Cambodia Reflective Journal

3/1/15 – 4/1/15

After over 24hrs of travel due to booking my flights late I finally arrived in Phnom Penh! Upon driving out of the airport my first impression of Cambodia are its crazy roads! Almost the first motorbike I saw had a mother, father and two young children on it. What was most surprising was that the parents were wearing helmets but the children were not. The rest of my first day consisted of visiting the Central market to get a phone charger and adapter. This involved riding my first Tuk Tuk which is so much fun and so affordable! Later that day our team leader, Zoe, arrived as well as one of my other team members Adam. That night we went to a restaurant on the river front called ‘The FCC’ which Zoe said is a bit of an establishment here in Phnom Penh. We also visited the night markets before walking back to the hostel and going to bed exhausted!

Having a proper night’s sleep meant we were all ready to start the day with some more exploring. After a quick breakfast at the hostel, two more team mates arrived. Guided by Zoe, we decided to all visit Phnom Wat, a temple in the city. We were lucky enough to experience traditional music and see the local people make offerings to Budda and pray. After this we walked to the national gallery to view some of the ancient Cambodia sculptures from places such as Angkor Wat. After our busy morning it was time to eat again. We settled on having lunch at the restaurant of a local organisation which trains street youth in cooking and hospitality. Hopefully we can find inspiration from places such as this when devising our own business plan in Kampot.

5/1/15 – 6/1/15

Before we departed Phnom Penh to travel to Kampot, Zoe suggested that it might be a meaningful experience for us to visit the genocide museum in Phnom Penh- the high school that was used as a prison during the civil war. The prison has been left exactly as it was found when it was liberated, creating a ghostly feeling about the place. This was a valuable and moving experience as it helped communicate the magnitude of the death and injustice that happened during that period in Cambodia. We then hopped in another Tuk Tuk and had the privilege of vising the iconic ‘White Building’ (that is now grey) in the centre of the city. It was built in the 1960s as public housing and now is an entire community within itself. We were specifically visiting a social enterprise that is based in the White Building called ‘Sa Sa Art Projects’ who aim to create community engagement and support contemporary Cambodian art. That day we had lunch at yet another social enterprise called ‘Daughters’ which trains and gives jobs to former women sex workers. We finished the day with a 2.5 hour bus trip to Kampot then a welcome dinner and drinks with other Lightbox and Mayibuye volunteers.

The 6th was our first serious day of work. The day started with splitting our project into two parts (marketing and strategic) then brainstorming our objectives for the week. This brought us to lunch at the local social enterprise called ‘Epic Arts’ which employs and trains disabled people in Kampot. We also checked out the space we will be working with at Lightbox for the arts space and bar we are going to make the business model for. The final activity of the day was a team building exercise before making the schedule for the rest of the week.

7/1/15 – 8/1/15

Wednesday the 7th was a day used to gather background information about what is currently in Kampot as well the viability of our idea of a gallery/bar. We started off this research by conducting SWOT analysis’s of businesses and social enterprises in the region. This was useful in starting the critical thinking process. We then decided that gathering primary information would also be useful. We wrote a number of questions to ask business owners and tourists/expats in the Kampot area. I went to other guesthouses in Kampot to speak to guests about whether they would be interested in an art gallery/bar. The response was mostly positive and also gave us some really valuable feedback and inspiration. From that we were able to construct a customer profile which will help shape the development of the business further.

The next day we had the privilege of vising the local state school where Mayibuye (partner organisation to Lightbox) runs arts and culture programs for its students. We provided some craft activities for the kids to do and they performed a few of the dances they had been learning through Mayibuye. It was great to see the impact that Mayibuye is having as well as seeing first why the success of Lightbox is vital for the funding of the Mayibuye program.

9/1/15 – 11/1/15

I spent the last working day of our first week developing our crowd funding campaign. We decided to go with the crowd funding platform Indiegogo due to the fact that their fee structure seems the most desirable. We set a goal of raising $8000 in 30 days, it might be a stretch by I think we can do it! That afternoon we filmed some interviews with Zoe and me to include in the video for our fund raising page. Looking back on the week I can see we have come so far already and are really gelling as a team. I can’t wait for next week. But first a relaxing weekend that involved a trip to the women’s spa and 21st birthday celebrations for one of the girls in our group.

12/1/15 – 18/1/15

This week was all about beginning to make our ideas a reality! We knew on the Friday, Lightbox was having an event which would give the Mayibuye kids a chance to perform as well as giving us a chance to test our initial vision for Lightbox. The week started off researching where we might source the materials such as furniture as well as deciding on a food and drinks menu. However, as the event was on Friday we had to pretty much get straight into it. I had developed a mood board on Pinterest which guided how we decorated the interiors. This included painting the cane furniture white, buying indoor plants and getting a local woman to make us cushions from fabric I bought at the Kampot markets. We also had to do a lot of promotion for the event, mostly in the form of handing out flyers around Kampot. Our biggest challenge was probably the budget as the only money available was the $600 people raised before we came to Cambodia.

The Friday of the event was an intense day as everything had to be put together at the last minute but it was a great night! A decent crowd turned out for the dance performances and most people bought at least one cocktail although the tapas weren’t as popular (despite being delicious!). Holding the event was a really valuable experience as it indicated what worked, what didn’t, and what we could do differently.

As it is about half way through the program, myself and 4 others took a mini break to Kep, a beach village about 30 minutes from Kampot. It is very quiet but it’s great to chill out in preparation for next week!

19/1/15 -23/1/15

This has been the most challenging week of the project so far. The number one aim for this week was to work on and complete the business plan. Whilst we are not yet done, I am so impressed by how hard everyone has worked and what we have been able to achieve. We already had a half completed business plan which the co-founder of Lightbox wrote which has been a useful source of information but otherwise we had to start again! This really highlighted how great it is to be on a trip with people who are from all different University faculties. We were able to utilise the skills of everyone in one way or another. For example, the person who is majoring in accounting did the finances while the girl who is doing design has done all the design work.

Next week is the pitch to investors, so I imagine we are going to be working very hard in preparation for it. But first, we have another three day week which we are using to go up Bokor Mountain and have two nights in beach town Sihonoukville.

24/1/15 – 30/1/15

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more hectic we have managed to move things up a notch! Everyone is adding the final touches to the business plan which we planned to have finished at the beginning of the week however it is continually being proof read and edited. Thankfully, the line was drawn on Thursday afternoon. It was a great feeling compiling all our hard work together and sending it off to be read by investors! That night and the following morning focus turned to the pitch which was scheduled to take place over an internet meeting on Friday afternoon. Three of the most confident speakers in our group were chosen to lead the pitch with everyone else stepping in during question time. Overall the pitch was a success and went very smoothly. Everyone was knowledgeable during their speeches and in answering questions. It was also obvious how attached and passionate we had become about the whole project.
After the pitch we celebrated by having a night out at our favourite bar, listening to live music. This was a great way to round of an incredible experience with incredible and passionate people. It is something I will never forget and continuously look back upon when informing my own life.

Mitsui & Co. Ltd. NCP Program UTS 2015 February Blog

By Neil Li
I, together with 11 other aspiring UTS students were fortunate enough to be selected as the first group of students to visit Mitsui & Co. Ltd. in Japan on a 2 week immersion internship under the Federal Government’s New Colombo Plan. The aim of the plan is to further Australian students’ understanding of and links with the Indo Pacific region.

Mitsui is one of the largest companies in Japan; the 10th largest Japanese company on the Forbes 2000 list. Known as a sogo shosha (general trading company), its business areas covers Energy, Metals/Minerals, Machinery & Infrastructure, Chemicals, Lifestyle, and Innovation & Corporate Development, with a sizable global reach of offices in 65 countries

As a trading (import/export) company, and with a strong presence and long history (since 1901, Federation) in Australia, Mitsui is keen to deepen relationships and enhance knowledge between Japan and Australia. This is one of the reasons why Mitsui has been so generous, together with the Federal Government and UTS, in supporting this study tour of Japan.

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1 – First Day of Program
For the 2 week program, we learned about Mitsui’s history and values, overall business structure, and its main Australian operations in the first week. The roots of the business stretch back to 1673 when Takatoshi Mitsui opened a textile (kimino) store called Echigoya in Edo (present day Tokyo). Through innovative business practices, Echigoya became the largest textile store in the Edo period, and thanks to sound business decisions over many generations, eventually developed into the modern day Mitsui Group. The modern Mitsui company is composed of trading activities in each of its main business areas, which are also complimented by investments in each business area.
Mitsui has four main project areas in Australia – salt, wood chip, LNG and iron ore.

Mitsui’s salt farms in Shark Bay and Onslow WA, is noteworthy for its 100% ownership by Mitsui, which also means that Mitsui is responsible for the management of its operations.
Mitsui’s treefarms and woodchip production facilities in WA and Victoria facilitate the eventual production of paper, satisfying our everyday need for this commodity.

Mitsui is an investor in the North West Shelf project in WA, which is responsible for more than 40% of Australia’s oil & gas production. The oil and gas is mainly exported to major Japanese utility companies.

Mitsui has joint venture partnerships with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto iron ore mines in the Pilbara region of WA. The iron ore is then exported to Chinese and Japanese steel mills, for processing into steel products.

I had not known about most of Mitsui’s Australian operations until the briefing sessions. It really showed me how much Mitsui’s operations were contributing to the stable supply of raw materials that are eventually used for the production of everyday goods that we all enjoy.

In addition to learning about Mitsui in their Tokyo offices, we were fortunate to learn about Japan in general during our planned field trips. These included the TEPIA museum visit, the Toyota factory and museum visit, the QVCJ TV shopping factory and TV studio visit, and the Kimitsu steel mill visit. We were also invited to the Australian Embassy in Tokyo for a networking lunch. The highlight of these visits for me was the Toyota car assembly factory tour. I was amazed at the sheer speed and synchronised flow of the robotic arms used on the car body frame; with around 8 arms operating on one car in such a tight and constricting area of space. It was very special to have visited the production facilities of a world class company such Toyota.

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2- Kimitsu Steel Mill Visit

But in addition to the briefing sessions and site visits, we were tasked with 2 groupwork projects to process what we had learned into presentations. The 1st presentation of graphically portraying Mitsui’s history and Australian operations was good training for the 2nd larger presentation we had to present on the final day of the internship. That involved identifying a business opportunity that Mitsui could take part in, which would best support Australia into the future. We felt even more relaxed when we were told Mr. Takahashi, CEO of Mitsui Australia, senior Mitsui, Australian Embassy and Japanese government representatives would all be witnessing our presentation. Despite the other team gaining an edge for the 1st task, we came up with an impressive 2nd presentation which recommended Mitsui to invest in a solar powered electricity generation farm in Australia, which would also see Mitsui playing a leadership role in dealing with climate change.

13 – Final Presentation

Fittingly, the finale to the 2 week program, the closing reception dinner, immediately followed the final presentation, where we could all celebrate the two weeks that we spent together and what we had achieved with our groupwork collaboration in this short space of time. I believe it was a successful 2 weeks for the pilot New Colombo Plan undertaken by UTS and Mitsui, and has helped establish many new and meaningful relationships between members from each country.

24 – Getting our Certificates

Apart from the schedule organised by Mitsui, we also had free time ourselves during the public holiday and weekends to explore Tokyo. What I came away mostly was just how courteous and civil the general population was in all aspects of life. From lining up, to walking on the street, to waiting for the pedestrian lights, everything was done in such an orderly and responsible manner, with the impact of one’s action on others always on the mind of each Japanese citizen.

35 – Final Group Photo

Lastly I would just like to thank Mitsui, the Australian Government, UTS and all other stakeholders in supporting this amazing program. I would also like to thank Ippei and Chie, our Mitsui internship staff who was with us all the time in these 2 weeks and who were so helpful and supportive all the way through. I got to learn and experience so much of Japan that I could not have done just by reading and watching articles and media about it. What I had expected Japan to be beforehand were many times, different to what I had witnessed. It was such a wonderful experience that I will remember for a very long time.

BUiLD Trip To India

My first time in India was an experience I will most likely never forget. The places I saw, the travel I did every day and the people I met while over there made my experience in India as part of the BUILD program a better one. I got to see some very interesting and beautiful places during the program and experienced things I have never done before.

Initially, on the first day, I saw some similarities between China and India which I didn’t think would be so similar. The way people drove, the roads, the intersections all made me think back to the cities in China and how chaotic it can get. As the program progressed, I could see some differences between the two countries which I wouldn’t have known without experiencing it first-hand.

Our guest houses were located in an area a few hours out from Mumbai, in the countryside, which was nice since there was little traffic noise and a great place to relax after the long days that were rescheduled on the itinerary. It was also a decent location in regards to public transport with the train station being only a 10-15 minute walk. The staffs that were in charge of the group and making sure that everything was alright were brilliant. I could say the same about the food since everyone was catered for and those with dietary needs were never left out. The food was so nice and delicious that we even got a chance to make our last dinner before we left to come home.

Traveling by public transport in India can be a nightmare, especially during peak hours. The trains were packed and the way people got on and off the trains is an experience that you can really only get to experience in India, getting off the train as it comes into the station and getting on as it is leaving, while the train is still moving. Sometimes it was difficult getting on and off the train since the train would be packed and people are trying to get on and off the train, especially since the train only stops for a few seconds.

Overall, the experience was a fun one, especially with the group of friends that went as well. Some we didn’t know until the trip and are now friends that share the experience I felt while on this program in India. I learnt many things and saw and experienced things for the first time. I do wish that the program was a bit longer since there are still things I would like to see and do as well as learn over in India. If all international programs run by BUILD allow us this much exposure to the cultures of the different countries, I would love to go on more to learn and experience more. Besides the itinerary being a little packed and tiring sometimes, the exposure that was given to us in regards to Indian Traditional Medicine was brilliant and I do hope it gets better and better.

India Traditional Medicine – Build Program

Arriving into Mumbai to meet ISAC and the rest of the group on the 11th January was slightly confusing due to a café changing name to something else and we didn’t know where to go. We eventually spotted several fellow students and we grouped together and hoped for the best – which was great because Raksah found us all. She welcomed us with water bottles, biscuits and lollies – the best gift to supply us with for the long bus journey into the unknown.

Our main focus is on traditional Indian Medicine. The orientation on 12th was extremely interesting and helpful information about Indian culture, ISAC’s expectations of us a plus extremely entertaining stories from Aaron which kept the long morning enjoyable.

The first day on clinic placements was at Dr Pisal’s Ayurveda Clinic. He had no appointments booked for the morning that availed us time to discover more about Ayurveda. I found similarities between Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda in regard to pulse diagnosis. At times it was difficult to follow due to my mental fatigue and a slight language barrier (although Rakash was a tremendous interpreter). Yoga and Pranayam later in the day was a welcome change from all travel, sitting and listening. Ms Sampan Patil fabulously led us through traditional postures that helped relieve tension in my back muscles.

The 14th January saw us travel to the National Institute of Naturopathy in Pune. A wonderful place for hydrotherapy, yoga, nutritional guidance and acupuncture. We were led on a tour of the treatment rooms and spent most of the day listening to presentations on the topic’s mentioned above. I found the fasting information interesting namely, the connection between lifestyle diseases and inflammation in the body, how fasting is defined as total rest – on every level (physical, physiological, sensory and mental). The presentation on yoga and breathing interested me especially the exercises to correct hormone imbalances (chin pulled into thyroid then released and extending chin up). The next topic was all about the benefits of mud – the benefits being increasing calcium and minerals (external and internal treatments). Magnetotherapy – when sleeping do not position head to the north instead sleep with head to the south and feet to the north for improved circulation and sleep.
The downside regarding this visit was the lack of hands on experience or simply receiving a treatment personally.
We then travelled to the Uani placements and again this modality was fascinating, originating from Greece, taking aspects of Ayurveda. Again, pulse diagnosis is used to determine imbalance within the person but also to determine personality traits which can lead to particular diseases.

On the 15th January we all travelled to Herbal Hills, unfortunately the factory was closed but we spent time looking at the organic herbs growing on the farm. A beautiful and functional farm, we experienced cow urine, gee and wandered around the grounds. Afterward, we travelled to the Unani Clinic – Herbs & Hakim Unani Clinic. Extremely interesting listening to the doctor’s presentation. I kept wondering what my dosha is?

The 16th January was another morning with Dr Pisal’s. We walked in on him treating a patient with leeches for a migraine headache. Two leeches were placed on the right side of her temple. Dr Pisal advised that leeches only feed on stagnate old blood. The patient confirmed the treatment was indeed easing her pain.
Yoga with Ms Sampan was again fantastic. Although I struggled through the middle section of the class due to tiredness. I felt much better for not giving up and finishing the class.
We ended the day with a party – the yellow house group joined us with henna painting and delicious food. Unfortunately I was so tired I didn’t have the strength to dance to the groovy music.

I haven’t been culturally shocked too much – the food is delicious, sleeping arrangements are fine, as is the bathroom facilities. Perhaps I have travelled other parts of the world that have very poor conditions, I’m finding my stay here comfortable, I feel very supported and cared for by the staff.

My plan this week is to experience traditional medicine by either having a consultation (more than happy to pay for it) or getting a treatment of some sort (more the better). I’m looking forward to the 4 classes of yoga next week plus the barefoot acupuncturists in Mumbai. If we can, I would greatly appreciate joining a tour of the Mumbai slums while we are there.

My ultimate aim before I leave India is find out what my dosha is.

The second week of the program saw us being more hands on in our clinic placements. We were able to experience traditional medicine from another perspective that I personally found helpful in putting the concepts into practice.

Monday 19th – Dr Rajput’s Ayurveda Clinic
The session started with theory and ended with a demonstration of herbal compresses applied to a painful knee. Interesting to watch how the compress was prepared especially the way the leaves were fried to release the healing properties.

Yoga class was difficult today. I have to admit the mats we used to practice yoga on were filthy. The local ladies all brought their own mats and I was very jealous. The yoga today didn’t seem to have much of a warm up and as a result I finished with an ache in my shoulder from too many ‘lifts’.

Tuesday 20th – Dr Pisal’s Ayuveda Clinic
Our group walked in on one of Dr Pisal’s clients having a leech therapy treatment. Interesting facts regarding leeches: they only feed on old stagnate blood, they fall off on their own when they’re done and they are drained and reused within 7 days. The client seems relaxed (her first experience with Ayuveda) and said her migraine pain was easing.

Dr Raje’s Ayuveda clinic was fascinating. He allowed us to feel his client’s pulse and demonstrated where the doshas are. Dr Raje also felt my pulse and told me what was happening in my body and how to fix it simply without medication. I am still practicing what he suggested and am finding benefit from it. Worthwhile clinic and experience for me, highly impressed.

Wednesday 21st – Barefoot Acupuncturist Mumbai
This clinic was amazing. The exercises they teach in the waiting room to the treatment client’s receive is truly inspirational. No fuss, basic health care that benefits all people with no discrimination. The client files which we had free access to was beneficial for background knowledge.

The slum tour was my highlight of the day. Walking through the alley ways seeing how families live and where they work was eye opening especially after witnessing the same demographic in the acupuncture clinic – I could see how they would get the aliments they do. The tour showed how the slums are a thriving business and showed us all the programs run within the area to benefit the community.

Thursday 22nd – Dr Raje’s Ayuveda clinic this morning was again interesting – seeing clients and asking questions about different healing approaches.

I had a treatment with Dr Rajput, I ended up very oily but it was relaxing and I’m happy I had the opportunity experience it.

Friday 23rd – Cooking class, graduation and closing up was good. I was happy to stop for the day and have a break from traveling to placements each day.

It was a full program, I enjoyed my time with ISAC. The staff incredibly helpful and give so much more than just shuffling us from place to place.

Kelli Howard (11454117)

40k Globe Program with Sambavi

BUiLD Reflection for February 2015
By Sambavi Seermaran

In the summer of February 2015 I travelled to the city of Bangalore, India as part of a group participating in the 40K Globe program. I arrived in India from a two-week trip exploring Sri Lanka, which definitely helped with acclimatizing to the cultural shock and chaos of India. The streets of Bangalore are absolutely jammed packed with people and cars; there’s dust and dirt everywhere and the noise and colour tends to overwhelm the senses. However, before long I quickly adapted to the vibrancy and richness of the bustling life around me. I met many of my future 40K team members before the official induction and we all became fast friends exploring the city and the surrounding sights.

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After Induction at a restaurant just outside Bangalore, all 70 of us Globers were split into groups of 8 and sent to rural villages outside of Bangalore. We were all there to set up and run a social business that would use the skills of the local villagers and bring them a source of income. The village I lived in for one month was called Kannur and our team was running a project called Khushi.

Khushi was a business that utilised the tailoring skills of village women to make some very groovy boy’s shorts and unisex long pants that 40K would then sell in the Australian marketplace. The business needed to be self-sustaining by the end of February, which was a big task as it was nowhere near completion when we arrived.

The entire month in Kannur consisted of us forming a good working relationship with the two village tailors, making repeated bus trips into the city to visit fabric shops and cloth markets, talking to various designers and shop owners, as well as teaching local children in the 40K Plus Pod. This was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my experience in Kannur- to teach the local primary school children English for two hours every weekday. I was one of the lucky two people in my team to have this opportunity. It was truly wonderful to see the kid’s faces excited and happy to see us every day and they were always eager to hold our hands and sit with us in the classroom. The 40K organisation does a great job setting up these pods to teach English to these kids, who otherwise would not get the benefit of education in such a rural community.

During our month in Kannur, we had the weekends off to explore the sights and scenery of India. One weekend many of the Globers and I went to Goa for a short holiday on its sunny beaches. Another weekend I spent in Bangalore, shopping and relaxing in the city. I spent quite a lot of time at Bangalore’s Chikpet markets, where the cheapest and best quality Indian clothing such as saris and salwar khameez’s can be found. I bought many colourful saris, bangles and bindis as presents for people back home.

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At the end of our last week, we managed to complete our Khushi project and employ one village woman to tailor boy’s shorts for us on a constant order each month until July. It was a successful end to a project that had many complications and problems. My team members and I had grown very close after living together for a whole month and we all were sad to leave Kannur behind us. On the final day of the 40K program, the coordinators organised a Holi fight for the 70 Globers on a mountainside.

We were each given bags of colourful powder to throw at each other. It was a memorable and fun morning being covered and pelted at with colourful powder. That night we had a farewell dinner in Bangalore and celebrated the end of a month’s hard work on the various businesses.
India is the most amazing and chaotic country. I truly loved the place and fell deeply in love with its culture, food and people. I had a fantastic time, and I can’t wait until I return back to its ancient shores.

Kolkata- ‘Kisses and Kuddles’

Kolkata; affectionately known as the City of Joy, a pocket of the world that is home to the of poorest people residing in slums that line the streets, renowned for the saintly works of Mother Teresa and a place where a smile and gentle touch resonates love.

Kolkata holds a special place in my heart after first visiting in 2012 on a volunteering pilgrimage with school. I promised myself that I would one day return and reunite myself with the colour, curries and most importantly children of Kolkata.  Thank you to UTS BUild for helping to make it possible, I returned to India at the beginning 2014.  Volunteering with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charities; 19 homes run by dedicated Sisters who take in and care for the dying, destitute and abandoned people of society, I served in Shishu Barvan, a home for abandoned and disabled children and in the afternoon I attended Loreto Sealdah and played with the ‘Rainbows’.  India has this crazy way of putting life into perspective, my eyes where opened to new experiences and my heart was filled with love from strangers.   Mother Teresa quoted “we can do no great things, only small things with great love”, I whole heartily lived by this quote whilst serving, and forged very special relationships with a few of Kolkata’s little angels.

When you first walk into Shishu Barvan the overwhelming smell of bubbling curry for the children’s lunches, tea tree oil to keep the nits away and dirty sheets and clothes takes your senses aback.  But then you take a look around the small room that is lined with cots, chairs with pieces of cloth acting as makeshift cots and beds all with giggling children eagerly awaiting the morning songs, you realize that your morning can only be filled with rewarding experiences and deep affection.  The first part of the morning is spent with the Sisters on the rooftop washing, rinsing, straining and hanging out all the children’s linen and clothes.  I formed a very close bond with a little 7-year-old boy called Raj.  He’s body was the size of a typical 2 year old, yet his ability to sit up and grab allowed for the two of us to have lots of cheeky fun. He had a very quiet nature about him and never once cried- he only ever smiled and laughed.  He was extremely fascinated by the curve and feel of my nails, something he’d enjoy whenever I held his hand.  Whilst there are the not so nice jobs like changing nappies and washing dirty clothes, all the disabled children at Shishu have a spirit and light about them that is infectious.

Loreto Sealdah is a prestigious Catholic Girls School in the heart of Kolkata; amongst the school of girls are a group of 90 girls known as ‘Rainbows’.  Outsiders pay for these girls to attend school as they either have no family or would otherwise be too poor to receive an education.  I spent my afternoons with these clever, dedicated and affectionate girls who live at school.  Neha*, a 14 year old who was left abandoned by her mother at a train station when she was just 2 years old, spoke openly about the harsh world outside the walls of the school and about how she became a Rainbow.  She wants to become a teacher and educate the children of the slums when she finishes school.  She was very mature and knew so much about hardship yet still had such a positive outlook on the life.   Celia a close friend of Neha, is a bubbly 11 year old who had the most beautiful smile and longest eyelashes, she lost both her parents and was now ‘mother’ to younger Rainbows.  She loved to skip and her English was so clear.   I loved sharing in conversation with her about my life and her extended family that lived so far away.  Her passion for education inspired me to value my opportunities mores.   Little Lidia, a charismatic 3 year old who stole my heart.  She was always on the hip of Neha and had this crazy cute little smile.   One day little Lidia was playing in the courtyard of the school and a man at the gate tried to bribe her to come with him with a chocolate; the true harsh nature of Kolkata hit me then and there as I cried for Lidia who could have so easily been taken if fellow Rainbows hadn’t been looking out for her. She has a band of sisters who will help her grow to become a strong, passionate young woman.

The bittersweet nature of Kolkata had me crying, laughing and loving all throughout my volunteering journey.  The little angels taught me that love can transcend all and that these friendships are for life.  So young yet so wise, my Rainbows will continue to shine bright in my soul as I remember their cheeky laughs.

Rosalinde travelled to India to volunteer with Mother Teresa’s organisation with a BUiLD General Grant in 2013.

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Ghana – The first week

I won’t lie. The first day was very intimidating. It could be the uber long hours on the plane or the adrenaline rush of being so far away from everyone and everything. I missed the comfort of home, family and friends. But I was prepared for all the hardships and I was determined to do what I came here for. I finished my first week of volunteering in Ghana and I feel like I have been here for a long time.

Asempanye is a small rural town that is half an hour drive from the main town.

Koforidua and almost two hours drive from the main city Accra. Asempanye does not have access of basic facilities such as Internet, shops, banks, hospitals or restaurants that I (We) have been taking for granted. The main job of the local people are farming and hunting. The project I am involved in is called One Wish Africa. Volunteers help in construction of Women Empowerment Centre. I chose Construction because I wanted to get emerged in local culture and experience their ways of living and doing things around.

It is usually four in the morning, when the rooster crows. I like to get up early because I like taking morning walk towards the local communal well to fetch water for the morning chores. It is there when I get to meet local women and young children who come to fetch water too. There is a specific way of carrying water. You have to carry it on top of your head and balance it with your hands. The well is 10 minutes away from where I live and every time when I go to fetch water just to have shower, it reminds me of Sydney.

After breakfast, volunteers start work. Construction is a hardcore manual labor. We need to fetch rainwater that is five minutes walk down a sloppy hill. So far, I must have made almost 100 trips to get water for the cement. It is an excruciating pain if you are not used to it. Balancing the water bucket on your head with your two hands is a difficult business and makes your arm and neck sore. After fetching enough water for the day, we need to prepare cements and sand for plaster and floor. Working under scorching Ghana heat, it is important to get yourself hydrated because one sweats like a river. The next morning, I had a sore back and blisters on my hand, it reminded me of Sydney.

The locals only have three meals per day-­‐ breakfast, lunch at noon and brunch in the evening. More often than not, the meals are made from local produce, fresh from the farm. I have tried some local meals such as fufu, zolo, rice balls with peanut soup and many more that has been an absolute delight. But there are times when I crave for Tim Tams or Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, it reminds me of Sydney.

Television is a privilege and locals cannot afford one. We went to a local pub to watch football match between Ghana and Egypt. There was a television in a cage. Despite warm beer and over crowded room by local men and boys, it was a fun night. After the game, we had to walk half an hour to get back home, it reminded me of Sydney.

This rural town amazes me. They have so little yet so much. The locals are very friendly. The children are always cheerful. They are self-­‐sustained. They grow in their farm and hunt animals for food. The children do not have fancy playthings but they are content with their handmade toys. The community is very close and has high level of trust among them. There have not been any instances of robbery or theft and children can play safely in the environment. However, I noticed that women do not have same privileges as men in the town. They are only expected to do ‘household tasks’. Also, I learnt that community thinks it is acceptable for husband to assault his wife if need be. I feel that the empowerment centre we are working on, will help women learn skills which will make them independent and not tolerate any kind of abuse by the husband or the community at large.

The project will help women in the rural area to learn skills such as baking and sewing that will help them to earn living. It will also help educate community about HIV AIDS.

In the past week, I have experienced so much. We painted a house that was built by former volunteers for Grandma and had house warming celebration in a Ghanaian style. The whole community cheered, sang and danced all night long. We are working on a house that will be used as women empowerment centre. I have seen how local drinks are brewed, how local meals are prepared and how broom, ropes and baskets are weaved from local trees. I have been to the local farms and ate local fruits such as popo and coco. I have walked through the jungle to hunt for rats and crab with local kids and dogs. I have learnt how to carry water on your head, hand wash clothes and have bucket shower. And, Yes. All the time, it reminded me of Sydney. Not because I was complaining. But, because, it made me realize how I had been taking things for granted. The experience so far has been life changing. Today, I appreciate and value more of what I have in my life. I cannot wait to experience more in my last week of volunteering in Ghana.

– Sumnima, travelling on an International Volunteer HQ program in Ghana in Summer 2013/14

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