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Connexus : Issue 40
Rising to the challenge kevin Buckley recalls the many rewards and thrills – including kayaking through a storm – on CuFA’s 2012 Leadership Challenge in Fiji. The sky turns black and unleashes heavy rain. Ordinarily I would take shelter, butIaminakayakinthemiddleofthe ocean off Fiji. Calm water s have become a one-metre swell. The wind smashes into my face, making it hard to see. Although we had to paddle ‘only’ 25 kilometres that day, it took seven hours to reach uninhabited Vurolevu Island where we spent a muddy night in our tents. I remind myself that I came to Fiji not for a holiday, but as par t of a challenge to help the people of Oceania. I am with 10 other Australian building society and credit union employees – nine women and one man – for the 12-day 2012 CUFA Leadership Challenge. The physical challenge of kayaking some 66 kilometres around Fijian islands was tough, par ticularly on that stor my after noon. But my training on Newcastle Harbour stood me in good stead (and also gave me a better appreciation of my own backyard). As well as improving my fitness, this challenge taught me much about humility, honesty, tradition and leadership. An important part of the trip was to gain insight into Fijian village life. We lived with villagers for several days, and their hospitality and willingness to share their scant material possessions was humbling. They get their food directly from the land and sea, and are grateful for it. One afternoon I got to go spear fishing to provide for the evening meal. We learnt to make palm-leaf baskets which we used to gather food from mountaintop plots. We were also there to help the v illager s set up a sav ings club. Even then, I learnt so much from them. Most of what we worry about is trivial by compar ison. They are not motivated by money, but by family and celebrating life. Everything we did was great fun. Our kayaking takes us across the bluest of waters to beautiful canyons and waterfalls. We take part in kava drinking ceremonies and I am made an honorary As well as improving my fitness, this challenge taught me much about humility, honesty, tradition and leadership. ratu (chief) because the village chief, seeing that I have nine women with me, thinks I must be a very powerful man. Fundraising triumph The lessons really started when I was faced with raising at least $3,330 in less than six weeks to go on the trip. The generosity of friends, work colleagues and business houses amazed me. My gamble in holding a trivia night and raffling a bottle of Grange Hermitage and other donated items paid off. My colleagues at Greater Building Society fundraised for me too. In total, $8,355 was raised and it all went to the Fiji-based Oceanic Confederation of Credit Union Leagues (OCCUL) to help in improving Pacific Island peoples’ access to financial services. Most Fijians earn a couple of dollars an hour. Petrol is more than $3 a litre and par ents have to pay for their children’s kevin at Nasu Credit Union in Fiji 48 Connexus COMMUNITY