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The donations that do more harm than goood

Although well intentioned, how often have you given goods to charity on the assumption that anything would be helpful, without a thought to whether the gift would be of genuine use?
Think back a month or so to Christmas- how many gifts did you receive from givers that meant well, but just don’t fit, or don’t work for you? Or gifts that are really about the giver- those that are easy, cheap, make them feel good or are just considered socially the right thing to do?

So often we have seen groups that mean well adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to projects, designing a project so they have something that can be completed by paying volunteers, or implementing the cheapest options so that they can be scaled up. Volunteer groups planting crops in the name of service (for communities whose sole source of income is farming), unskilled teenagers constructing school buildings on ‘service’ trips, computers given to a school without power to charge them … all projects and ideas that have made things worse in the community, regardless of the good intentions.

When looking to support charities or aid programs it’s vital to seek out organisations that:

  • implement programs based on local community need and that strengthen the local development capacity;
  • are committed to long-term, sustainable and quality projects;
  • don’t engage volunteers in roles that can be completed by local people.

If you are considering giving donations or aid, consider what would be the best solution if you were faced with a similar challenge in your own life. And whether they meet the following criteria recommended by USAID:

  • Items are specifically requested by a charitable or local organisation working on-site, and
  • Items are available in sufficient quantity to serve affected populations,
  • Items are easily integrated into existing relief and development programs,
  • Items are monitored for effectiveness.
  • Transportation costs are paid for by the donor
  • The recipient organization has a distribution plan

To which we would add- items cannot to be sourced locally.

One of the best blog’s on this issue is by development veteran Saundra Schimmelpfennig, whose posts are published on the US Agency for International Development website. We’ll leave you with a quote from her:

“One of my best gifts ever was the shortwave radio my sister gave me just before I left for the Peace Corps. I was so attached to it that I kept it with me wherever I went in my house…That radio was my lifeline to the English speaking world for two years. How did my sister know to give it to me? She asked what I needed most.”

Clint’s February Visit to Fiji in Preparation for Four Fantastic New Programs in 2013

Almost 10 months had passed since my last visit to Fiji. It was fantastic to be back, particularly in the highlands of Viti Levu- one of the best places in the world. I was extremely fortunate to be able to make this trip, in preparation for four Destination Dreaming programs running in Fiji in 2013.

This was also a fantastic opportunity to check in with the community projects Destination Dreaming has supported in recent years. We are thrilled that the Nasivikoso Village Primary School is finally completed and operating. This project is something that Destination Dreaming and its participants has been supporting since 2008, including raising over $16,000 for the construction of the school. It was an amazing feeling to walk up the hill and see the school looking so polished and perfect, and with the village so proud of this achievement.

Destination Dreaming has also been in discussion with the Methodist Church Humanitarian Department regarding installation of a water filter for the village. It was great to be in the village with representatives of the Department to plan the delivery of $6,000 of funds to install another SkyJuice filter for the benefit of the school.

The Fiji Islands, like many tropical destinations, have had a tough few years with floods, cyclones and other natural disasters. In December 2012, an extremely destructive tropical cyclone, TC Evan, damaged many villages in the western division of Fiji, including areas our partner communities are situated. We are really pleased to have four fantastic programs in Fiji this year, and are excited to bring some support and new partnerships to these amazing communities.

During my February visit, it was great to check in with these communities in planning for the 2013 programs. This is going to be a really exciting year for Destination Dreaming in Fiji and the great schools we’re working with, and we look forward to bringing continued updates of the programs and projects to you.

You can see some photos from the trip by clicking here

Sharing Stories at the Melbourne Education Show

Earlier this month, Destination Dreaming’s Program Director Clint Miller ran a workshop for teachers at the Education Show in Melbourne. Clint facilitated a 45-minute workshop on creating effective community partnerships and we were overwhelmed by the wonderful feedback. Many of the attendees were looking to extend their community engagement and service learning activities, yet lacked a framework or knowledge of principles for successful and sustainable community development.

We were thrilled to have teachers report that they left with a clear pathway to commence or extend their community engagement, and are looking forward to working with many of them in the future. If you are interested in this topic, we have uploaded the overview slides shown at the workshop, which you can download here. Or don’t hesitate to give us a call on (03) 5255 5830.

Sacred Heart College Students Return from Timor Leste with Eyes Wide Open

The first group of Sacred Heart College (Hobart) students and staff has just returned from Timor Leste on a Destination Dreaming Community Partnership Program.

The aim of the School’s first visit to Timor was to set the foundation for an ongoing, intercultural relationship with a Junior School in the rural township of Maliana- and there were certainly some incredible friendships made. Primary School Principal Sue Walker said “to watch the youth of two completely different cultures come together to share their stories, dreams and lives for even a short time will never be forgotten. We faced challenges and were taken well and truly out of our comfort zone, but the positive and powerful personal growth that has occurred for each and every participant from both Sacred Heart College and Maliana Junior School is distinct.”

After arriving in Timor Leste’s capital of Dili, the group travelled all day through rugged but beautiful countryside to the regional district of Maliana. An essential part of the program included living in the everyday circumstances as that experienced by the local students, including drawing their water from the well each day, playing in the river and picking food from the local vegetable garden.

During this time, the Sacred Heart College students saw the construction of an outdoor study shelter they had funded for the new block at the Encouragement House. They were also excited to deliver computers, printers and education resources, including a fantastic set of microscopes to the local science teachers. Students also worked in teams to assist English tutoring at the Junior High School, learned some of the local language from their Timorese peers and about the Timorese history and culture. But even more so than experiencing the diverse culture and environment, the students learned just how much they have in common with the local teenagers their own age.
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Destination Dreaming Joins with CreatiVITI Fiji and WWF Partner Scuba Bula

Are you looking for an amazing new learning opportunity in 2012? We are excited to be partnering with two fantastic Fijian organisations in the coming year. Schools and community groups will now have the opportunity to support traditional art and craft education, or combine reef conservation with a diving experience.

In 2012, we are looking forward to linking local schools with rural Fijian schools, to deliver a series of art workshops. As art is not currently part of the Fijian curriculum, this is an extremely valuable project that will see Australian students engaging with their Fijian peers, to create art pieces reflecting their respective cultures and stories. We will be facilitating this program beside CreatiVITI Fiji, a Fijian, not-for-profit arts and craft organisation that promotes traditional Fijian art. Read more

Laying the Foundation for Nasivikoso Primary School, Fiji

This Monday the 11th of November was a very special day for Destination Dreaming and Nasivikoso, the Fijian village we have been working with since 2004. We were honoured to be a part of the foundation laying ceremony for the Nasivikoso Primary School. We joined with the village to bless the school site and pour the first load of concrete. An amazing moment, that wouldn’t have been possible without the wonderful support of our past participants and supporters in Australia. Vinaka vaka levu. Read more

Four Days of Action and Adventure for Queensland Youth

Destination Dreaming facilitated a second Life in Action Program for Community Solutions this Winter holidays. Teenagers from the Sunshine Coast spent four days engaging in sport and recreation and life skills activities in beautiful Currimundi.

Funded by the Queensland Government, the program was designed to provide young people access to a health and wellbeing program. Program Co-ordinator, Clint Miller, said ‘it was fantastic to run a program for young people in my own backyard. It was wonderful to see these kids have access to this form of program and to be able to share their experiences.’

Dreaming Project Milestone! Fijian Village School Approved and Teacher Funding Secured

Destination Dreaming received some extremely exciting news in our inbox this week. Nasivikoso Village, home to our longest partnership in Fiji, is now one step closer to their own primary school.

Currently, the village’s children must walk for almost two hours to attend school at a neighbouring village, a journey which becomes dangerous and often impassable in the wet season. We are thrilled to report that after 18 months of negotiation, the Fijian Ministry of Education has this week approved the establishment of a school in Nasivikoso and funding for a teacher. Read more

Dreaming Project Success! Funding Secured for Clean Drinking Water System in Fiji

After 14 months of lobbying for funding and assistance, Destination Dreaming has been advised that the Rotary Pacific Water Foundation has approved our proposal for funding for a water project in Fiji. The grant is to provide access to clean drinking water for the remote village of Nasivikoso in the highlands of Vitu Levu, Fiji. The grant includes all piping, fittings, water tanks, professional tradesperson, as well as construction and maintenance training of the system for local villagers. The grant will also provide material to thoroughly clean and secure the water source (natural spring) for the village and protect against waterborne diseases. The work is expected to be finished on the 24th of June 2011 and will be officially commissioned the following week. Read more

Destination Dreaming’s Program Manager Kate Miller’s adventure in Maasailand, Kenya

Kate has returned from a trip leading the UNESCO Observatory Maasai Cultural Village Project for OzQuest.

The project team spent two weeks alongside the Maasai Community Concern and Networking organisation (MACCONET) in the Rift Valley, led by Kate, MACCONET Director Emmanuel Parsimei and UNESCO Observatory Director Lindy Joubert. The team spent time engaging in Maasai culture, including attending church, a goat slaughter, a performance by the dance group and shopping at the local market.
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