I've been trying to think of a way to adequately explain what has happened over the last two weeks without going into more detail that is appropriate for a blog setting, so here goes nothing.
On Monday, June 4th, there was an "incident", as HELP International has chosen to call it. One of my nearest and dearest friends on the trip with me was attacked by 3 Fijian men while walking home alone from the internet cafe just a few minutes walk from our house. Although there are lots of little details associated with exactly how and what happened, I don't feel entirely comfortable sharing those. A fellow participant and their mother made the decision to go to abc news in Salt Lake, Utah, and talk to them about what happened. A few stories (although with some minor inaccuracies) were released, so I'll post the links to the first one that came about. If you'd care to hear more detail, feel free to check here:
There are a few more articles on that website that should be easy to link to, as well as an article on the Deseret News and KSL. You should be able to find those via Google.
Well the next couple of days after the attack are a large blur, we moved houses (more to come about that situation) and tried to get back to our projects when we had the time between the move. My friend who was attacked returned home safely within the week. I miss her and love her so much.
We had to move out of our house the Tuesday following the attack, but did not have anywhere to move to. The bishop, his wife, and a few of the guys from our local ward at church showed up to help us move all of our belongings into the nursery of the church. That night we stayed at a local place called the SeaBreeze Hotel. Never in my life did I imagine that I would be so thrilled by a real mattress and air conditioning! I was legitimately excited to be in the hotel, even though it was so different than hotels that I'm used to. To sum it up without a picture, I've stayed in a Motel 6 that quite possibly outshines the good ole SeaBreeze.
The next morning, we woke up to the news that another one of the volunteers had fallen out of a tree earlier that morning while watching the sunrise. Not going to lie- none of us could even comprehend that one. We nervous laughed and looked confused while we heard that story. She is slowly but surely recovering and will be returning home soon.
The FBI arrived in Lautoka that day to investigate the case, so HELP International asked us to head to another part of the island for the day. We went to VoliVoli Beach Resort in RakiRaki, which I've blogged about a bit before. It was nice to take a day to relax a bit, as we were all quite shaken by the last couple of days. We slept there for the night, and the next day woke up and headed back to Lautoka. Perhaps not so surprisingly, we were still homeless that night. Guess where we slept? The church! The bishop and his wife were so incredibly kind to us. They showed up to the church to help us drag beds into the primary room that we'd call home for the night. We were able to set up shop there, and I was very grateful to have lots of time that day to speak with my parents and discuss the current situation. The following day we were able to find a house in Lautoka and move in immediately, once again with the incredible help of the bishop, his wife, and some of the men in the ward. I am certain that without the help and love of the bishop and other church members, we as a group would not have gotten through everything as well as we did.
The US Embassy and HELP International feel that it is safe for the volunteers to be in Fiji, however the BYU International Security office does not agree and asked their matriculated interns to return home. Because I was not an official intern, I was left to make my own decision in regards to staying or leaving. I spent more time in prayer during that last week than I had spent praying in a long time. Although it is sad to say that it was because of the situation I was in, it was such a great feeling to be closer to the spirit again. After very careful consideration of all of the facts, as well as my feelings and promptings, my parents and I agreed that it would be best for me to return home. I was and am heartbroken to have left Fiji, my projects, my friends, and the incredible life I was leading there. Through all of this, I keep praying that this is one of those situations where God closes a door, but opens a window. That being said, I am comfortable with my decision to have returned home and look forward to being able to continue my projects from the United States.
This is where you come in! As you know, I had been working with the Sunshine Special School in Lautoka, Fiji. They are lacking the materials that they need to teach their students how to read, and I would love to change that. I'll be working for the next couple of months to write letters to companies and libraries and hopefully find those who would be willing to donate supplies and books to this school. If you are someone, or know someone, or even someone who knows someone who knows someone who would be interested in helping, PLEASE let me know! I will be figuring out the exact details this next week in terms of what specifically I'd be looking for, and will let you know then.
Until that post comes, your thoughts and prayers for those who have suffered because of this situation would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!