A day out – to a beach with ‘different crabs and sand’ – and a deflated balloon are hardly the birthday treat that dreams are made of.
But for Chavala Parker the surprise birthday party thrown on The Island was one of the best days of her life.
People online have been laughing at my bottletop bunting. It was dreadful though to see how much there was washed up on the beach.Chavala Parker
Channel 4 show The Island with Bear Grylls comes to an end tonight, with Surviving The Island taking a look back at the teams of men and women, challenged to live on two remote, uninhabited Pacific islands for six weeks, armed with a handful of basic tools.
Child psychologist Chavala, from Blackpool, said: “I absolutely loved and loathed it at the same time.
“It was an amazing experience but so challenging. It’s one of the biggest achievements of my life, to get through such hardship, turmoil and come out the other side a stronger person is amazing.
“When Bear came along on his boat at the end it was beautiful, being rescued from that place, it was a real high but also a low to be leaving.
“I wanted to go home and see my family, but we had made a real community for ourselves and had a new ‘family’ with the girls – I was scared to leave that.
“Being exposed to colours, and the sights of normal life, and cleanliness was weird. People were quite shocked to hear that from me, as I’m quite a clean, presentable person – now I like getting dirty, not bothering about make up and leaving my hair ragged.
“Over the years, I’ve got the need for make up and pretty things, and pretty dresses, and stuck in a rut with that, but The Island helped me see you don’t need that to be a good person.”
The teams were left on The Island with only basic tools, at the height of the tropical storm season, tasked with surviving on what they could find, kill and cook for themselves
Three days without water led Chavala to hallucinate, but quitting never crossed her mind – even as four island residents took the easy way out leaving 10 to the end.
“I had a duty to all the applicants and people watching to keep going, although it was really hard to see others go, it was significant to lose people when there were only a few to start with.”
Chavala’s 28th birthday took place on The Island, although the celebrations were not shown on screen.
“It was amazing, wonderful,” she said. “We had a lovely day, I went foraging to a different bay two beaches up – like a day trip out, and there were different crabs and sand. It sounds simple but I loved it.
“And they put on a surprise birthday party. I had an oyster and lovely presents, and signs carved out of wood with my name on. Lauren even found a deflated balloon. It was deflated but my spirit wasn’t.”
One major event from the series was the women’s team finding a sleeping pig, when they’d been without food for several days. The creature was quickly and humanely ‘dispatched’ marking a turn in their fortunes.
“A few of us helped with the dispatch and preparation of the pig,” Chavala, an ex-pupil of King Edwards and Queen Mary’s School, said. “I didn’t want to kill a pig, but it’s what you have to do to survive. Most of us had that mentality.
“I have an appreciation and understanding of where food comes from more now.”
Chavala described her role on The Island as ‘general dogs body’ – getting stuck into collecting fire wood and filtering water and preparing food – but her speciality was decorating, turning her hand to crafting homely touches from items found on the beach.
“I got my hands dirty at any opportunity, fishing or scavenging for food, and I liked making things,” she explained. “I made the camp pretty and presentable, we felt it was important Bear would be impressed with our camp.
“People online have been laughing at my bottletop bunting. It was dreadful though to see how much there was washed up on the beach.
“I bought home half the beach with me as mementoes, my bunting and jewellery, the presents from the girls for my birthday.”
The experience has made her more environmentally aware. Humans are destroying the earth with plastic. I always think about throwing stuff out now, we never wasted anything on The Island that might have been useful.”
And it’s given her greater courage of her convictions.
“I think my life was going in the right direction before, but it’s made me adjust my life to experience, live and risk more than maybe I was comfortable to do,” she said. “I was afraid of risks but now I’m not afraid of anything.
“Everyone back home has said I’ve changed for the better through the experience. I’m kinder and have a much deeper confidence, which is wonderful.”
“I miss the other girls terribly. We meet up often sometimes as a big group or a few of us, but I’m in touch with them daily.”