji Airways this is an option available to you. Fiji Airways In-flight Cash for Kids program was developed by the airlines cabin crew and helps fund the Fiji Airways charity, Wings of Hope. The program collects unused foreign coins (or notes) from on-board guests which become part of the funding for Wings of Hope. Since becoming aware of the program I have collected foreign currency from all our travels that seem to find themselves all over our home and put them in our travel cases, ready to hand over to the cabin crew. A few Wings of Hope projects have included buses for special education, water sanitation in schools and scholarships. If you do have your currency ready but miss the collection, or do not hear the announcement for it, simply hand it over to a crew member.

Ask and Listen
I find it hardest to calm the excitement and good intentions of visitors who want to fix everything. One of the best things you can do in a new country, and to truly understand the developmental issues is to talk to the locals. Ask them questions, listen to their stories – and truly listen. Local communities often have traditional ways of addressing problems and utilizing this local knowledge will help create sustainable solutions.

Is engaging with local communities important to you when you travel? 

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June 20, 2017

alifeunstyled-25-52-17a portrait of my son, once a week 

Rafa Those curls. They only happen in Fiji.

Previous portraits here.

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June 13, 2017

 

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a portrait of my son, once a week 

Rafa Bird watching. People watching. Always watching.

Previous portraits here.

Things I Wish I Had Known: Pregnancy & Parenthood

June 6, 2017

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Photo by Sinead Jenkins

I got all sorts of advice when I was pregnant. Much of it was advice I sought, some of it offered, most of it helpful. Much of it not, which I only realised after I had my baby. Amidst the advice I got, there were a few things that I felt got left out (with the benefit of hindsight), so I share them here. This is based on my experience, and in sharing my experience and story I am in no way invalidating or discrediting anyone else’s experience. Anytime you talk about parenting, it’s easy to offend people, I hope this post can be taken in the spirit in which it is written. A first time mumma sharing what she wished she had known, but didn’t. It’s written in the spirit of community and compassion.

1. That labour and birth might not be drawn out. That it is entirely possible that your water would break the way it does in the movies (luckily, this happened to me at home and not at a cafe, like I was convinced it would – but was continuously consoled that your waters only break in that stand-up-waters-come-gushing-out-sense in the movies). That it might not take a three days of contractions for your baby to be born. Essentially, that while some labours are long and drawn out others are not. And that with the birth stories that instill a sense of desperation and fear in unknowing first time mothers, that there are stories of relative calm and peace. I would have loved to have been comforted in the fact that my labour could have gone both ways. I was only ready for long and scary, rather that fast and relatively calm.

2. Post-natal recovery might be a B*&$%. Why after sharing so many stories about difficult deliveries did no one care to mention the post-natal recovery? I was convinced I would never walk again. Ever. I was literally scared that I would have to do physiotherapy for months to learn how to walk. I wasn’t prepared for this at all. Those 4 inch heeled boots I packed to come home in? Huh! Jokes on me baby. I came home in flip-flops, crutches and tears. I had no tearing, no stitches, no intervention and took no pain relief but my goodness was post-natal recovery a B&%$&! I wish someone had flagged it as something that might possibly happen (and everyone saying, oh yes I remember that, afterwards, not as helpful, though perhaps a little comforting).

3. Most babies need to learn to sleep. What the F%$&! Neither Patrick nor I were prepared for this one. All the babies we’ve encountered were always asleep. What do you mean they need to learn to sleep or to stay asleep? You’d think any child of Patrick and mine would innately be able to do this. Now, if I had to buy a first time mumma anything, it would be a consultation with a baby sleep consultant. There are lots of thoughts about them but the consultant we worked with just before the four month sleep regression made a huge difference. I wish I had her help in those early weeks (not to ensure my child slept, because apparently they need to feed for hours, four hundred times a night) to help establish healthier sleeping patterns from the beginning.

4. They might not like the pram, or specifically the pram you bought them. Again. What? But apparently, this is normal. I wish I had known. Some babies take to the pram straight away, others don’t like it, others don’t like the one you have. I’ve come to appreciate this about babies. Rafa tolerates his pram now (it still takes coaxing). Actually, this point should really have been, babies might not like the things you’ve bought them. I’m glad we waited to meet Rafa before buying things. They might not like the cot, or the mosses basket, or the pacifier, or the baby carrier. Maybe they just need time. It isn’t guaranteed that your baby will take to all the things you’ve bought.

5. That you might not find the first few weeks magical, and that’s okay. I didn’t suffer from post-natal depression, but I certainly didn’t find anything magical about those first few weeks. I’m glad I had the confidence to say so instead of pretending. Which is why I say it here. If you find/found those weeks magical, that is amazing and absolutely beautiful. If you didn’t, that’s okay too. I was annoyed. I was giving so much to this child. I loved him dearly and all he did was scream when my boob wasn’t in his mouth or when he wasn’t on me. It wasn’t until Rafa started smiling at me that I started seeing the magic. Until then, I just got on with it. The magic came later and that’s okay.

The most unhelpful advice I ever received. Sleep when they sleep. I still want to scream when I hear that. At night yes, sleep when they sleep. During the day? This was unhelpful and stressed me out so much that even when I tried to sleep, I couldn’t because I was so busy thinking about how I needed to be sleeping.

Are there some things you wish you knew about pregnancy, birth or parenthood? Things that truly surprised you, or drove you bat-shit-crazy?

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June 5, 2017

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a portrait of my son, once a week 

Rafa A love of books

A few times a day you’ll find him at his bookshelf. Either looking through his books, or scribbling in his notebooks with his honey sticks (crayons). Often he’ll bring a book to us, get our attention, pull our hand, ensure our palms are open and place the book there. He’ll sit down next to us. His intentions are clear.

Previous portraits here.

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June 5, 2017

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a portrait of my son, once a week 

Rafa “Nana! Nana!”

The Hindi word for maternal grandfather, pronounced na-na. A few times this week Rafa has tugged at my sleeves, made attempts at my phone saying “Nana! Nana!” So, nana we call.

Previous portraits here.

What Do You ‘Really’ Use?

June 1, 2017

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I had a friend check with me to see what I ‘really’ use, in terms of skincare. “I know you talk a lot about Savar, but do you really use them? Do you really love them as much as you say you do?” Surprisingly, comments and questions like these don’t offend me. I’ve come to expect them, though what is surprising is that I don’t get asked them too often. I’d like to think it’s because my friends and readers know that I only share what I truly love. Questions and comments like these make sense because there are so many bloggers and influencers talking about so many products that they “just love” and “totally recommend”.

So, today I’m sharing some of my empties. Just a few products that I’ve used up recently and will be buying more of because they form such an integral part of my skincare routine.

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1. Savar Rosehip Ultra Brightening Serum. I’ve written about this serum numerous times (in fact I’ve been going on about it since 2015, here). I’ve lost count as to how many bottles of this serum I’ve gone through. If this helps…there are two empties in my bathroom and one that’s almost empty as well. It’s not that they run out quickly, they actually go quite a long way, but I’m constantly using it because it makes my skin feel so good.

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2. Savar Advanced Hand Repair. This is my second empty of this hand cream. I liked it the first time I used it, but then ended up using something else, and then switched back to it. Both Patrick and Rafa use it as well, and we love the subtle fragrance. I’ll be replacing this because it’s the perfect size for my handbag (and for travel) but it usually sits on the kitchen counter so we can take care of our hands throughout the day. We love seeing our guests help themselves to it too!

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3. Savar Wonderlift Eye Cream. This is only the first bottle of the Savar Eye Cream that I’ve finished, the first that I’ve had. It is actually the first eye cream that I’ve ever committed to using continuously. I’ve seen a drastic improvement in my under eye area. A few months ago I couldn’t wear concealer or foundation as my under eye area was so dry that the products just caked. It wasn’t pretty. I had to forego covering up the dark circles and actually address the issue with skincare and a few changes to my diet. This is the best value for money eye cream that I’ve come across (and I’ve looked a fair bit).

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4. Savar Antioxidant Night Cream. Like the eye cream, this is the first bottle I’ve tried and have finished. I’ve used it every night for a few months now. It’s lovely and thick (not greasy) and absorbs beautifully. It’s also a product that works well when you’re sharing a bed with someone. I’ve used a few products in the past that Patrick wasn’t really thrilled about. This is effective on my skin but gentle enough to not upset anyone around me (ie Patrick and Rafa).

I cannot believe I’ve come to a point in my skincare journey where I actually use up products before they ‘expire’. I haven’t had to throw any of my Savar products out because I use them up. I’m no longer switching between a variety of products hoping something works (though I do mix and match a few, I’ll tell you about that later). And for the record, yes I really use Savar products. My skincare is almost entirely made up of their range of products and yes I really do love them as much as I say. Actually, no I love them even more than I say.

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