FROM the snow clad mountains of Colorado, in the United States to the sun drenched hills and valleys of Sigatoka was, Adam Szabunio who had come to lend a helping hand to his adopted community at Korokula Village in Nadroga.
How he ended up as a Peace Corps volunteer from being a manager of a health club in Denver was a calculated move that Adam made as he had always wanted to make some difference in life.
"It was through a friend who put the idea into my head about volunteering and I researched it for four months before I made up my mind — coming over to be part of a new place, people and culture is new," Adam says.
His new experience included living without aircondition and missing out on many conveniences.
"After a year living without it, you realise they're just material things even though I can say there are new stresses as well."
Adam has virtually become an adopted son of Korokula where he had been spending the past year.
Through his input and encouragement, the villagers have adopted environmentally-friendly agricultural practices and formed a women's group and a kids club as well.
The 27-year-old Florida native received help from a fellow Peace Corps volunteer Claudia Jane who repaired sewing machines and conducted sewing workshops for the Korokula women.
"Later the women formed and registered their own association and they managed to secure help from the government which donated two sewing machines.
"Now the sewing machines are being used to help generate income for those women," Adam says.
The women have also taken up baking classes which supplements their sewing income.
He has set up a garden which became the village greenhouse after he successfully planted a field of eggplants and cabbages by building his own compost heap.
"You know the soil over there is only good for sugarcane but now villagers are building their own compost heaps and have started to plant their own gardens but on a plantation scale — this has ensured food security as well as extra income," Adam says.
He has also implanted his environmental initiative through the Kids Club that he has formed over the last school holidays.
"It was formed at their last summer break to keep the kids' minds sharp during their break but we have continued from there."
With over 20 village children, the club teaches them the three Rs of environmental conservation and while encouraging them to work as a group.
"There is definitely fun and games too and trust-building exercises to teach them to co-operate with one another apart from raising awareness about the environment," Adam says.
On the academic side of things, he has incorporated into the Kids Club initiatives like a literacy camp and helping out with academic needs of children attending Tau District School.
Apart from working at Korokula, Adam had travelled to other parts of Fiji like Vanua Levu and other villages in Sigatoka like Nakabuta, helping out fellow volunteers.
He has come to grasp the way of life in a village, saying the women are the backbone of his adopted village.
"I think I just have to give credit to the women. They do motivate me a lot to work with them.
"They're the heart of the village," Adam says.
Florida and Colorado seem like faraway places to Adam who has become very much involved in the life in Fiji even.
"But one thing I have missed though is the snow," he says.