BLACKFOOT — Camdon Chidester, son of Scott and Linnea Chidester, traveled to Nadi, Yavusania, Fiji for a Humanitarian Experience for Youth (HEFY) trip to assist in building outdoor bathrooms for villagers in need.
HEFY is a nonprofit humanitarian organization for youth ages 16-19. It was established in 1999 to provide LDS teens with humanitarian service opportunities.
HEFY has grown into a vibrant volunteer organization led by a nation-wide advisory council that organizes humanitarian programs for hundreds of volunteers in countries around the globe.
The purpose and goal of HEFY is “Changing lives through service.” This is exactly what Chidester, the only volunteer from Idaho, and 20 other others did over the course of two and a half weeks.
The first two days of their trip consisted of beach activities and hiking at a resort. This was so the kids could get a feel for the beautiful landscape that they were about to spend the next few weeks engaging in some of the hardest labor the kids had ever experienced.
They then travelled to Yavusania, a village primarily populated by Methodists. This particular village had never had a single Mormon missionary set foot in Yavusania, simply because Mormon missionaries were not allowed into the village.
In order to be able to enter into Yavusania, the tribal leader requires that all visitors go through a ‘Keva drinking ceremony.’
According to the Doctrine of Covenants, drinking Keva is against the Word of Wisdom, so a local guide took the liberty of negotiating with the tribal chief to let the volunteers enter the village without having to go through the ceremony. The local villager was able to make a deal with the tribal chief: The volunteers could break the rules, and not go through with the ceremony, in exchange for building outdoor bathrooms.
The kids were split into seven different groups to each build one outdoor bathroom for seven different families in seven different houses. Six of the outdoor bathrooms were for villagers who were handicapped and unable to walk to the town bathroom and one of the bathrooms was for the tribal chief.
The volunteers were required to build the foundation around the bathroom, dig the hole for the septic tank, make the septic tank, and install the toilet by hand.
All of the groups were required to dig down one foot by six inches into the ground by hand and were required to stack five cinder blocks high for the foundation of the outhouse. They then were required to dig down four feet and five feet wide by seven feet long for the hole for the septic tank. They were required to mix their own cement with gravel that they had to retrieve from the jungle by hand as well.
“It was seriously some of the hardest work I have ever done,” said Chidester,
The owner of the outdoor bathroom, that Chidester helped build, was a handicapped man by the name of Tim. According to Chidester, this man was handicapped due to a stroke that he had at the age of 20. The stroke left him unable to walk and talk, making communication a bit difficult. After his stroke happened, his wife took their three children and moved away.
“Everyday he would sit on his porch and watch us work, and anytime we misplaced a shovel or a bag of gravel, he would help by pointing in which direction it was. At first we were scared to talk to him, he seemed like a pretty lonely guy,” Chidester continued, “We would get to talking by writing on paper. He never hesitated to say thank you or to tell us how grateful he was for building him a bathroom. He’s a really cool guy.”
According to Chidester, Tim was in the Army and served alongside American soldiers, and has the utmost respect for Americans.
“I believe that I was somehow meant to meet Tim while I was there. I truly feel like he will serve as an anchor in my life. Anytime life feels a little tough because of materialistic things, I will remember him and remind myself of how lucky I am,” said Chidester.
Chidester found out later that Tim is the uncle of the Village chief.
Although none of the groups were able to finish the bathrooms completely, the village chief told the group of volunteers that they represented the LDS Church in such an amazing way, that he would now allow missionaries to come and serve in his village.
“Although we weren’t able to get the bathrooms done, I was more than excited that we were able to sway the chief’s decision in favor of letting missionaries be able to serve in his village. I would absolutely love to be able to come back and serve my mission in Yavusania,” said Chidester.