Fiji | Community Service

Join us for three weeks in the South Pacific on this summer community service program in Fiji for high school students. Work alongside community members to complete a small-scale construction project and volunteer your time at the local kindergarten. Experience this unique culture first hand as you get to know our Fijian hosts and explore the mountains, coast, and coral reefs of this charming island nation.

  • July 4, 2015 - July 25, 2015
  • July 11, 2015 - August 1, 2015
Students completing grades 9-12
Community Service
Typical Group:
14-16 students, 2 leaders
3 week(s)


Fijians are considered to be among the most friendly and hospitable people on earth. From our home base on one of Fiji’s smaller islands, we become a part of the community as we volunteer alongside members of our host village to complete a variety of community service projects. Projects are identified by the village council, and community members work alongside our group throughout the program. Volunteer projects may include constructing a playground or classroom, painting a mural at the elementary school, or running an after-school camp for village youth. Choose an independent project and explore an aspect of Fijian culture of particular interest to you – go spearfishing with local fishermen, spend a day learning traditional weaving techniques, learn the meke, a traditional Fijian dance, or discover how to make local specialty dishes such as rou-rou.  Wrap up the workday and join a game of pick-up volleyball, take a hike, or go for a swim in the ocean. Learn some basic Fijian phrases or simply relax with new friends during a kava ceremony. Participants on this volunteer program can expect to complete between 50-70 hours of community service work.

“This program included just the right balance of community service projects, cultural activities, and adventure. I loved fully submerging myself in the culture of the village, and I loved going on the adventures like white water rafting, snorkeling, and hiking.”  

— Catherine Spaulding, Calverton School, Huntingtown, MD

While in the village we stay in a house or a community building at the center of town. Accommodations are basic: we use sleeping bags and sleeping pads on the floor and have separate sleeping spaces for girls and boys. There are simple showers and running water. There is limited electricity. We have access to basic kitchen facilities and local women will prepare meals for the group.

Fijians are incredibly friendly and hospitable. Our Fijian hosts welcome us fully into their community and treat us like family for the duration of our stay.

Fijians are incredibly friendly and hospitable. Our Fijian hosts welcome us fully into their community and treat us like family for the duration of our stay.

During excursions, we head out to explore the surrounding areas. The Fijian Archipelago is home to one of the most extensive ranges of coral reef in the world. Head out to snorkel or scuba dive among the abundant marine life. Other activities may include heading inland to hike mountain trails to remote waterfalls, visiting a local market, attending a Fijian dance performance, or learning to surf.

We wrap up our South Pacific community service adventure at a rustic resort on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. Our last few days as a group are spent relaxing on the white-sand beach, exploring the multicultural city of Nadi, and visiting artisan markets, hot springs and mud baths. Contrast the bustling and westernized way of life in Nadi with the slow-paced traditional life experienced in our host village. Use this time to reflect as a group on our time spent as a part of this incredible culture.


  • Volunteer with community members to complete a construction project at the local school.
  • Try your hand at spearfishing or free dive in search of giant clams.
  • Snorkel or scuba some of Fiji’s most phenomenal coral reefs, considered some of the best in the world.
  • Start an after-school arts and crafts club for local youth.
  • Learn some basic Fijian phrases from our village hosts.
  • Participate in a traditional Fijian kava ceremony with community leaders in a typical welcoming ceremony with the village chief.

What to Expect

For most of each weekday, we are actively involved in community service work. This volunteer work, as well as afternoon and excursion activities, can be strenuous, and you can expect to spend most of each day outside. Everyone participates in all of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup. Since we live in our village as the local people do, accommodations are very simple with separate space for boys and girls, and basic bathroom facilities. You should come to the program with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences and interested in exploring another culture and way of life. If you are scuba-registered, you will have an opportunity to take a dive.

At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer travel programs are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience. Rules that provide a safe and structured environment, set curfews, and prohibit the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are in place and enforced. We expect you to behave in a mature and productive way at all times.


Tuition: $4,890

Putney organizes escorted international flights. Please consult us for fares.


Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2014 Community Service Fiji Blog.

This program begins and ends at Los Angeles International Airport.

Departure • Join the group as we begin our adventure in the South Pacific.  The group flight departs from Los Angeles International Airport where you will meet your leaders and travel to Nadi, Fiji, continuing on to the island of Taveuni.

Taveuni  Taveuni, the third largest of over 330 islands that make up the nation of Fiji, is known as the “Garden Island”. Well removed from the hustle and bustle of the main island of Viti Levu, Taveuni has a laid-back, island-time way of life and is home to remote beaches as well as lush inland rainforest. Visit the famous Bouma waterfalls, stand with one foot in the present and one in the past as you straddle the international date line, and float down natural waterslides at remote falls. Learn a bit about Fijian culture as we prepare to immerse ourselves in village life.

Immerse yourself in Fijian customs.

Immerse yourself in Fijian customs.

Service Village  Upon arrival in our host village, we are received with a meke, or traditional dance, and take part in a traditional sevu sevu (sometimes referred to as kava) ceremony with village leaders as we are warmly welcomed into the community. We spend the first day settling into our new home, getting to know one another, and joining an in-depth orientation to Fijian life. We meet with community members to review the service projects of the next few weeks and discuss how to best prepare to accomplish our goals for the summer.

Excursions • On excursions, we explore all that Fiji has to offer. Head inland to hike in Fiji’s lush mountain forests, stopping along the way for a swim in a waterfall or to sample fresh native fruits. Take a boat to neighboring islands to relax on isolated beaches, and join in a game of club rugby or volleyball with local teenagers.

“I wanted a summer experience that would allow me to expand my horizons, give back to a community, make new friends, and have adventures. The Fiji program did just that. Our service projects turned out really well, I was able to see tons of Fiji’s natural beauty, and I made some incredible new friends. It was an amazing trip and I learned so much from both the people in the village and the people in my group.

— Shirin Mavandad, Los Gatos High School, Los Gatos, CA

Final excursion  We head to a rustic resort on Viti Levu as we wrap up our last few days together. With its white sand beaches and opportunities for snorkeling, fishing, scuba diving, kayaking, bonfires, and volleyball, it is an ideal place to relax for a few days before the journey home.

Return • Fly with the group and leaders from Nadi, Fiji, to Los Angeles International Airport. Continue to your final destination on a connecting flight.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule.  However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.


Background • Fiji is composed of more than 330 islands, of which only around 100 are inhabited. Once a British colony, Fiji is a blend of indigenous cultures with the vibrant influence of its neighbors in the Pacific, including Tonga, Caledonia, and the Samoas. Over 30% of Fijians are Indian Fijians whose ancestors arrived in Fiji from India as indentured laborers in the 1800s. Although Fiji is one of the most developed Pacific Island economies, over 30% of its population continues to live in poverty.

Population • Fiji has a population of 850,000, most of whom are indigenous Fijians.

Beaches of Fiji on our Community Service Program Abroad

Over 300 islands make up the nation of Fiji. Each island has its own unique features but all boast beautiful beaches and turquoise waters.

Language • Though English is one of the official languages in Fiji, Fijian and Hindi are the most commonly spoken languages.

Climate • Though July is considered to be the “cool season,” you will find Fiji’s weather  to be tropical — warm and humid, with highs in the 80’s and lows in the high 60’s.

Participate in local customs and celebrations.

Participate in local celebrations.

Cuisine • The food in Fiji reflects the influence of the British colonial presence as well as that of recent Indian and Chinese immigrants. Many dishes incorporate seafood, tubers, and hearty vegetables.

“I hoped for Wallace to explore a world that he might not have considered existed and to grow more mature and independent. I also wanted him to learn that not every culture is like the one that he lives in. He has only been home for two days but based on my impressions so far I would say that the program exceeded my expectations.”

— Locke and David Ogens, parents of Wallace Ogens, St. Anne’s Belfield, Charlottesville, VA

Currency • The currency of Fiji is the Fijian dollar (FJD).

Voltage • Electricity in Fiji is 240V/50Hz. Type I electrical outlet adapters (three flat pins, with the top two angling inward) are necessary.

Visa  U.S. citizens are not currently required to have a visa to enter Fiji.  Non U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements for Fiji as well as any countries passed through in transit.


The Community Service Fiji program is directed by Hannah Gilkenson.  If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!

Hannah Gilkenson

Hannah Gilkenson: University of Michigan, B.S., Anthropology, Zoology. Before joining Putney as the ecology instructor on a Foundations program, Hannah had spent six years studying monkeys in Costa Rica. She has led programs in Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. She has also served as the Director of the Foundations Costa Rica and the Director of our Pre-College program at Amherst College. Hannah oversees programs in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji and coordinates curriculum and hiring for our Pre-College Programs. A Vermont native, Hannah loves hiking with her husband, son, and dog, snow shoeing in the winter, camping in the Green Mountains and, of course, traveling.

How To Apply


If you are new to Putney Student Travel, visit our Online Application.  
If you are a Putney Student Travel alumni family, 
use your existing account information to Log In.


You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone.  We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.

After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.


Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete.  In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:

  • Applicant Statement – Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
  • Two Teacher Reference Forms

These documents are available as part of our Online Application.  We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.