July 2020 Spotlight | Caitlin Dickson
By: Meredith Vostrejs
Caitlin Dickson served as a Youth Development Volunteer in Fiji from August 2019 - March 2020. She was evacuated and had her service ended early due to covid-19. Caitlin helped reduce litter in one village, yet her other longer-term project was in the planning stages when she had to abruptly leave. Always passionate about the environment, Fiji made Caitlin more aware of waste. “Being evacuated was overwhelming, especially because I was mentally prepared to serve for 19 more months. I felt sad, numb and in disbelief…. My day leaving Fiji started at 4 am where I caught 2 buses, a ferry, and a plane all in one day to get back to the US.” Below are some of Cailtin’s thoughts about her environmental work in Fiji.
Environmental work in Fiji: “With help from our village spokesperson called the turaga ni koro…we planned an evening class for the children in the village [Maumi] to educate them on the importance of responsibly disposing of trash and different types of trash. We went over what you can recycle, what is compost, and what is trash…Another day we worked with children in the village building different posts around the village and nailing two bins to be used for holding the trash and recyclables…Certain families were in charge of emptying the bins when they were full and responsibly disposing the waste.” Cailtin’s other environmental project on the smaller island Ovalau, an island wide recycling program for tin cans, was in the planning stages when she was evacuated.
How Fiji impacted her environmental awareness: “I have always been passionate about the environment. Fiji made me even more aware of the waste I produced from products I purchased because all personal trash is burned in their backyards or taken to a nearby place and dumped onto the ground. Now I pay more attention to the chemicals in my products and am slowly replacing current products with more environmentally friendly products that produce less waste such as using shampoo, conditioner, and body soap bars, reusable cotton rounds, etc.”
On being evacuated: “Being evacuated was overwhelming, especially because I was mentally prepared to serve for 19 more months. I felt sad, numb and in disbelief. I had less than 36 hours notice of leaving and got very little sleep between saying goodbyes to friends made, informing friends and counterparts I’d be leaving to go back to the US, and packing my bags. My day leaving Fiji started at 4 am where I caught 2 buses, a ferry, and a plane all in one day to get back to the US.”
While Caitlin is searching for her next opportunity, she is volunteering for RPCV4EA.