Five UTS Students are currently in Vanuatu volunteering with VOICE Australia. The team will be spending four weeks living and working in a remote rural community to work on a community identified project. The UTS students will work alongside a group of Ni-Vanuatu youth who are on a leadership program which provides training, support and internship opportunities to young people. It is a unique program and a wonderful opportunity to experience the rich culture of Vanuatu and learn through cross cultural interaction and sharing.
Below is an excerpt from a newspaper article about one of the students, Keisha Picking, and her participation in the program;
Keisha Pickin is busy packing her bags and doing the last of her preparations before she’ll head off as a volunteer to the remote community of Banaviti, Vanuatu. She’ll be working alongside a team of Australian and Ni-Vanuatu volunteers supporting community development projects as part of the Future Leaders Program run by Youth Challenge Vanuatu and local NGO VOICE Australia.
Over 70% of the population in Vanuatu is under 25, with rates of youth unemployment remaining high. The recent devastation of Cyclone Pam is expected to increase unemployment rates for months, possibly years, into the future. Youth Challenge Vanuatu’s Future Leader Program provides training, support and internship opportunities to young people who might not otherwise get these options. The 6 – 12 month program includes a community development internship in a remote part of the country, encouraging young people to work in a community different to their own, see more of their country and develop valuable work skills. VOICE Australia partnered with YVC in 2001 and has been sending young Australian volunteers to join the Ni-Van volunteers in this final stage of the program. Working with a team of other Australia and Ni-Van volunteers was one of the reasons Keisha was drawn to join the program, ‘We’ll be able to support each other, learn from each other and hopefully, together, have a great impact on our community!’
While there have been increasing negative stories about youth volunteers in the media, Keisha said that this didn’t turn her off wanting to take part in the VOICE project.
“It’s really about doing your research. Don’t just jump at the first one you see. I was a volunteer previously and while it was a really great experience for me, I can see now it probably wasn’t the best for the community I was in.”
Keisha hopes that volunteering in Vanuatu will help her give back to the community, gain a new perspective and learn from a different culture. She is being supported on this project through the BUiLD Abroad program at the University of Technology Sydney. Keisha joined BUiLD to add more to her university experience, “Through BUiLD and the programs they support, like VOICE, we can learn more than just the things we’ll learn in a business degree. We can gain experience in working in partnership, ethical responsibility, being a global citizen and cross-cultural communication”.