Home away from home

Callum Drummond (Kelevi) with his family, the Rasalasea at Yavu Village on Batiki. Picture: SUPPLIED

HUNDREDS of volunteers come to Fiji through different organisations simply to make an impact on the lives of Fijians in villages.

One of those incredible individuals is Callum Drummond or Kelevi as he is known to many on Batiki Island. Kelevi, who was 19 at the time he arrived in Fiji from Cheltenham Gloucestershire, UK was part of a charity project with Think Pacific in 2012.

After spending five weeks living in Yavu Village on Batiki Island as a volunteer, he made sure to return to the island after his voluntary work with Think Pacific.

Having had an incredible experience on the island, he later returned to Batiki for Christmas in 2013 and 2014.

Kelevi even has his matavuvale (family) on the island and his young brother, who happens to be his namesake Inoke Yanuyanutawa Drummond loves spending time with Kelevi when he is at home.

“When people think of Fiji, they often think of white sandy beaches, crystal clear seas and endless coconut trees, but as nice as that may be, what makes Fiji so special is its people. There is no better place to experience this than in a Fijian village,” he said.

“I became part of Yavu Village almost six years ago. This was a complete culture shock to me coming from the UK, and the experience completely changed me as a person.

“Seeing how remote villagers could take me in as their own and treat me like family was something that I had never experienced before.

“At the end of the five weeks that I spent in the village as part of my time with Think Pacific, I knew, I had to go back to the island to see my Fiji family. Now I return twice a year to spend my time at the village.

“Each time I return to Batiki, I am greeted with so many hugs and people saying bula Kelevi that I feel as though I’ve never been away.

“Walking through the village, I constantly hear mai kana (come and eat), as it is a Fijian custom to invite any passer-by into their house for food.”

He said a Fijian village was the most special place that he’s ever been to.

“It’s based on sharing, not selling, which is an incredible way to live. The villagers farm together and fish together, dividing everything up to help feed the elderly and the disabled. It really is the perfect life,” he said.

“Entering a Fijian village requires a lot of learning and consideration, one cannot simply walk in. “To enter a village, prior permission from the chief must be granted and a bundle of kava roots must be presented upon arrival.

“To be truly accepted into a Fijian culture requires a lot of respect — both to and from the Fijians. The villagers have so much respect when you try to be a Kaiviti (Fijian), so when you speak their language, wear their traditional clothing or walk around barefoot, your whole connection to both the people and the land is enhanced. And it is this respect that I believe is the root of all of their kindness.

“Fiji is a nation of the kindest-hearted people, constantly laughing and joking, willing to help anyone that they can. They taught me how to care and how to share, and Fiji will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Not only does Kelevi have family and villagers supporting him on this part of the world, he is also helping his family on the island with a business he started with the villagers called Bula Batiki.

During his stay, Kelevi saw the financial hardship that the villagers faced through producing copra and seeing that some families had left the island to find employment in the city, Kelevi was determined to set up a business that would give people the opportunity to stay and to live within their traditional community.

Once Kelevi explained the long-term vision for Bula Batiki, and explained that he wanted to do it voluntarily so that all profits went back to the producers, many families were on board and were keen to produce virgin coconut oil.

In 2015, Kelevi won a grant from Cardiff University to start the project, which gave the funding to produce the logos/labels, website and to also have the first batch of oil produced and shipped to the UK.

Once successful with the funding, Kelevi then returned to Batiki to present the concept of ‘Bula Batiki’, which was well received by the island.
“From there, we produced 150 litres as a trial to ship to the UK, which sold well and is still running today.”

He also has his amazing family and friends in Fiji and the UK fully supporting his work.

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