Alverez Emmanuel, Hannah Baldemoro, Matt Allen and Emmel Murray reviewing HR policies at the Philippine Red Cross. Photo Credit: Gunther Deichmann/Australian Red Cross introducing composting and worm farming systems. Encouraged by the success of this project, Kenya Red Cross is piloting greenhouses in other branches and schools, as a way of improving food security in the region. Meredith is now formally on assignment under the AVID program, as a horticultural adviser on this project. “We retired fairly early at the age of 56, with a view to doing the things that we had been unable to do because of family and work commitments for many years,” Meredith explains. “We have gained a lot of satisfaction from our work with Kenya Red Cross. We feel that we have made an impact and contributed to something positive and in the process made some good friends and have a happy and friendly environment to work in.” Cross the Indian Ocean to Timor-Leste, where Danielle Parry has swapped television journalism for community development. The former West Australian correspondent for ABC Television’s The 7.30 Report, Danielle had thought about volunteering with Red Cross for several years before she made her move through the AVID program. Danielle is now a communications adviser with Timor-Leste Red Cross, a relatively new function for a small humanitarian organisation with a mission to improve the quality of life for some of the country’s most vulnerable people. In her first week, Danielle found herself in the tiny village of Harubo, dancing the ‘Timor two-step’ with the village chief as part of a community celebration over a new water supply system installed by Red Cross. “It was an honour to be par t of the stor y for a change,” she says. “As a journalist I’m usually more of an obser ver, writing about what I see others doing. But in Harubo, I was
welcomed into the community to actually be par t of a life-changing moment.” It isn’t all dancing and making new friends, though. AVID volunteers willingly accept the intense challenges that come with the job: the lack of resources, the struggle to master a new language, the cross-cultural barriers and the fact that progress can seem imperceptibly slow at times. Matt Allen expected natural disasters when he volunteered in the Philippines but it’s the everyday, mundane crises that keep him busy. In a country beset by typhoons, floods and landslides, Philippine Red Cross distributes relief supplies to survivors, sets up shelters, provides safe water and health services, and helps people re-establish their livelihoods. Responding to disaster after disaster has left the organisation little time to focus on its own development; and Matt, with a management background in the corporate sector, is volunteering to support the organisation’s human resource and governance processes. The challenge for Matt and his colleagues is to develop the structure, culture and processes of a well-functioning organisation – an intricate task given the historical lack of consistent procedures, and policies that sometimes date back to the 1950s, and almost half a million volunteers around the country. Despite the challenges and frustrations of his role, Matt is impressed by the capacity of his colleagues. “It’s amazing what Philippine Red Cross achieves and how it makes a difference to the everyday lives of Filipinos,” he says. “I am working with great people with the best intentions – and that is what is making this volunteering stint worthwhile.” For AVID volunteers, job satisfaction comes not from what they have achieved themselves, but what others have achieved while they were present.
David and Meredith Hatherly at Lake Nakuru in Kenya’s Rift Valley
David and Meredith Hatherly at the Kenyan and Tanzanian border in the Maasai Mara. Christine Hansen from Australian Red Cross explains: “After a career focussed on our personal achievements, this is a real opportunity to facilitate achievement in others. The yardstick is: did you support your colleagues in achieving their own vision for themselves, their organisation and their community? Did you pass on some skills and knowledge, and learn something from in the process? Were you a part of something that can continue after you’ve gone? If so, that’s a job well done.” The AVID program is the Australian Government, AusAID initiative. It covers airfares, accommodation, living allowances and other support for volunteers. Visit www.ausaid.gov.au/volunteer or call Red Cross on (03) 9345 1834 for more information.
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The Last Post magazine - Autumn 2012 - Anzac Day Special