I was privileged to be among eight female students, between the ages of 18-29 years, from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), whom were delegated by our University’s leadership Society called BUiLD (Beyond University in Leadership and Development) to live and work in Maroshi, Maldives for three weeks, June to July 2013.
I received the call from BUiLD one day on my way from a volunteering commitment in Fairfield where I was working with Microsoft to empower students at the high school in the community. For weeks I have been waiting for this, a burst of excitement took over me for the next weeks leading up to the day of departure. With a mountain of questions, preceded by ‘How foreign it is from Jamaica – my home country, I prepared myself through internet research, interrogating my flatmate who has been on BUiLD programs to China and India, and a more helpful Facebook group setup by BUiLD specifically for UTS student volunteers to the Maldives.
This online group space created a direct link with the coordinator of Volunteer Maldives and former volunteers sharing tips and experiences, to better prepare for the departure. It also allowed me to informally meet the other volunteers – ahead of the official pre-departure meeting; plan our trip together by deciding what to bring as gifts and clothing for a new and very conservative religious culture – some of which quelled our expectations particularly for swim wear.
With limited time to prepare I shopped for clothing that fit the culture – long sleeve, loose fitted blouses and skirts, which couldn’t be found in my closet. I have never been to an Islamic country before so I planned for total cultural immersion. I brought along some headscarves that I hadn’t yet worn, which I was gifted by a former flatmate, and as gifts I bought items in the souvenir shops in Market City and also items that I received from attending several events at UTS and others in Australia.
This trip opened a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time leaving Australia for a country other than Jamaica; it was my first time travelling through the beautiful and eco-friendly Changi Airport, Singapore – where I was happy to see a billboard of my countryman and the fastest man alive – Usain Bolt. And it was my first time going being on a BUiLD overseas program that will help me to improve my leadership skills. At this point I way filled with curiosity, what to expect, how will we be received by the school and the community, what does the school want to learn from me, what do I have to offer.
It was also my first time travelling on a seaplane, courtesy of Trans Maldivian. This flight is the most thrilling one I’ve been on: I was in awe when passing over the islands of the Maldives. The natural beauty of the islands of various shapes, sizes and colours (blue, green, brown) had me taking pictures and making recordings while moving from both sides of the plane, luckily it wasn’t a full flight. Then to my dismay, the camera battery died too early and so the rest is forced to memory.
Tanisha – Community Development and Remote Education in the Maldives, July 213
This is an excerpt from Tanisha’s blog TanishaLewis . Check it out to read more about her experience in the Maldives on the Community Development and Remote Education in the Maldives Program.