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April - June, 2009

Welcome Welcome to the latest edition of Connect which showcases a range of excellent examples of the work that our VIDA volunteers have been undertaking in the areas of education and training. I think you will agree that our VIDA volunteers are a valuable asset and the work they are undertaking is greatly assisting the Host Organisations and communities in which they work to grow and prosper. There is much debate in international volunteer circles about skills exchange vs skills transfer and the role that volunteers can play. Skills transfer can imply a more traditional teacher- student role. That is, the volunteer is there to develop the capacity of the Host Organisation in a one sided arrangement whereby the beneficiary of the volunteer placement is the Host Organisation, staff or community that the volunteer is working with. This is a somewhat simplistic view. It is important to recognise that both Host Organisations and volunteers grow and develop as a result of their experiences and interactions. Central to the volunteer placement is the two-way exchange of skills and knowledge. The VIDA experience is therefore a partnership which benefits all stakeholders and this includes the volunteer. VIDA as part of the Australian Government’s aid program is committed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The focus of this edition of Connect is education and education and training cover a wide range of activities that align with all of the MDGs. Education plays a key role in empowering people and giving them the knowledge to make choices. This allows them to secure their livelihoods and allows communities and organisations to grow and develop especially in uncertain economic times. Therefore partnerships are crucial and an integral part of the VIDA program and its operation.

To this end the VIDA program has commenced a pilot project aimed at strengthening its partnerships and providing long term commitment to key organisations and priority development sectors. This project will provide Host Organisations with the opportunity to strategically design a range of volunteer placements to meet their development needs in alignment with the Country Volunteer Strategy. Once approved, VIDA will recruit and manage the volunteer placements to meet the designated development goals. A key feature of the new approach is the ability to not only work strategically with the Host Organisations to meet their development needs but to also assist in building sustainable partnerships between Australian organisations and our Host Organisations. As a result a range of assignments can now be planned and approved well in advance. This provides VIDA with an opportunity to promote these assignments to key Australian partners who can provide support for our volunteers and in some cases resources. We are already starting to see the benefits of this approach with some volunteers who are undertaking education and training assignments at present considering an option to return to the Host Organisation in a year’s time to review the progress made and to continue the training and development. As a result VIDA has had to review its recruitment, selection, pre departure, mobilisation and placement strategies and VIDA volunteers can now be placed with Host Organisations when needed. We firmly believe that our innovative approaches and the strengthening of the partnerships will further bolster an already flourishing VIDA program. Ray Ash, VIDA Project Director

April - June, 2009

Volunteering for International Development from Australia VIDA (Volunteering for International Development from Australia) is part of the Australian Government’s volunteer program. Funded by AusAID, the Australian Government agency responsible for managing Australia’s overseas aid program, the VIDA program places skilled Australian volunteers in developing countries in the Asia Pacific Region. VIDA volunteers work with local counterparts to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable outcomes in the communities in which they work through skills and knowledge exchange, institutional strengthening and capacity development. VIDA works with educational institutions, government departments, NGOs, International NGOs and private companies in Australia and partner countries to develop volunteer assignments and build networks between Australia and the Asia Pacific region. VIDA provides volunteers with return airfares, living and accommodation allowances, medicals and vaccinations, comprehensive insurance, pre-departure training and in-country support.

Education Issue This issue of Connect is focused on Education featuring articles from volunteers and organisations that work within this development sector. The theme of the next issue is Environment. We encourage submissions from VIDA volunteers working in the Environment sector, Alumni, Host Organisations and Australian Partner Organisations wishing to highlight their contributions within the Environment sector. The deadline for submissions is 8th May 2009. Submission guidelines are available from Matt Lees at VIDA. Contact:

VIDA volunteers Edwin Wise and Maria Cameron outline their work on an indigenous education project in the Philippines. VIDA Volunteer Erin Foley on building for the future in the Solomon Islands

VIDA volunteer Arthur Mangan reports from the Bangkok Refugee Centre . Ray Ash, VIDA Project Director


VIDA Volunteer Andrew Souto outlines the importance of teaching trades Australian Partner Organisation WSPA

2 6 8 12 14 18

Editor: Matt Lees Design: Agency of New Design Contributors: Ray Ash Stephen Collins & Michelle Berlin Erin Foley Louise Hicks Sarah Johnston Arthur Mangan Christine Pheeney Dr Margaret Shore Andrew Souto UNICEF WSPA

VIDA welcomes submissions from VIDA volunteers and alumni, Host Organisations and Australian Partner Organisations. Please contact the Community Engagement and Marketing Manager at for further information. These details are correct at time of printing. Please check the VIDA website, www.vidavolunteers. for the latest information. Connect Magazine is printed on recycled paper.

Important Dates April - June 2009 May 1 June 1 June 22 - 24 July 1

Assignments advertised on VIDA website Assignments advertised on VIDA website Pre-Departure Briefing Assignments advertised on VIDA website

Cover Photo : Jeremy Horner Part of an AIDS education and awareness project, girls sit on the floor around a large poster, drawing lines to connect groups at risk of contracting HIV/ AIDS, at the Pang Lao School, in the northern city of Chiang Rai, Thailand.

VIDA volunteer Dr Margaret Shore offers teacher training in Indonesia

Recently returned VIDA Louise Hicks reflects on her experience in Vietnam.

English Language Teacher Trainers Michelle Berlin and Stephen Collins combine teaching with development

Australian Partner Organisation UNICEF

VIDA Volunteer Sarah Johnston on the impact Tennis can have in East Timor

VIDA Volunteer Christine Pheeney is working with Helping Hands Foundation in Aceh

19 20 21 22 24 26 Australian Partner Organisations To find out more about how your organisation could benefit by becoming an Australian Partner Organisation with VIDA, please contact the VIDA Team or freecall (in Australia) 1800 995 536. VIDA would like to thank our active Australian Partner Organisations for their support and involvement: Adventist Development Relief Agency Australia (ADRA) Asia South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education Australia (ASPBAE) Australian Foundation for Peoples of Asia and the Pacific (AFAP) Australian Rugby Union Baptist World Aid Australia Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation (Australia) Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health Canberra Friends of Dili

CARE Australia Christian Brothers – Oceania Community Links with Cambodia (CLC) Department of Agriculture and Food (WA) Department of Culture and the Arts (WA) Emergency Architects Australia Environmental Defender’s Office Ltd Federal Court of Australia Federal Court of Australia Foundation for Developing Cambodian Communities (FDCC) Free the Bears Fund Inc. GK Ancop Australia Global Development Group Habitat for Humanity Australia International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Koto International Marie Stopes International Australia Monash University Murdoch University Oxfam International Permaculture Research Institute Philippines Australia Studies Centre (PASC)

Plan International Australia Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) Save the Children Symbiosis Australia TEAR Australia Transparency International UNHCR University of Adelaide University of Queensland University of Western Australia University of Western Sydney Youth Challenge Australia Zoos Victoria

Educating Refugees in Bangkok Arthur Mangan is a VIDA volunteer working with the Bangkok Refugee Centre as a Resource Mobilisation Officer.


In terms of minority groups, Thailand is perhaps best known for hosting a population of almost 110,000 Myanmar refugees housed in nine refugee camps located along the Thai-Myanmar border. A lesser known fact is that the country’s capitol city, Bangkok, is presently home to almost 1600 refugees and more than 500 asylum seekers from 44 countries around the world including Sri Lanka, China, Somalia, Cambodia and Laos.

While Thailand has ratified a number of important international human rights instruments, including, with certain clause exceptions, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and incorporated these into domestic law, it is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol. As such, refugees and asylum seekers are considered illegal immigrants, permitted to remain in Thailand with executive discretion. They are not distinguished from other illegal aliens. Because of their deemed illegal status, refugees and asylum seekers lead a precarious existence marked by the very real risk of exploitation/abuse, arrest, detention and deportation back to the countries from which they fled. All have had to leave their countries due to fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. So, forced repatriation of refugees or asylum seekers is, generally, not an option due to the threat to their very existence. In order to address at least some of gaps in protection and assistance to these displaced people, the Bangkok Refugee Centre (BRC), under the administration of the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR), was established almost twenty years ago to provide services and assistance to urban refugees living in and around Bangkok.

The BRC is a not for profit organization which partners the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by ensuring that recognized asylum seekers and refugees enjoy personal security and safety through increased protection and more efficient provision of assistance. The Center’s vision is to proactively render appropriate humanitarian relief services, particularly to extremely vulnerable individuals, that will enable them to live their lives with dignity and encourage them to be productive and caring members of their community. The Center offers urban refugees a number of services, including financial assistance in the form of a monthly subsistence allowance, supplementary food and clothing, medical and health care, psychosocial and educational assistance. These services are provided through the four main units of the Centre - Medical, Psychosocial, Education and Administration/Finance. As previously mentioned, Thailand is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This affords refugee children, despite their illegal status, the opportunity to participate in the country’s education system. The majority of refugee children in urban areas such as Bangkok are enrolled at the kindergarten, primary and secondary levels in mostly public schools. Tuition and other related expenses are covered by UNHCR. Up to a few years ago refugees wanting to further their education through institutes of higher learning could apply to the UNHCR for a DAFI scholarship (provided by the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund). This project, however, has been phased down in Thailand. As refugee children who do not speak Thai or English face difficulties in gaining admission to schools, the BRC provides non-formal education, including primary level English and Thai language courses, to newly-recognized refugee children who are awaiting enrolment in local


Far Left : The skyscrapers of Bangkok

schools. As of March 2009, 120 refugee children were attending the school at the BRC. However, due to a lack of capacity at the school and financially, asylum seeker children are excluded from the education program. This situation has been partially addressed by a program of Basic English and other activities hosted by a group of volunteers each Saturday morning. As many as 70 asylum seekers have been attending on Saturdays since these lessons and activities commenced 6 months ago.

BRC for both teachers and students and the development of a library/language lab/learning centre at the BRC.

To meet demand, the BRC considered setting up an extension of the school at Lopburi, north-east of Bangkok, to cater for both asylum seeker and refugee Lao Hmong children. This plan has had to be shelved due to budget constraints. The situation is further compounded by the fact that the Thai government has instructed the UNHCR to cease both the Asylum Seeker and Refugee Status Determination processing of people from Laos for the foreseeable future.

The enthusiasm of the refugee student population at the BRC was highlighted when the Centre held an Education Recognition day last November. On this occasion students who had attained good results based on the school’s assessment of their work for the year were presented with awards in recognition of their achievement. This was the first such occasion and was so warmly received by the students that it has been decided to make this an annual event.

An August 2006 evaluation of the education program at the BRC highlighted the lack of qualified teachers and limited funding availability with which to hire such staff. The need for teacher training and more organised curriculum planning was also emphasised. The recent appointment of a qualified Education Administrator may help considerably in facilitating teacher development but an inadequate education budget excludes the possibility of further teacher training externally in the near future.

These unfortunate people have so few opportunities in this country that they embrace every chance to better their future prospects. Their thirst for knowledge is evidenced daily by the few, if any, absentees. Ask them what their wish would be and they will tell you that they look forward to their first day at school in a resettlement country. It is sad to think that so many refugees will not get this chance as they discover the difficulties involved in finding a country prepared to take them.

Curriculum planning is being addressed by the appointment of a VIDA volunteer who will undertake this role for up to 2 years from April 2009. Amongst the other challenges of curriculum development, this volunteer will have to address the difficulty of tailoring a curriculum to meet the needs of a very diverse student population. Other recommendations, which have been implemented, included improving the quality of internet access at the

The BRC also provides vocational courses on computers, hairdressing and hospitality with the opening of the BRC Coffee Bar in 2007. Students wishing to take higher-level language courses are encouraged to do so outside the Centre but close to where they live in order to reduce travel time and minimize the possibility of arrest.

Other Sources: Analysis of Gaps in Refugee Protection Capacity Thailand Nov 2006 UNHCR




Left : The Children of Chananaw. Photo : Edwin Wise

What more could we ask for?

Recently mobilised VIDA volunteers Maria Cameron, Cultural Documenter & Educational Materials Developer & Edwin Wise, Educational Materials Developer and Networking Advisor HO – Dananao Elementary School. APO – Philippines Australia Studies Centre After two hours of hiking – first climbing up the steep road from Tinglayan, then horizontally along the walking track, we reach the footbridge across a tributary of the Chico River. The last stretch before we reach our destination is the hardest: almost-vertical much of the way. We stop to rest, breathless, at the terraced rice fields along the track. Clouds fill the valley below, the afternoon sun streams from the west. Thankfully, this last stretch we hike in full shade. At last, we arrive. First, we see a cluster of rice granaries and a stand of coffee trees. We enter the village from the east: a collection of 102 houses form a loose crescent moon around a series of terraced, irrigated rice fields, bathed in gold by late afternoon light. Only just planted out with pachug (rice seedlings), the fields are a vibrant green. We hear the dull thud of rice being pounded, by hand, with aru and rusung – implements best described as giant, wooden mortar and pestle. Groups of children can be heard – singing, laughing, crying, and shouting. A few scrub the black from the bottom of big cooking pots in the irrigation channels, using the grit of sand and their feet as scrubbers. Pigs and chooks scratch in the village paths. Farmers with heavy loads make their way home from a hard day’s work in their fields. We sit on the porch of the house where we are hosted by our dear friends Agom and Gaspar. We sip sweet, hot coffee, and watch the village life unfold before us until dusk, in a theatre-like arrangement of houses.

This is Chananaw (formally Dananao), original home of the Ichananaw tribe of Kalinga, located in the north of the Cordillera mountain range of Luzon (the largest island in the Philippines). It is also our ‘office’ for the next five months. The Cordilleras, along with the Muslim south, was the only area of the Philippines never under direct Spanish control, although this was not without 300 years of attempts. The Spaniards’ desire to reap souls as well as gold left a bloody mark on the Cordilleras’ history, as well as demarcating ‘lowlanders’ from ‘uplanders’, ‘civilised’ from ‘barbarians’, or ‘Christians’ from ‘pagans’. Today’s Cordilleras still reflect this history of autonomy, although the cross was brought, along with Western education, by the Americans – after they purchased the Philippines from Spain for $20 million, along with Cuba, in 1898. Today’s Chananaw reflects a shared yet singular history: public education only arrived in the 1950s and the church followed in the 1960s. Even now, no road reaches the village. It is the only village without electricity in the municipality, and a subsistence economy prevails. Mobile phone reception is temperamental and only from a few locations. We were introduced to Chananaw by a mutual friend one year ago. Both of us having learnt of many of the negative aspects of globalisation and the international development industry as part of our Social Science training, we quickly struck up a friendship with several members of the tribe who were keen to share with us their ideas and concerns regarding the Ichananaw’s


Education Issue

Solomon Time


increasing interaction with the outside world, as national and multinational corporations sit poised to extract natural resources from their lands, if only the tribe would consent. Our friends’ key concern is for development on the community’s own terms; life here could be improved in many respects but there is much they want to retain from the old ways. On our second visit, a tribal elder and friend, Daniel, invited us to live in Chananaw for one year to help them to document their ‘life system’ in order to pass it on to their future generations – a dream of his for many years. We said we’d love to in 2009 when Maria would finish her 11-month AYAD volunteer assignment (working at the Ateneo Center for Educational Development [ACED] in Manila to improve the quality of public education in the Philippines). Edwin decided to put his PhD in Sociology on hold to work on the project, having completed a year’s fieldwork in Manila. From the seed of Daniel’s initial invitation, we designed a five-month project to document the Ichananaw’s way of life and to develop ‘indigenised’ educational materials for use in their local public school as the means for passing cultural heritage to the next generation. Our twin goal is to improve the quality of education at the school through making education more culturally appropriate. This ties in nicely with current national education policy trends in the Philippines regarding education for indigenous peoples. For instance, the value of learning in one’s native language first, before having

to learn the country’s two official languages (Filipino and English) is being promoted from several quarters and a bill for mother-tongue languages as the medium of instruction for the first three years of schooling is being considered by congress, to combat poor public educational outcomes across the Philippines. With the Dananao Elementary School (our host organisation), we managed to arrange support from VIDA for the project. We are also Honorary Research Fellows at La Trobe University’s Philippines Australia Studies Centre, and Edwin is a Research Affiliate of University of the Philippines-Baguio’s Cordillera Studies Center, to support the research aspects of the project. Dananao Elementary School is also partnering with ACED for the development and publication of indigenised educational materials and ACED is applying to the Australian Government for a Direct Aid Program grant to cover publishing costs. So the project really cuts across education, development and academia, with the overall aim of meeting the community’s initial request. Another goal is to link the Ichananaw to local development organisations. Already, the school has become a partner school of ACED. Also, Cartwheel Foundation – a local NGO supporting education for remote indigenous communities – will be running its Music and Arts Program in Chananaw this May-June. Some of the stories and songs we gather are also likely to be included in a UNICEF Philippines publication to be used in childcare centres and pre-schools across the country.

Left : At work in the classroom. Photo : Edwin Wise

So, what exactly do we hope to produce in five months? Our wish list is ambitious: an ethnographic account of Ichananaw life; a photo essay or coffee table book; a Chananaw-English dictionary; a history reader and other educational materials; a series of illustrated story books in three languages simultaneously (Chananaw, English and Filipino), telling the Ichananaw’s legends, fables and history; and a ‘knowledge bank’ of materials relevant to the Ichananaw, collected from museums and libraries. We will be pleased even if we only accomplish a few of these, but we like to dream big. And how are we doing it? Maria is staying in Chananaw, gathering stories, elder’s oral histories, and general observations from sharing daily life, as well as working with the teachers to indigenise the educational materials. Our assignment supervisor and close friend, Agom, is working very closely with us on all aspects of the project, as is Daniel, and several others in the community are also involved. Edwin joined Maria for the first month, and is now based in Manila to gather all materials from external sources and to liaise with project partners. Of course, we are both travelling back and forth to see each other from time to time. In this first month, we have been soaking up all aspects of daily life (planting rice seedlings into knee-deep, soupy mud; documenting bedtime stories; drinking copious amounts of coffee), and mixing structured activities (running art classes for the children) with just taking the experiences and opportunities as they arise (taking up all invitations to share a meal with a new family; staying

up late into the night with more than 50 members of the community to attend a songa – the butchering of a pig by a young man in honour of his sick grandmother). But five months is a very short time, so we see this project more as laying the groundwork for future engagements – by us, by local NGOs, or by any other interested Australians – with the Ichananaw for development on their own terms. We are also simply enjoying living in what is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever found, in the company of good friends. What more could we ask for?



Changing the world, one spark plug at a time. RIGHT : Andrew Souto in the VIP servicing workshop .

Andrew Souto Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Hanoi – Vocational Training Officer When Andrew Souto first visited Vietnam in 2005, he saw a country struggling to develop its automotive repair industry. As a trained and seasoned mechanic, Andrew made a commitment to return as a volunteer and get involved.


A year later he returned as a VIDA on assignment to Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a grassroots Australian NGO working with street kids in Hanoi. At first Andrew was training teenagers in auto repair through a private company, but in April 2008 he pioneered a concept that has taken the city by storm: a motorcycle rental and repair company that trains disadvantaged youth in a wide range of skills. VIP Bikes, a social enterprise set up under the auspices of Blue Dragon, started out with the funds to set up a basic workshop and buy 3 motorbikes. But with tremendous support from other Australians and the broader expat community in Hanoi, VIP Bikes has boomed. Just 7 months later, it has 35 motorcycles – mostly brand new – rented out and a steady stream of support that Andrew and his team can barely keep up with. “The expat community love the idea,” Andrew says while taking a rare break from training his apprentices in motorcycle maintenance. “Hundreds of people who are living here for 6 months or a couple of years rent motorbikes, because the procedures for buying and selling can be too complicated and risky. “VIP Bikes lets them not only rent a bike, but also contribute to a sustainable project that is helping kids get off the streets and back onto the straight and narrow.” Indeed, it’s not only the motorbike rental business that’s booming: Andrew spends much of his day overseeing trainees and developing programs to teach the many skills that are sorely lacking in Hanoi’s motor repair scene.

Bao is a 17 year old boy who grew up on a boat on the banks of the Red River. His father, a war veteran, was unable to work, so Bao sold lottery tickets on the street at night to make sure they had enough to eat each day. With Blue Dragon’s help, Bao returned to school, but after 3 years of study he was ready to turn his attention to a trade. VIP Bikes gave him the perfect opportunity to try his hand at motorcycle repair. Andrew is full of praise for young Bao: “From the first day he started, he’s shown a real passion for this work. He’s here early every day, and even on his days off he turns up. And not only that – he’s good at this. He’s got the makings of a fantastic mechanic.” VIP Bikes aims to not just teach mechanics, but to set the standard for motorbike repair in Hanoi. Motorcycle repair in Vietnam is commonly considered a lowskilled job suitable only for poor people, and many charities have set up basic training courses that teach mechanics accordingly. But the Blue Dragon team has taken a different approach: they want their trainees to aim high, to become expert in the field, and to display professionalism and pride in their work. Blue Dragon’s founder and Director, Michael Brosowski, worries that too many NGOs focus on giving disadvantaged youth skills that just aren’t useful for breaking out of poverty. “Just because somebody is poor doesn’t mean they aren’t capable,” he points out. “VIP Bikes offers training that’s rigorous and puts our kids in a strong position to become the best in their field. That’s why Andrew’s involvement is critical to the success of the enterprise: as an Australian mechanic, he has the skills to build up a high standard training program. ”

Apart from motorbike repair, VIP Bikes provides training opportunities in related skills – such as welding – as well as in some more academic areas. Andrew has advertised at the Blue Dragon drop-in centre for a trainee bookkeeper and administrator, and is hoping one of the teenagers will start soon, under the guidance of a Blue Dragon accountant. Another teenager to train with Andrew is Chinh, 19, who is in his final year of high school. Chinh was a shoe-shine boy when he first encountered Blue Dragon several years ago, and is now getting ready to apply for university. Thanks to VIP Bikes, Chinh has had an opportunity to learn some marketing skills. With some supervision and support, Chinh has helped Andrew develop some promotional ideas and materials which have been useful in spreading the word about the social enterprise throughout Hanoi. As a result of this experience, Chinh has decided that he’d like to study marketing at university next year. VIP Bikes is meeting a whole range of needs in the Hanoi community. The hands-on training organised by Andrew is equipping young people with skills and developing professionalism among Vietnam’s next generation of mechanics and small business owners. But Andrew is too busy to take the credit for his extraordinary work. As he hands a 16 year old trainee a dirty spark plug and asks them to identify the problem, he smiles with satisfaction to know that the skills and experiences he has brought to Vietnam are making a powerful difference to those in need.




As a first time visitor to the Solomon Islands, I was quickly introduced to the concept of Solomon Time – the reason, explanation and excuse for the Solomon Islanders relaxed attitude and laid back lifestyle. However, the communities involved in the construction of the Emergency Architects single storey double classroom for Ngari Community High School have shown that Solomon time is perhaps just a myth. Work commenced in September 2008 and in 10 weeks the building was substantially complete – a demanding program for any location, let alone one where a relaxed attitude to time is favoured. Australian Partner Organisation Emergency Architects Australia - Architecture Assistant Erin Foley

Emergency Architects Australia (EAA) are a not for profit organisation with an international network of construction professionals contributing their architectural skills to communities effected by natural disasters. The tsunami and earthquake which devastated the Solomon Islands in 2007 went largely unnoticed by most of the world. Emergency Architects Australia’s quick response had teams in the field almost immediately, living within the worst affected communities running village shelter workshops focusing on earthquake resistant construction techniques. Two years later, EAA’s involvement with the Solomon Islands continues to gain strength as their focus has shifted to the rehabilitation of schools affected by the disaster. EAA has been involved with the Solomon Islands Government Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development school recovery program RARP (Resources Recovery Action Rehabilitation Program) and has recently completed construction of the first exemplar school building in the remote community of Ngari on the island of Ghizo in the Western Province.

Over 140 schools were affected by the tsunami and the earthquake in the Western Province alone. It is common throughout the Solomon Islands that a lack of basic school facilities – such as a permanent classroom building - means that local schooling can only be offered up to basic primary level. The shortage of school structures often includes a lack of sanitary facilities and teachers’ houses - no staff accommodation simply means: no staff, no classes. Students wishing to continue higher school education often have to travel long distances, sometimes even to other islands to attend school. Ngari Community High School is only the second community high school permanent building on Ghizo, where there are approximately 300 students all over the island finishing the last year of primary school; before the EAA project the high school was housed in a tent.



Right: Team Work. Far Right: Under Construction. PREVIOUS PAGE : Inside the new School. Photos By : Erin Foley.


EAA facilitate communities to build their own projects through integration into the local communities, allowing the necessary skills to be passed on. For the small Emergency Architects team in Gizo (Robbie Dodds and David Kaunitz from Emergency Architects Australia, Fatima Touati from Emergency Architects France and myself from VIDA) this meant a close involvement with the community, not only working alongside them onsite but living within the village. The main town of Gizo is located on one side of Ghizo Island and Ngari village is on the other more exposed side. The majority of our time was spent living and working in the village of Vori Vori next to the Ngari Schools site, which is on a plateau. In the only beachside hut left standing after the Tsunami we made our home away from home. We quickly got used to the outdoor pour toilet, washing under the tap stand in the middle of the village and cooking over a fire in the outdoor kitchen. Our only means of communication with Gizo was to send handwritten notes back and forth with anyone who was going into town, as the nearest mobile phone reception was a steep, sweaty 45-minute uphill walk through the bush. I began to appreciate how challenging daily life can be without all the modern conveniences I have become conditioned to, at the same time gaining a greater understanding of the importance of fundamental necessities – access to primary and high school education in a structurally sound, suitable learning environment being one of them. The success of any architecture project is its relevance to the culture in which it exists, and although it might sound basic, our living situation allowed us not only to maximise our time on site but provided an opportunity to integrate into the local community, gain their trust and utilise their knowledge about local building materials, techniques and processes. I supervised the men cutting trees in the bush and worked with the men and women to make windows for the classroom using traditional weaving techniques.

For my first time working in the field and it was an eye opening experience. It was mentally exhausting and physically challenging but rewarding at the same time. Working with local carpenters and builders was imperative to the success of the project. The number of the community members who turned up day after day to work on the school impressed me. Women were paid to provide food each day to the laborers and this encouraged attendance. Some of the volunteers had children attending the primary school and saw their efforts as an invaluable contribution to their children’s future, while others who had no children at the school volunteered because they understood the significance of the project to their whole community. Community involvement throughout the whole process from groundbreaking to building handover is vital to encourage community ownership and future maintenance. A sense of accomplishment and pride has been created by the consistent effort of the community over the three months, and this was evident in the joyous celebratory mood of the handover ceremony. In true Solomon style speeches and prayers were followed by dedications, dancing and more speeches; a one hundred meter long custom feast, laid out on banana leaves, was accompanied by more dancing and singing, and the ceremony closed with a farewell song and another speech. The Ngari community has embraced the building as impetus to create a bigger and better learning facility with the intention of the Community High School becoming a key institution of secondary learning for students from all over Ghizo Island and has already independently applied for funding to build furniture and a staff house. Emergency Architects along with RARP are facilitating the second stage of the school, which includes girls and boys boarding dormitories, ablution blocks, a mess hall and additional staff houses. Given the positive experience, with this, the first community high school building, Ngari community has disproved the myth of Solomon Time for good.



Why Animal Welfare Education? WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) Australia has been an Australian Partner Organisation for over three years. Working towards a world where animal cruelty ends, WSPA’s mission is to build a global animal welfare movement. Our work is a combination of hands-on projects, campaigning, education and training and capacity building. As an international animal welfare organisation with nearly 1000 member societies (affiliated groups) in more than 140 countries, we understand the complexities and challenges of delivering programmes in developing countries. AYAD and VIDA volunteers have proved invaluable to our member societies in the Pacific region, where they have been posted on a variety of assignments; including veterinary, education and public relations placements.


2009 sees the mobilisation of two humane education volunteers partnered with animal protection organisation in Fiji and Vanuatu. Thea Saliba (AYAD) and Caroline Overbeek (VIDA) will be responsible for the training of Fiji SPCA and Sam’s Animal Welfare Trust staff and volunteers to create an effective network of speakers and educators, developing and distributing educational resources, and forming relationships with stakeholders. The end goal is to initiate educational strategies and the introduction of animal welfare concepts into the curriculum. Caroline explains her motivation to become a VIDA volunteer. “I chose an education assignment as I have been teaching life sciences in Australian schools for 11 years and felt I had skills in this area to share. I also desired a new challenge outside of mainstream education. When I first started teaching, I was very much the human biologist but in recent years, my passion has become non-human animals. I want to help animals because for far too long they have been seen as not worthy of care and respect in their own right. I really look forward to putting together a team of ni-Vanuatu people to go into the schools, into their village communities and spread the message of animal welfare. The message will be far more effectively received if it is passed onto the local people by the local people. And ultimately, I want this expatriate volunteer position to be obsolete!! This would mean that locals have really embraced the positive animal welfare message promoted by Sam’s Animal Welfare Trust”

Both Fiji and Vanuatu suffer from an overpopulation of companion animals and general public lack of empathy for animal welfare. WSPA’s Pacific member societies’ humane education programmes are vital in changing a shift in behaviour to allow the animal protection societies to advance beyond the continuous cycle of rescue and re- homing.

Thea reflects on ‘Why animal welfare education?’ “Teaching humane education in Fijian schools will improve the lives of both people and animals. Community awareness is needed to promote the benefits of spaying and neutering and to reduce the number of stray dogs and cats that are abused. Humane education helps children to learn how to behave safely around dogs and teaches values that lead to better human relationships, such as kindness, empathy and caring for others.” “When one child learns to be kind to animals they can help to change the behaviour of their family, friends and neighbourhood. This is why animal welfare education and positive experiences with animals are so important for children”. “I hope to recruit and train some local volunteers to run animal welfare education workshops in schools and work with the Ministry of Education to introduce humane education principles into the Fijian school curriculum. I would also love to see the establishment of a mobile veterinary and education clinic that could visit schools and communities all around Fiji.

Children play outside a UNICEF-supplied tent school that was just set up by villagers and UNICEF staff members, in the village of Kyane Chaung in Irrawaddy Division in Myanmar. The tent can accommodate 50 students per class and stands at the site of the former village school that was destroyed in the cyclone. UNICEF also provided other educational supplies. Photo : UNICEF / Myo Thame

Education in East Asia and the Pacific There is little doubt that education is one of the key weapons in combating poverty in our world. While in Australia the opportunity to go to school is accepted as the norm – often begrudgingly by our kids – this is far from the case in many other parts of the world. Today it is estimated that some 93 million of school age are missing out completely on an education and thereby increasing the risk they will remain trapped in poverty. And it is mostly girls who are missing out. Often it’s due to cultural practices or the lack of basic facilities in schools such as female toilets or their education is sacrificed because of the work they are forced to do at home or in struggling family enterprises. Ten year old Susannah Thomas had to drop out of school and farm on the family coffee plot in the fertile Nebiliyer district in the Western Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Susannah represents a lot of what is wrong about girl’s education in Papua New Guinea. As poverty spreads in PNG, many parents are asking whether it is worth sending their children to school, especially the girls, resulting in the highest gender gap in the Pacific region. For every 100 boys in primary school there are just 80 girls; for every secondary school the figure is just 65. But there is some good news in the fight to give children across the globe the opportunity to learn and access a better life. And this good news is unfolding on our very doorstep. Despite the challenges in PNG, the Pacific and East Asia region has achieved more progress in increasing children’s access to basic education than any other part of the world. In 1970, more than 50 million primary school-aged children were not enrolled in school. Today, this number

has been reduced to less than 7 million. And UNICEF is working hard to ensure this success continues. In PNG, UNICEF and the Government of PNG are working to help girls like Susannah to go to school and to stay in school by making schools ‘child friendly’. Child friendly schools are schools that, in addition to providing quality education, are safer, have adequate learning materials, safe water provisions and separate toilets for girls and boys. Child friendly, free and compulsory education is what will make a difference to thousands of children in PNG. In Thailand, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education in Thailand have developed a hill tribe school project to provide thousands of hill tribe children in the poor and remote Mae Hong Son district with primary education. So far, 17 schools have been built in the Mae Hong Son district, allowing over 472 primary students to go to school. The main education goals for the hill tribe schools are to ensure that all the students are able to read and write Thai and do basic math. They are also taught to use natural resources wisely in order to protect their environment and to preserve their ethnic traditions and culture. UNICEF also works to ensure that children can continue to go to school when disaster strikes. When cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar in May 2008, almost 4000 schools were damaged or destroyed. UNICEF quickly responded by providing emergency school-in-a-box kits, recreational kits, tents and psychosocial training to help children and teachers cope with the aftermath of the cyclone. While longer-term planning and reconstruction is still underway, UNICEF’s immediate relief efforts benefitted more than 390,000 children in 2,500 schools. Despite the remarkable progress in our region challenges remain such as low secondary enrolment rates, the quality of education

and continuing gaps between boys and girls enrolment rates. More than 60 million children in the East Asia and Pacific – one in three children – do not go on to secondary school. Those who do go to school often experience violence, outdated teaching methods, crowded classrooms and poorly trained teachers. UNICEF will continue to work hard to overcome these challenges because we believe education is a fundamental human right and that every child is entitled to it. Education is a means of achieving other critical goals and provides a foundation for sustainable development. Education can promote gender equality, child survival and development, protect children from abuse and exploitation and fight HIV and AIDS through prevention campaigns. UNICEF’s work is focused particularly on achieving equal access to universal primary school education, empowerment of women through girls’ education and gender equality, ensuring education in emergencies, establishing early child hood development (ECD) programs and enhancing quality education in primary and secondary education. In doing so, UNICEF focuses on the most excluded and vulnerable children: girls, the disabled, ethnic minorities, the rural and urban poor, victims of war and natural disasters and children affected by HIV and AIDS. Whether in times of crisis or periods of peace, in cities or remote villages, UNICEF is committed to realising a fundamental, non-negotiable goal: quality education for all. For more information or to donate visit our website at: UNICEF is the world’s leading effective development and emergency relief organisation working globally to support children. UNICEF is not funded by the UN. We rely on voluntary donations for our work with children in over 150 developing countries and territories.


Bangladesh and the ELTT program

Stephen Collins & Michelle Berlin – Funded by AusAID and managed by Austraining International through VIDA the English Language Teacher Trainer (ELTT) Program provides the opportunity for skilled and experienced Australian professionals to exchange knowledge and skills and build the capacity of counterparts in Bangladesh. Stephen Collins who has been with the English Language Teacher Trainer (ELTT) program since September 2008 outlines his role with the program. I work at the Rajshahi Teachers’ Training College (TTC). Rajshahi is a provincial city located about 250 kilometres from the capital Dhaka.


The role of the English language teacher trainers, first and foremost is to establish an excellent working relationship with the Principal and staff at the college. A simple task you may well say and it can be. It will depend on your attitude and willingness to adapt and be flexible. Secondly and possibly the prime teaching function is to assist in developing teaching strategies for your BEd students to help them use the Communicative Language teaching methodology in the classroom. Each day can and will be different. The people you work with at your college are honest, open and curious and have an unswerving desire to improve their use of the English language. My colleagues are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met and they will help in every area from shopping to understanding the local language. From the teaching standpoint at the TTCs you will deal with a wide variety of people and with a wide variety of reasons for their choice of profession. At some colleges they will have a MEd program running, you will if you choose to have classes with the CPD (Continuous Professional Development). These are in service trainees that come in for a knowledge top up. They are an eclectic bunch, but truly great people, I personally derive great personal and professional satisfaction from teaching these classes and the bonus is the ladies always bring me in some home cooked food and by god

it’s good. In addition I conduct classes for my colleagues, this is a great way to get to know them and to have a close personal interaction with them. These classes are always fun and informative, both for them and me. The job is good, the people make it exceptional. The experience of daily living here is challenging and each day is a new adventure. I’m thankful that we’ve been given this opportunity to live and work in such a culturally diverse country and with such warm hearted and hospitable people. We have been to the villages in rural areas and they reflect the true nature of the Bangladeshi people. If you like to live life to the full and have an open heart and an open mind, then come and join us in Bangladesh. Michelle Berlin an ELTT at Rajshahi PTI shares her experience.

What an experience! I have been fortunate to combine my love of teaching with working in development. Over the last 5 months my husband and I having been working in Rajshahi as part of the ELTT program. I have been working at the Primary Training Institute (PTI) while my husband is at the Teachers Training College. My days are never boring and consist of teaching a variety of classes. My routine consists of teaching the Certificate in Education trainee’s communicative teaching techniques to improve their teaching of English in the classroom. I

also conduct general English classes for the PTI instructors to improve their conversational skills. As an additional spin-off to my classes the instructors are also learning new teaching methodologies and techniques. I also carry out classes at the experimental school located on the campus. This is the real highlight of my day as these young enthusiastic students take any opportunity to engage with me to practice their English. Teaching at the experimental school also gives me the opportunity to teach from the English for Today textbooks and introduce new communicative activities in the classroom. It has given me a real insight into the issues facing primary teachers in Bangladesh. My work at the PTI also gives me opportunities to visit local government, and non-government schools to observe and assist the PTI trainees on their teaching placements. I offer support and assistance with short course English Training at the Upazilla Resource Centres. Furthermore, I have been warmly invited to participate in a wide variety of cultural activities, such as the annual sports day and national holiday festivities. These events have been astounding. I have to admit that the one thing that stands out in all my work is the amazing people I have met. Everywhere I go I am welcomed with open arms, minds and hearts. Developing strong relationships with my colleagues and the wider community I believe is the most essential role I play. The stronger my relationships grow the more insight and scope I have to use my skills to assist with the implementation of change. At the end of the day I know that relationships are the cornerstone of any change that can take place. For further information about the ELTT program visit


Freedom to Learn

Education and Gender Teacher Trainer Dr Margaret Shore is currently on a 3 year VIDA assignment with Host Organisation Yayasan Bina Sejahtera in Indonesia.

Owen, a six year old boy gifted with a photographic memory, stands by the collage table meticulously folding waste paper and carefully wrapping it around a small parcel. He seals the package with sellotape making sure that no part of the contents are visible. Watching him work Dr Margaret Shore wondered what was in the parcel and what was he planning to do with this neatly wrapped gift: she asked the teacher in charge.

“Oh Owen and Rani have each made a TV set (with building blocks)” said Dani, the teachers pointing to two complex structures of blocks “but Rani’s doesn’t have speakers. Owen made speakers for his TV and is now making another set as a present for Rani” Dr Shore watched while Owen gave the parcel to Rani saying “These are speakers for your TV”. Rani opened the parcel excitedly and thanked Owen who went straight back to his own TV. On looking closer at the speakers (two wooden blocks) Dr Shore saw that Owen had drawn replicas of the face of the speakers from the music area and stuck these onto the face of the wooden blocks. This is a sure sign of a child’s creativity and imagination at work; the ability to take an object and use it as something different in their play. A normal activity on a normal day in a normal pre-school you might think. Definitely! However the exciting part of

this educational anecdote is that Owen suffers from autism, a condition that according to popular belief restricts a child’s imagination as well as their ability to make friends or share toys. Children with autism are thought to be unable to engage in dramatic role play or interact co-operatively with others. Owen and two other children diagnosed with autism, who attend Sekolahku MySchool in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, show new evidence each week in their free play and activity time, of dispelling this popular belief and moving into active participation and socialisation with their peers. To see Indonesian teachers firstly allow, and secondly assist all children engage in free play and develop their own activities and resources inside and outside the classroom, is one of the major rewards gained from working as a volunteer teacher trainer in this developing country. For the last two years Dr Shore has been training a small group of 10 early childhood teachers to develop integrated educational programs for children from 16 months to 8 years in an early childhood centre that accepts children with different abilities, from all levels of society, from different cultures, races and languages. This meant Dr Shore had to learn the Indonesian language to understand what the teachers already know about early childhood development and how this matches with what is understood in Australia. It also meant changing the often direct, challenging approach used with trainee Australian teachers to a softer, gentler, and much more time consuming way of gaining acceptance and thus involving the teachers in new or different ways of teaching.

From this understanding Dr Shore has developed a graduated process of teacher training that provides an understanding of child development as well as stressing the importance of giving children the ‘Freedom to Learn’ independently and creatively. Outdoor activities and particularly the sand pit with its defined area and natural limits, provide excellent starting points in which the Indonesian early childhood teachers develop their own confidence while also giving the children freedom to experiment with the natural elements in many different ways without interference or disruption. Children suffering from autism often do not like the feel of sand and refuse to get their hands ‘messy’. However once they see their peers ‘having a go’ its not long before they join in too. As all teachers were familiar with the normal academic competencies required for young children, Dr Shore focuses on the processes of learning these competencies. She has acted as a role model and demonstrated different interactive teaching and learning strategies that allow the children to question, experiment and explore their environment much more freely than is usually accepted in the education system in Indonesia. Specific strategies to overcome the problems associated with the condition of autism have been developed jointly with the teachers, the children’s parents and a trained therapist. Along with weekly consultations about the children’s progress it appears that this program is achieving success where many others have failed.


Game, Set & Match in East Timor I first came to East Timor as a “trailing spouse”. My husband was working on a project here and I came to be with him for a few weeks. I had worked in Sierra Leone the year before where I helped a local coach establish “Sierra Leone Kids Tennis”, a development program that reached children well away from the city in Christian and Muslim schools in Kono (you may remember the film “Blood Diamond”) and other war ravaged areas of the country. So I started looking for a tennis court soon after I arrived in East Timor and when I saw a motor bike go past me on day 3, with a guy holding about 5 tennis racquets, I knew there must be one. In fact I later found out there are a number of old, disused courts around the country and a number in the capital.


I soon found that Dili had 2 functioning clubs a National Tennis Federation (FETTIL) with a committee operating entirely in a voluntary capacity. The National Tennis Advisor, Armindo da Costa is totally committed to the development of children and tennis. While I was here as a visitor I had the opportunity to watch him with the children and his colleagues. As with my counterpart Amidu, in Sierra Leone, I quickly saw that he was a skilled and natural teacher, loved by the children. As a result of my first encounter I came back to East Timor in July, self funded, and watched Armindo and the local coaches work with a former Australian volunteer, Ged Rapkins, at a tennis clinic and decided then and there that I would apply to come back as a VIDA volunteer to see if I could help FETTIL establish Timor-Leste Kids’ Tennis and get tennis and tennis related activities to the districts. As a teacher and trainer with a background in art and education as well as a love of sport I also knew that sport could be a powerful vehicle for many other educational activities such as training in hygiene, nutrition, environmental protection and as part of the peace building process. Whilst many people think of tennis as an elitist sport my time in Sierra Leone where we used wooden mini bats and stands with string for nets had already shown


Sarah Johnston Development Advisor with HO Federasaun de Tenis de Timor-Leste (FETTIL)

me that the game could be taken anywhere and that a functioning tennis court, although very desirable was not essential to developing the basic skills and giving children and communities access to another recreational activity. I was also excited that tennis was already here and loved by those playing it. And tennis is a game that is non-body contact, can be played by individuals as well as teams, has a code of conduct and that boys and girls and people of all ages can play. In consultation with Armindo and the committee we agreed that I should apply through VIDA to try and come back and that we would run pilot training programs in Baucau (East) and Maliana (west) and in September 2008 I came back to East Timor as a VIDA Volunteer. I was fortunate when I came back as a short term VIDA volunteer that we could get straight into planning and delivering the training. The next two months were pretty hectic with the preparation and delivery of the 2 workshops we had promised but much to everyone’s delight culminated in November with the official launch of Timor-Leste Kids Tennis with the President Ramos Horta officially launching the program and Kirsty Gusmau, the First Lady, also attending both as an official guest and as a mum to watch her young son participate in the demonstration of tennis related activities. As I write I am just about to go to Maliana in the west, about a 4 hour drive away as long as there is no major flood damage. We will deliver one more training clinic on Saturday in a gymnasium building that is to be repaired by the “Friends of Maliana” Leichhardt Council, Sydney, in conjunction with the government. So the good thing for now is we know that even if it rains we can still deliver the training. One of the Australian expats has made us some little paper origami games that the coaches will use to teach the children about healthy eating and drinking. Armindo has chosen 2 young coaches to go with us as part of their training program so they can eventually take over. Abe, is

17, and a rising young tennis player and Muijes is also 17. This will be their first time to assist with coaching outside Dili. Last weekend we took Alcina, also the same age to Baucau with another young coach, Eurico. This was also her first trip to Baucau and she is the first young female tennis player to start coaching training and start training the children. It is not easy for the FETTIL committee. They lost their computer and all equipment in 2006 when the FETTIL office was ransacked. They are working as volunteers and they need ongoing support and encouragement. However, when I look at what we have achieved in the last few months I am amazed at what we have done together. Part of my job has been to raise awareness of tennis in East Timor and beyond and its potential as an educational tool for community and peace building. Last year we set up “Friends of FETTIL” which is an informal support group of people in Dili willing to help the Federation. There are still lots of things to do like find a way for the National Tennis Advisor and key coaches to get coaching accreditation as Level 1coaches, set up an outreach program in Dili for children not in the mainstream and for the local schools. FETTIL needs other young volunteers to come and help build tennis in Dili and the districts and the country needs funding to refurbish the tennis courts scattered around the country and being used as car parks or just left empty. I have some dreams which I will share. One is to come back again on a regular basis to support this project. I would also like to see every village in East Timor have access to used tennis balls and mini tennis. I would like to see Armindo meet and work with his counterpart in Sierra Leone and most of all I would like to see FETTIL’s work continue to grow and build a sport that teaches children a way of living and a code of conduct that everyone in the community can share in.

PHOTO : Children participating in an exercise at the Tennis Clinic held in Baucau. Photo By : Sarah Johnston




An education revolution is needed...

VIDA volunteer Christine Pheeney is an Education Capacity Building Officer working with the Helping Hands Foundation in Mesjid Raya District, Aceh, Indonesia How did the education system in your area score? Probably all your answers fell along the left side. However if your child was attending a school 45 minutes from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, chances are your responses would have been from the right side for every response! Below are some facts concerning the education system in Mesjid Raya District, Aceh, Indonesia. Mesjid Raya was one area heavily affected by the 2004 Tsunami that killed over 180,000 people in the province and endured 30 years of civil war. • • • • • • • • •

85% of teachers don’t have university degrees 15 % of teachers have only 5th grade literacy Some Teachers work for less than AUD$10 a month and have worked for 4-6 months before receiving their first pay check, which does not provide back pay Many teachers have to work a second job to make ends meet Numerous times schools have been closed unannounced Preschools use curriculums from 1985!! Or no curriculum at all! Most teachers have no access to the 2006 Curriculum. Several schools have less than 35% attendance regularly - this includes both teachers and students One hour is the average amount of time a teacher spends ‘teaching’ her class daily ”Teaching” in practice here means: yelling songs, eating and colouring

An education revolution is needed Helping Hands Foundation (HHF) is doing a small part to transform the education system in Aceh, currently working with 10 Preschools. It is a beginning towards changing how education is utilised and valued. In July 2008 HHF created a program called “Semangat Belajar” (or Enthusiasm for Learning) focused on capacity building local staff and teachers in the Mesjid Raya district. The program consists of twice monthly community trainings, teacher mentoring, weekly in-school support visits and the promotion of interschool network systems. Twice monthly training sessions cover discipline strategies, child psychology and development, active and cooperative teaching learning strategies and curriculum implementation. Helping Hands Foundation’s focus, project aims and strength is in Capacity building and mentoring across all their programs. Capacity building is a key component in the success of Semangat Belajar and linked with individual mentoring, brings about change in the classroom. HHF is committed to teach strategies and support the implementation until these new concepts are adopted and self owned.

Not all the teachers working at these ten schools are interested in seeing and putting in effort required for the education system or their method of teaching to change. HHF is aware of this reality and seeks key, self motivated people to instigate change. At the moment there are 9 teachers regularly attending the training, implementing what is being taught and hungry to learn more. Already changes are being seen in the classroom - teachers going beyond colouring and rote activities to stimulate children’s mental capacities with creative activities, behaviour management strategies implemented and networks between schools are being established. Progress is slow but transformation is happening. Semangat Belajar would not be running without the voluntary support of Australian Teacher, Christine Pheeney. Christine has a passion to share the joy of learning with Indonesians, which bought her to Aceh in 2005. In November 2007 she volunteered with HHF initially for twelve months and since July 2008 has worked with two Indonesian staff members, capacity building them as this program runs. The Semangat Belajar team believes that focusing on increasing the quality of early childhood education and then assisting teachers to gather community support will bring about much needed change. The majority of HHF programs run on the smell of an oily rag and Semangat Belajar is no exception. VIDA’s contribution to support Christine since October 2008 has allowed Christine to continue her work with HHF and Semangat Belajar for another 18 months. VIDA’s role in supporting an expatriate worker is essential in bringing in knowledge and experience to the Semangat Belajar Program. Christine’s volunteer role is to capacity build and mentor locals to value quality education personally and within their communities creating sustainable results. Helping Hands Foundation would like to see education transformation in other areas of Indonesia in the future. Local project costs for one district are $25,000 AUD per year, enabling teachers to provide quality education for hundreds of children this year and thousands in years to come! More information and progress on the work of Semangat Belajar and Helping Hands Foundation’s work can be found at: Or send an email to

LEFT : Semangat Belajar – Christine Pheeney


Annual Field Trip by KOTO staff and trainees to Sapa. Photo : Louise Hicks.


Know one, teach one.

Returned VIDA volunteer Louise Hicks worked as a Chef Trainer with Host Organisation Know One Teach One (KOTO) on its professional training program. My role as a VIDA volunteer was chef trainer with Host Organisation KOTO. I worked largely with two graduates, Ms Ha and Ms Thu, teaching them the skills to train new trainees. The KOTO philosophy to “know one, teach one” encourages graduates who have gained external work experience to return to KOTO and pass on their knowledge. At KOTO I assisted in this process working with the Australian TAFE system and the support of Box Hill Institute to ensure that the training program is internationally accredited, that skill levels and assessment procedures were maintained at required standards. We worked on training methodology, building training resources, setting up a new training kitchen which better allowed individual and team work space for practical sessions and always ensuring that training was followed up in work place experience at KOTO on Van Mieu, the very busy KOTO restaurant. At KOTO every 6 months a new class begins a 2 year training program, 12 months of vocational training in the KOTO training kitchen followed by 12 months restaurant experience at KOTO on Van Mieu and external work experience in Hanoi’s International Hotels and stand alone restaurants. During my time at KOTO the program was extended from 18 months to 2 years. This allowed the introduction of a specialty cooking classes bringing chefs and hospitality leaders in Hanoi to come in and share their expertise with the KOTO trainees. These people generously donated their time as guest chefs, speakers or hosted site visits.


Left: Student at the KOTO chef training school applying the finishing touches to her deserts. Photo : Louise Hicks.

KOTO however is far more than a just a training program. It is a family! With an enormous support network. Life as a KOTO family member was extraordinary and so much revolves around shared meals. The trainees were always so grateful for the opportunities that KOTO had given that any chance to cook for friends, family members, supporters, trainers.... always became a way to say thankyou. The KOTO family did more than just work too. Every year all 100 trainees plus staff of around 50 ventured out on an annual field trip. A first ever holiday for many trainees. During my time at KOTO we travelled North to Sapa, where we trekked through monsoon rains to an ethnic minority home stay; travelled south to Hue, Hoi An and the Cham Islands for a beach camp out and East to Halong Bay where we boarded 4 junks and sailed around the magnificent Heritage listed karst island bay, then held the KOTO Olympics on Cat Ba beach. Everything at KOTO focuses on working as a team. Similarly KOTO fund raises as a team. The major fundraising event held each year is an 80 km sponsored bike ride. Three years I made the distance and in each case it was a highlight of my working year. It felt like participating in the tour de France a la Vietnam. The route once out of the Hanoi traffic madness wound down country tracks, atop rice paddy dikes, along canals filled with ducks. The streets were packed with local children cheering and holding their hands out for a friendly slap. Over 150 riders from all nationalities participate and many thousands are raised. This year my personal challenge was to get as many KOTO trainees and

staff riding as possible, not easy! It’s a long way! But after 3 years I finally got Ms Ha to ride and she made it….. pooped but with a very satisfied smile. KOTO not only provides treats but also expects its trainees to give back to those less fortunate. Annually a “Winter appeal” is organised. The restaurant is closed for the day to allow trainees and staff to visit an organisation caring for others in difficult situations. Working together the KOTO team provides a special lunch, gives gifts, donates winter clothing, presents some entertainment and generally brightens the day for a group of people who suffer hardship. The KOTO community service program in the last year was extended and now encourages trainees to volunteer their own time to organisations in Hanoi. Every Tuesday a team of trainees cook and then deliver food to one of the local pagodas that care for orphaned and abandoned children. Time is spent dishing out the food but also just social time, helping with homework, playing soccer and chatting, sharing experiences. Working with KOTO not only opened my eyes to real hardship but also showed me that giving just the smallest thing, a hug, can be rewarded with the most beautiful smile. It taught patience, the value of giving without expectation, new depths of compassion, the unimportance of possessions, the healing properties of laughter and so, so much more. Thanks VIDA! You can learn more about KOTO and its program.



Connect Magazine is published three times a year and highlights the achievements of Australian Volunteers for International Development, man...

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