Published on: 17 May 2013

Students and staff from Christ Church and St Hilda’s spent seven days at St Christopher’s orphanage in Suva during the Term 1 school holidays. Service in Action (SIA) follows on from the successful Pilgrimage of Hope (POH) service learning program at Christ Church – based on the Christian call to serve others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves.

Director of SIA Canon Richard Pengelley said the group’s role at St Christopher’s, run by three Anglican Sisters of the Sacred Name, included a combination of service jobs while the children were at school and ‘buddy time’ when they returned home. The SIA group, predominantly Years 7 and 8 students, also engaged fully with the spiritual life of the children including daily morning prayer and Eucharist, evening singing with a reflection, and Sunday worship in the local parish. There was also time for the group to reflect, de-brief and journal each day.

Upon arriving at St Christopher’s, the group met the children and played with them for the first time. Father Richard said the boys especially enjoyed playing physical games with the children. “After two days, the level of friendship and interaction was much better with everyone joining in all the games,” he said. When work was finished for the day, time was spent learning games from the Fijian buddies and teaching them some of their own.

In the tour group’s blog, they described the service work – including gardening, painting, sorting, cooking, building, cleaning and fence maintenance – as hard but fun: “Especially with some boys falling in holes to get the dirt out! The painting girls had as much paint on their legs as on the walls and the girls upstairs kept everyone entertained with their singing.” They also described the satisfaction of their work: “The medicine cabinet is now clean, restocked and the windows and buildings have been washed.”

A day out with their buddies at the movies was memorable for all: “The day was really special and it was great to get to know our buddies more – like when Jack’s buddy drew a picture of him and gave it to him at the movies; Sabi’s buddy gave her a colourful necklace and Tristan’s buddy took 40 silly photos of him on his camera!”

Other highlights included spending the morning at a local school, and visits to Nadi village and the South Sea Island. The group also enjoyed a special Anzac Day service performed by Father Richard. “There was a tearful farewell but a promise to be back next year for more fun, growth and relationship building,” Father Richard said.

Father Richard thanked Jo Swain from St Hilda’s and Poh-Yoke Lee, SIA Administrator, who did so much work to make the trip run so smoothly. “Also to Colin Harrison for the wonderful food and bad jokes that brightened everybody’s day!”