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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.”

Clonard College’s First Visit to Their Viqueque Friendship School

Destination Dreaming is thrilled to be working with Clonard College, who this April embarked upon their first visit to their Geelong Viqueque Friendship Schools partner school. Within only four days, the Clonard College team could already be described as well travelled! After leaving Melbourne on Sunday, the team ventured to Darwin that evening, Dili on Monday, Baucau on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the team arrived safely in Viqueque.

The 10 day program featured many highlights, including meeting the Australian Ambassador, visiting the Alola Foundation head office, eating fresh fish on the beach, and of course meeting many amazing local people along the way.

The Clonard team spent a week in Viqueque, where they are partnered with Uaimori Primary School through the Geelong Viqueque Friendship Schools program. Thursday was spent with their sister primary school, meeting the students and spending the day in the classrooms and playground. Even though it was school holidays, about 50 of the local students came to school to meet the group and play some games. There was much laughter while the young people from two different cultures connected through play. The Principal, Mr Bernardo, was delighted with the way the two schools connected and is very keen to continue the visits next year.

Friday was a special day, with the team joining the entire town marching in the Good Friday Easter Procession. There was a live re-enactment of the 14 Stations of the Cross and the crucifixion of Jesus, which the girls and staff watched with more than 3000 local people.

Easter weekend included the team preparing a traditional Timorese lunch that was shared with 20 students from the local primary school, a swim in a fresh waterhole and Sunday Mass. The group arrived safely back in Dili on Monday night and spent the day learning more about Timorese history and the local economy with visits to Dili museums and local businesses. Following lunch on the beach, the group had a formal program reflection session, sharing many amazing insights and learning experiences, including:

Teacher – Michael McCallum:

Our students arrived in Timor with a solid base of information on Timorese history and culture, but nothing could have prepared them for the real deal. The students were challenged everyday to walk with the locals, dealing with the heat, long bumpy road trips, new food, language, infrastructure and environment. Each day the students grew stronger as individuals and as a group and this was largely thank to Destination Dreaming and the way they connected our kids into the community… well done Destination Dreaming.

Year 11 student Emily:

I learnt that material things are not always the most important things and how beneficial it is to connect with different people and listen to them.

Year 11 student Hayley:

This trip has taught me a lot about culture, history and most importantly people. I learnt that the difference between Australian and Timorese cultures are that Australians take their freedom for granted.

Year 11 student Maddie:

Throughout this trip my main highlight was the Easter celebrations. It was great way to learn about culture and community.

A huge thank you to all the parents and Clonard College community for supporting this pilot student visit to Viqueque- an amazing learning experience for the girls who attended, and a wonderful foundation for future engagement with Uamori Primary School.

To see photos from the program, you can view the Photo Album on Facebook

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

What Did 2012 Hold For Our Partner Schools Across Australia?

As this is our last news item for 2012, we wanted to highlight some of the wonderful work school communities around Australia have been involved in this year. We hope this gives you a little extra inspiration to take into your school activities for 2013.
 
In 2012 we were lucky enough to work with 112 wonderful young people and teachers from 8 school communities across Australia, New Zealand and England. Schools and community groups from Tasmania, Victoria, New Zealand and England joined us on community engagement and intercultural learning programs across Asia Pacific and Africa. In case you missed them during the year, check out the full story from each of these programs by clicking the relevant link:
 

  • Round Square delegates from Scotch Oakburn College and Westfield School (all the way from the United Kingdom) connected with a remote school in the Ngong Hills, Kenya;
  • The male members of the Goodrick Family headed to Fiji for a community engagement program;
  • Sacred Heart College from Hobart connected with a Junior School in rural Timor;
  • 14 delegates and co-Directors headed to Timor Leste for the fourth consecutive United Nations Youth Australia Pacific Project;
  • St Michael’s Collegiate headed to Central Australia for their first program connecting with Yipirinya Primary School;
  • A second group of staff and students from Scotch Oakburn College, including the College Principal, completed their second visit to their partner community in Timor Leste;
  • Melbourne High School students visited their partner community in West Arnhem for the second consecutive year;
  • Program Director Clint Miller trained two groups of indigenous employees at Xstrata Mine and led a four-week indigenous training program on behalf of Beyond Billabong.

 
We are so excited about the programs coming up for 2013, as the community partnerships of each of our client schools continue to grow and more young people have the opportunity to learn and engage with their peers across the world.
 
Keen to see your school on this list for 2013? Get in touch in the New Year to capture the amazing opportunities for your staff and students that arise through engagement with another community, and the critical life lessons for young people through getting outside the classroom to learn about themselves, culture and social justice.
 
Finally, best wishes from all here at Destination Dreaming for a fantastic summer holiday break and rewarding 2013.

Opportunities to Discover Ancient Australia in Outback NSW

Kate and Clint Miller have just returned from four days journeying through outback Australia. The purpose of this visit was to establish a program for a Tasmanian school, which will connect them with a community in outback NSW and provide an insight into local Aboriginal culture, history, traditions and life in rural Australia. All up, we crossed over 1000 kilometres in just two and a half days- the bulk on red dirt roads.

We were extremely fortunate to travel with Robert Biggs, and local Aboriginal man, Ricky Mitchell. Robert runs the Mungo Youth Project and Ricky is a Community Projects Coordinator for the World Heritage listed Mungo National Park.

Arriving to hot, dry weather in Mildura, we headed straight out to Mungo to learn about the ancient Aboriginal history of the region. This also provided a great opportunity to consider student accommodation- in a selection of converted shearers’ quarters.

The next morning we were up early to explore significant indigenous sites at Mungo, before heading to Menindee. We arrived in time to attend the local school assembly welcoming the Governor of NSW, before settling into accommodation in a renovated train carriage.

We were lucky to be invited to join an evening of celebration at Menindee also attended by the Governor, and the production of ‘Weeping Cloud’. ‘Weeping Cloud’ tells the story of a local Menindee elder who was part of the Stolen Generation. It was beautifully performed by students and staff of Menindee Central, who were joined by members of the local community in the choir. Read more

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.

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.

UN Youth Delegates Experience International Development In Action

What is the best way to learn about the United Nations and the life of an international aid worker? As ten teenagers recently discovered, by downing the textbooks and immersing themselves in a developing country.

Destination Dreaming led the annual United Nations Youth Australia Pacific Project for the fourth consecutive year in July, facilitating a program for 10 teenagers selected from schools across Australia. The youth delegates travelled to Timor Leste to learn about our close neighbour and see development in action.

The program was designed to provide the young people with a deep insight into community-driven development, which included:

  • Morning tea with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and observing the national elections;
  • Meeting with AusAid and the Alola Foundation established by Australian woman Kirsty Sword Gusmao;
  • Living at the Encouragement House, a highland boarding house for rural Timorese students;
  • Hearing from members of the UN Police about working in East Timor; and
  • Funding an art project for students in remote Timor.

Reflecting on the Project, Jessica said “this has been truly invaluable. The relationships I’ve established in communities that accepted and welcomed us wholeheartedly have been life-changing and enabled me to believe in myself and my dreams. I have learned that community is the most attainable and important aspect of life. Whilst national development is at times an overwhelming concept, the starting block will always be building relationships.”

Jordan said the Project “allowed me to see development on a national scale. It changed me as a person…it provided a body of knowledge and experiences that I can draw on for the rest of my life, and connected me with a network of like-minded people who have become life-long friends.”

The delegation formed the third consecutive Pacific Project to Timor Leste, continuing the relationship United Nations Youth Australia and Destination Dreaming have built with the Encouragement House and Timorese community. Click here to see some photos from the Pacific Project.

We also met some fantastic community organisations that would love to form a partnership with an Australian community, so please send us an email or call (03) 5255 5830 to hear about opportunities for your school or organisation.

A Personal and Professional Journey in Beautiful Indonesia

For the past five weeks, Destination Dreaming’s Kate Miller has been in Canggu, Bali- on an amazing personal and professional adventure. On the truly intercultural, teacher training program, Kate joined 34 other participants from Japan, America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Brazil for the program, which included a specialisation in programs for children and teenagers.

Kate had committed to the training with specific Destination Dreaming program development in mind, but she soon found it was going to provide a profound source of personal development as well. Woken by the sound of the neighbouring mosque at 5:00am each morning, walking past rice paddies for class at sunrise, exploring mind-opening philosophies and techniques for mental and physical wellbeing, dancing in the middle of the day as if no one was watching, meditation on the beach at sunset, fiery wok meals at the roadside warung and plenty of great waves at nearby Tugu beach… it was truly a period of great personal growth and inspiration for new programs.

Based on the foundations learned over the past five weeks, Kate is now developing a week long program for young people that will be offered in Australia. This is something we have been keen to develop for some time, to provide a local opportunity for schools and students, in addition to our global and interstate programs.The 5-day intra and interpersonal development program will combine Destination Dreaming’s global citizenship and interconnectedness education with the development of an individual toolbox for mental wellbeing, mindfulness, managing stress and embracing individuality.

Another exciting chapter in what has been an amazing 2012! If you would like discuss the local program under development, please email Kate via kate@destinationdreaming.org.au

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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