Saturday, June 28, 2008


MILES from home can be difficult but for Clare Deacon, the challenge is an exciting one.
The 24-year-old is a volunteer worker from GAP Activity Project which arranges placements for volunteers from places such as the United Kingdom and Ireland to work in schools and institutions around the world.
Clare is a volunteer staff at the Levuka library and museum.
Originally from Orpington in England, she is the eldest of two children.
Her mother Elaine is a legal secretary while her father Terry works as an information technology consultant.
Growing up in the suburban town south of London, Clare and her brother had a happy and normal childhood.
She initially wanted to be a veterinarian because she was always around animals.
"I had a good upbringing," Ms Deacon said.
"I grew up around animals especially a lot of cats.
"Life was pretty normal for us.
"I attended primary school at Warren Road from Class One to Class Six and later at Priory Secondary.
"It was in a counsel estate which is something like Raiwaqa here.
"I had a good experience at school.
"My primary school was very middle class, very white but secondary was different. There were a lot of mixed races so it was an eye-opener for me."
When she was 18, she joined GAP where she spent four months as an English teacher in a small village in Peru.
Living overseas was a challenge for her especially when she had to adapt to the culture and lifestyle in Peru.
She said language was a barrier but with confidence she was able to learn.
"I lived with a local family in San Salvador. I was a volunteer for English, art and sports.
"However, in 2006 I completed my university degree in International development at Norwich.
"I then worked in London for a charitable organisation called Greater London Enterprises.
"At the same time I was looking for a job overseas.
"I found out about Fiji through the GAP Activity Projects and I applied and was posted to work with the National Trust of Fiji in Suva."
She arrived in the country in January this year.
She has been living with a local family and says she loves every minute of it, especially the new things she found out.
Before she moved to Levuka, Clare spent a few weeks at the Sigatoka sand dunes before she was transferred to the library on Ovalau.
"I really like Fiji.
"It is a good and beautiful place. and the people are so good.
"I will be in Fiji until September when I have to go back but I want to extend my stay.
"I will wait and see if there are other projects.
"At the moment, I love working here in the library and love helping people.
"Working for charity is something I like to do.
"I was fortunate to have a good upbringing.
"The library is a good way to help develop and broaden people's knowledge."
Adapting to the Fijian lifestyle was something she found challenging at first but Clare maintains that the experience has been worthwhile.
She has learned to be a more confident and independent person.
Her advice to people in general is to grab every opportunity that life presents.
"If you are shy, you will never know what you can achieve with every opportunity."
While she may not have turned out to be a vet as she wanted, Clare has been a vegetarian since university.
She said if she could not be a vet then being a vegetarian was the closest way to express her passion and care for animals.