Sierra Mayer, the Grizzlies Abroad marketing intern, writes:
Would the site of crayons bring excitement to your family? Or even the sight of reading glasses? The pure reaction of gratefulness is what I received upon handing my homestay family the gifts I brought from the United States. Giving homestay families gifts was recommended to all Fiji program students. AUIP provided a list of what the villagers typically request, things like reading glasses, first aid kits and old clothes.
When I first read the list, I told my mom I was thinking about getting them more than what was on that list, such as electronics and very touristy items from my hometown. I didn’t take into consideration that’s not what they really needed or could use. Thankfully, I gave it a few days before I started gathering gifts to pack in my bag. While packing, I noticed how many items on the list I had just laying around the house.
A scavenger hunt commenced throughout the house to find things of which I had an excess or did not need anymore. I found unopened crayons and marker boxes from childhood, five bendy rulers and three protractors, two first aid kits, ten eyeglasses, two unopened beach balls, three calculators and a few old T-shirts. All things that I never looked at twice and didn’t find of great importance in my adulthood. All things that I consider simple items and that I grew up having and obtaining with no problem. With no necessity for these items to just be laying around my house not being used, I packed all of it into my duffle bag. The gifts consumed half of my bag, but this was a small price to pay for the reaction I received when I gave my family the presents.
During my homestay, another student and I were placed in a big family with members of all ages living in the one house. We walked into their modest home and the first thing I noticed was that it was simple. They had beds, a sink and something like a camping stove on which they cooked. Our family did not have any other furniture, nor a huge closet filled with clothes that they never wear. There were no outlets for electronics, no TV, not even chairs. They lived off the land and had the bare necessities for their lifestyle, so receiving something like rulers and eyeglasses was truly a treat.
One of the students brought a small board game, and they were so excited about this gift that we played for hours.
Something so simple as a T-shirt or a box of crayons meant a great deal to our homestay families. It’s those simple things we have in our lives that can make a difference in others.