US Martha to Fiji’s Maca

Peace Corp volunteer Martha Wight with Atelaite Lalakoverata after the swearing in ceremony at the USP's Japan-Pacific ICT Centre on Tursday, November 01, 2018. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

MACA is not a name you’d normally expect of someone from Oklahoma City in the US.

But since her arrival more than two months ago, and after fully embracing the Fijian way of life, Martha Wyght has become Nailega Village’s Maca.

The 64-year-old was recently inducted as a Fiji Peace Corps volunteer during a swearing-in ceremony at the University of the South Pacific last week.

This is after she successfully completed an eight-week intensive language, culture and technical training in preparation for her assignment within the education ministry.

Before coming to Fiji, Maca worked as a volunteer manager and public relations personnel and her job included recruiting and training volunteers who help out in special shelters for victims of sexual and domestic violence.

“I decided to do this because I was at the end of my career and I wanted to be of service to the people of Fiji so I applied and I was accepted,” she said.

“Back in the States I worked as a domestic violence advocate for catholic charities in domestic violence and sexual assault shelters .Working in that area was rewarding and I now hope to continue that work here.”

Although this is Maca’s first visit she had heard about Fiji during her many travels to the Asia Pacific region.

“Yes I heard about Fiji before coming because I am a scuba diver so I have already been to Australia, Thailand and worked for a company in South Korea so yeah, I knew exactly where Fiji was.

“I know Fiji is like the mecca of diving. In fact I have a group of friends from the dive shop that I go to in Nebraska who are currently diving in Rakiraki right now.”

Maca said spending the past two months in a Fijian village was a wonderful learning experience she would never forget.

“My experience has been wonderful. When I was growing up, my father was a church leader and our home was always open to those who needed help. My upbringing has commonalities with the Fijian way of life in that everybody is always welcome to come in, sit down and have something to eat and drink.”

She has enjoyed her social interaction with Fijian children and spent her past few weeks teaching some pre-schoolers in Nailega how to count.

“It’s been great, spiritual and beautiful so far. I come from a large family and my host family in Nailega is also a very large family. Every Sunday, after service, we would have 15 to 20 people at lunch, the same with my family back home.”

Maca has picked up a few iTaukei words, learned how to sit on the floor and eat with fingers during her stay in Nailega. She has also enjoyed her host mother’s cooking.

“I really like curry chicken and any soup with dalo in it.

“Just the other day, my host brother made this wonderful desert similar to crump cake with lemon flavoured topping. I love the local fruits and vegetables as well.”

Maca will be based in Suva where she will work within the education ministry’s curriculum development unit.

“I will work in the area of family life and will be finalising training materials. I will travel around Fiji training teachers through workshops”.

Asked whether she will miss her host family and the village life she had been accustomed to, she agreed.

“Yes. I will mostly miss my host family especially my nana. They have been wonderful, caring and have done a lot for me. I’ve promised to go visit and go to church with them every Sunday.”

While Maca has not heard of the famous Rainbow Reef or the Great White Wall, two of Fiji’s popular dive spots, she said she intend to learn about them soon.

“I have been focusing on developing my training program all this time but once I start working I will look at how, down the road, I can find personal time to visit these dive spots.”

Maca comes from a big family of four elder brothers and three sisters. She is not married.

“We are kind of an international family so I have many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. I am not married but would be looking.
I actually plan on retiring here.”

Maca was part of a group of women PSVs who did a seasea during their induction ceremony last week and said she enjoyed every moment of the performance.

“It was such as great opportunity to be part of it. It allowed me to immerse myself in the local culture and was a great exercise as well.”

Maca said she looked forward to the next two years serving the people of Fiji and hopes to visit many dive sports spot and find love.

More than 2500 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Fiji since the first group arrived in 1968.

Peace Corps country director, Dennis McMahon, said the latest group of volunteers would be entering service at a very special time, as 2018 marks
the 50th anniversary since the first volunteers arrived in Fiji.