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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.”

Scotch Oakburn College’s Inspiring Commitment to their Timor Leste Partner School

This month, the second group of staff and student representatives from Scotch Oakburn College headed to Timor Leste to visit their partner school, Maliana One High School. We were thrilled that Principal Andrew Barr also joined the group and signed a pledge of commitment and service to the College’s partner community.

It was another remarkable journey, filled with highlights and milestones. The first morning in Maliana brought dancing at 5:00am with the students from the Encouragement House, before the group headed out to watch the Tour De Timor bike race through the town. Each day was filled with lots of English language tutoring- working in small groups at the Encouragement House and at Maliana One, and the Scotch Oakburn teachers also ran a session for pre-service teachers at the local university. One evening, the group shared dinner with a local family just outside Maliana, who are campaigning to get a library built in a nearby village. This is an amazing project that we hope we will be able to gain Australian support for.

Following their first visit in 2011, the Scotch Oakburn College community raised an amazing $3,000 for their partner school. The group had the privilege of donating the funds on behalf of the community, which will enable Maliana One to install fresh drinking water for their 1300 students and 55 staff. The group also worked hard to set up an IT system for the Maliana teachers, including an internet connection, 2 computers and 1 printer, as well as contributing educational resources to the school. This support was in direct response to the areas of need identified by Maliana One, and was an extremely exciting journey to be a part of.

Funds from the group’s visit and Destination Dreaming were also used to buy materials and pay local builders to construct another student shelter for the new dormitory ‘Kookaburra’. The shelters have proved to be a real hit and it was great to see the students (from both Scotch Oakburn and the Encouragement House) assisting the builders to prepare the site and foundation.

At the conclusion of the 10 days, 18-year-old Kathleen said ‘I have learnt that giving is a truly fantastic experience and that making a change in one person’s life, changes the world for them. I had the best week of my life and as a result will endeavour to share and continue to give for the rest of my life.’

Scotch Oakburn teacher Tania Deguara said, ‘once again the experience was incredible. Cultural awareness, global understanding, problem solving and collaboration are essential skills to have to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. A Destination Dreaming program provides an excellent opportunity for young people to learn about and experience the challenges, hopes and possibilities of another culture and in turn learn about the ways they as young people in Australia can shape the world they want to live in.’

A huge thank-you to the entire Scotch Oakburn College community, particularly coordinating teachers Andrew French and Tania Deguara, for another amazing adventure.

Term 1: Kicking Off at Home and in Nasivikoso’s New Primary School

It’s wonderful to be starting another school year. We hope you are excited as both Destination Dreaming and the village of Nasivikoso are to be kicking off 2012.

Today is a special day for the village of Nasivikoso, Destination Dreaming and the many program participants and supporters who have contributed to the construction of the village’s first primary school. Today class begins for students in grades 1 to 3. Instead of walking over 2 hours to the closest primary school and saying goodbye to their family for the entire week, the young students will walk a couple of hundred metres to their brand new village school.

Heading back to Nasivikoso in April is just one of the programs we’re looking forward to in early 2012. Also in April will see a 6-day program in Maasailand, Kenya and a visit to the Sunshine Coast as part of the AHISA Conference.

Have a wonderful week- look forward to hearing from many of you keen to get involved in a program this year.

Scotch Oakburn College

During the September school holidays, nine students and two teachers from Scotch Oakburn College in Launceston ventured into the highlands of Timor-Leste on their inaugural International Community Partnership Program. The group stayed with the Encouragement House in Maliana and delivered an English tutoring program for one of the local high schools. Staying at the Encouragement House, a boarding house for rural students, was a highlight.

Kelsey said ‘my favourite part of the trip was spending time at the Encouragement House… and the river trips in the truck.’ Andrew described his experience as ‘…the most fulfilling and enjoyable ten days of my life…it is very rare that you can reflect on a week of your life knowing you wouldn’t change a moment of it.’

The program was a huge success, and thanks go to the incredible people at the Encouragement House, Robert Dickson, Maliana One High School, Tania Deguara and Andrew French and the nine champion students of Scotch Oakburn College.

Brianna Bartley has created a video of the group’s experience, which is being used to generate awareness and support in the Launceston community about the program in preparation for the College’s next visit in September 2012.

Photos from the program are now available via this link on Facebook.

[box_half]Chris and kids from the Encouragement House playing soccer[/box_half][box_half class=”last”]Scotch Oakburns Tania with Maliana Ones Principal[/box_half]

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 (Fiji) Progress Report and Vinaka Vaka Levu for 2010 fundraising achievement of $16,000!

Destination Dreaming Program Coordinator, Clint Miller, has returned from our final visit to Fiji for 2010. He provides a Dreaming Project progress report…

“Another amazing and successful trip to Fiji. It was certainly a different experience travelling solo- my final trip for 2010 was the first time in years that I have travelled to Fiji without an expedition or project team.

The past 8 days provided a fantastic opportunity to develop further project opportunities and consolidate progress to date. Not to mention a quiet surf at Cloudbreak one morning!
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Program Coordinator Clint Miller makes final Dreaming Project trip to Fiji for 2010

Destination Dreaming Program Coordinator, Clint Miller, has headed off to Fiji for our final visit of 2010, to consolidate this year’s Dreaming Project work.

Clint is to meet with the Fiji Government’s Head of Education, and has proposed a meeting with the Attorney General of Fiji regarding government support of health and education projects in rural Fiji.

Clint will also be consulting with potential builders in relation to the planned construction of a primary school in the Nasouri Highlands in 2011.

Earlier this year, Destination Dreaming funded the purchase and delivery of a water filtration system to a village in the Nasouri Highlands. This December visit will also involve a discussion with the village elders to plan the installation of a clean water system in the village in 2011.

With only 8 days in Fiji, Clint is not too optimistic about getting a chance to surf his beloved Wilkes Passage!

Program Manager Kate Miller leads UNESCO Program in Kenya

Destination Dreaming Program Manager, Kate Miller, left today for two weeks in Kenya, leading a project team from UNESCO Observatory at the University of Melbourne

Kate is working with UNESCO Observatory Director Lindy Joubert, and project leader Emmanuel Parsimei, Director of the Maasai Community Concern and Networking organisation, on a Maasai Cultural Village project in the Rift Valley.

The project team, comprising a professional architect, marketing expert and engineering, law and economics students, is conducting an initial design and investigation for a cultural village to preserve the crafts, heritage and skills unique to the Maasai people. The project aims to promote the exchange of knowledge and build and nurture an active role for community members to preserve and promote their cultural skills.
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