Kennedy Johnson - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I've always dreamed to be part of something bigger than myself. I've always had this thought in my head as to I never wanted to be famous like across the world instead I wanted to be know in the hearts of the lives I have touched while trying to make the world a better place.

Why did you choose International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)?

I chose IVHQ after many weeks and months of research and digging. I looked into and called so many organization before I decided on IVHQ. My destination was Fiji, my project was childcare, and my duration was two weeks. I chose Fiji mostly at random honestly, I just wanted to go somewhere where I was truly needed and my heart told me it was Fiji and I did childcare because I am in the process of pursuing a teaching degree in grade school and knew this was the perfect fit.

Fijian students performing for volunteer teachers
The night before this class me and Lexie stayed up all night to hand cut all the little pieces of the lions mane and the white masks then after that we put the whole lesson plan together. The kids literally loved it so much and were so intrigued and focused on what a lion is and what it does.

What was your favorite part Fiji?

My absolute favorite part of Fiji was the pure kindness. I can't even explain to you how amazing every single person is there. No matter what day or time everyone is always so kind. You can't walk down the road or into store without a warm Fijian Bula (Hello) from every single person you encounter. Taxi drivers? SO nice and helpful! Stranger sitting on the bus? Your new Fijian best friend. I'm not kidding you guys, I literally brought this trait home with me and I think it has helped me so much as a person whether it's work, school, or just being social. Fijian happiness came back to the US with me!

What made your experience abroad unique?

I think what made my travel experience so unique is how much it changed me as a person. 18 and alone I set out to face so many fears all at once. I'm sure I'm not the only one but the person I became after Fiji is someone I want to be for the rest of my life. I realized their was so much more to the world then what I thought I knew. I became so so unbelievably grateful for my life and my family and everything I have. I don't surround myself with negative things and people and I just realized I was never truly missing out on anything in life because I had such bigger plans than my original plan.

Volunteer with young boy in Fiji
This was my very last day with the littles. These kids and the amazing girls I met on this trip have forever changed me as a person and I couldn't be anymore grateful.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff was honestly key to my survival in Fiji. My very first night Teva, a local staff membered ended up spending the night with me because I had arrived on a Saturday and everyone in our house had left or went to Nadi for the weekend. So when she got off work she went home changed her clothes and got her phone and charger then came back to hangout with me and had a sleepover with me until the other volunteers arrived home Sunday and it meant so so much to me. As for everyone else they all were always so happy and cheerful always wanted to know how we were doing personally and at our placement. The house that I stayed at also had a handful of amazing women who spent a good amount of time hangout out with us telling stories and helping us with our language skills.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I would've had more than two weeks.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

A typical day in the life of my program was eventful to say the least. In the morning I would wake up, walk around the house see who was up or get up who needed up. Then I would go get ready in my room, then once I came back out usually the majority of the girls were up. Our house consisted of morning runs, yoga, and diary entrees and then we got breakfast delivered. Breakfast consisted of cheese rolls or plain rolls, cereal, and toast with strawberry or fruit punch jelly. After breakfast all of us volunteers head up to the office to leave for placement.

After placement, we’d have lunch, which I was served at the office or at home. The weekly lunch schedule is posted in the dining room of your house. After lunch would be nap time for some and adventuring or shopping for others. There's so many options, shopping, nature things, gym, pool, spas, the options are endless.

Following that would be dinner time with the same thing home or office and some nights we would go out to eat and not eat at either. After dinner everyone usually gets ready for the night whether it's ice cream, the movies, or sight seeing everyone goes out together every night. Then after that everyone has to be home before curfew and that's when showering or laundry would get done the it would be time to hit the sheets and start over again the next day!

International volunteers with children in Fiji
One day after lunch we walked all the way back to our placement and got to hangout with these cool kids! It was so amazing just seeing the pure bliss on every single one of there faces.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I honestly enjoyed exploring so much. I also enjoyed spending my extra time with the girls in the house and working on my photography. We honestly tried to make the best of every single day no matter what we had to do.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best it?

My accommodations were more than amazing. I truly loved that our house was bare, we had no wifi, no tv, no microwave or anything. I feel like we truly enjoyed one another's company and talked and just had quality time with each other where I noticed that other host houses it's like they were staying in a hotel and no one seemed to truly like be connected with what was going on or to one another.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

I think every participant should truly have a open mind everything. Do every single thing you possibly can while volunteering. Even if you don't know the people who asked you to go out to eat or the movies, go. Even if you don't know what that food is, try it. Have a question, ask it. Honestly just open up and be yourself and truly immerse yourself in the lifestyle and it will truly be so rewarding.

International volunteers in Fiji
I’ve never met such amazing people in my life and I'm forever grateful for my Fijian family.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

Traveling abroad has changed my life immensely. I have changed who I am and almost every aspect of my life after Fiji. I truly understand the value of life. The value of money, family, a hot shower, everything. My outlook on things and people have changed so much after returning home. I'm more compassionate and open minded. I've became strong and independent. I'm blessed to have been able to experience my last travel abroad trip.

Would you recommend IVHQ to others? Why?

I would and do highly recommend IVHQ to everyone! They are so committed and compassionate when it comes to helping you. They're prompt and so willing to help you with every single thing before, during, and after your trip. I'm planning my second trip through them now.