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.

‘Modern Medicine, Holistic Health Care’

Our recent trip to Bali as part of the Midwifery in Indonesia has left me reflecting on a concept suggested by Robin Lim of the Bumi Sehat Birthing Centre, that birth revolves around three aspects: spiritual, nature and science. And indeed the more that this concept is thought about the more it can be seen in everyday life of Bali and the Hindu culture, as well as our own.

The spiritual aspect of birth seems to revolve around the act and rituals involved in the process itself. For instance, at Bumi Sehat Birthing Centre, the idea of ‘Gentle Birth’ is practiced, respect is shown for the new individual and the change in roles of the soon to be mother by keeping interventions to a minimum, lights dimmed, and noises soft. When the newborn arrives, all those who witnessed the birth sing a spiritual or religious song from the culture that the newborn will be raised in, usually Hindu, Islam or Christianity.

This spiritual aspect seems to resonate highly with the work of midwives, even in Australia, as we act to provide the rituals, routines and practices that women associate with birth. In the broader Balinese society, spirituality plays a large part of everyday life, as almost all actions and objects have a sacred meaning and associated ritual, making life in general a spiritual journey. To reflect on my own practice in line with spirituality, I feel that more emphasis should be put on the woman’s wishes during labour and birth. As midwives, it is our opportunity to create the spiritual space and experience, which many women crave in this life event.

If the spiritual aspect of birth can be viewed as a midwife’s domain, than nature is most definitely that of the woman. This trip has taught me many things on what is often included in a birthing room, compared to the necessities in a birthing room. In comparison to many of the hospitals visited on this trip, the two birthing centres visited concentrated and respected the instincts of the mothers. Their practice seemed to revolve around allowing nature to take it’s course, and monitoring in order to provide interventions only when necessary. This was in stark contrast to both the public and private hospitals visited, whose focus involved care based on technology, distancing themselves from the idea of ‘normal birth’.

The final aspect of birth suggested in this model is science, a domain traditionally held by doctors, but with the rise in technology, has become more available to both midwives and women. This was particularly evident in the presentations by the hospitals visited in that questions were usually half answered by Obstetricians and other doctors, and then answered in full by midwives, often accompanied by evidence in the literature.

It became clear early on that women in Indonesia have numerous choices when it comes to birth, whether that is hospitals or birthing centres, similar to what is found in Australia. And likewise, women are often uninformed of the choices available in both countries. This educational experience has made me re-examine my views on hospital-care and come to the conclusion that as midwives, as long as we allow spirituality, nature and science to shine through in our practice, it does not matter what establishment we provide care in. Furthermore, experiencing many cultural activities as well as those related to midwifery has shown me that these three aspects can be related to everyday life beyond the world of maternity.

10 photos of the trip

afSexual health education in the market place








adMidwife holding pot in which the placenta is placed before being buried under the family home










aeThird year midwifery students at Kartini School performing a dance based on the international understanding of midwifery, in traditional Balinese style










azSymbol of Bumi Sehat Birthing Centre






















acRobin Lim discussing international midwifery issues with the group























avSmall temple next to Tanah Lot














abTanah Lot temple
















anPreschoolers associated with the Bali Children’s Project










aySchool children associated with the Bali Children’s Project














auDrum circle with Senang Hati Foundation




Bali High Vlog

Firstly I’d like to congratulate and thank those responsible for organising the program for midwifery students in Bali! It was so well organised and provided such a comprehensive look at Public Health in Bali, and I learnt, not only about the amazing work being done in the various organisations to better the lives and health of the population, but also learnt so much about myself and the other students. It has refocused my drive to earn my degree and use it to exact change and growth.

I have simply put together a short film of images. Hope you enjoy!

Indonesia CommTECH 2015 – Oh The Fun

There’s no better bonding than that over a meal. On the first night we were taken to a welcome dinner where we were given a range of traditional Indonesian dishes to share amongst our table. These included oriental noodle dishes, seafood and rice. We were also provided with live entertainment in the form of a musical band and singer, which was made entirely of the volunteers who were to show us around for the next 10 days.


We also had to present skits in groups we had made earlier in front of the entirety of the CommTECH participants and volunteers. This was an exciting and nervous occasion, where 15 minutes of preparation was all we were given before being shafted onto a stage and told to entertain the audience.


My group decided to adopt my idea of playing ‘The Macarena’ (free styling of course) and pulling everyone up onto the dance floor. Coincidentally enough, we were the last group to present and, with some coaxing, everyone got up and I lead the audience in The Macarena. This was an amazing experience to ignite an entire room of people into the same dance with barely any organisation and was considered by all attending a huge success.


Not much is more difficult than learning a language. I myself can speak a small amount of Arabic, my home language, aside from English, and find this difficult enough. As you can tell from our puzzled faces, learning Bahasa was not an easy task.

We were taught, and by ‘taught’ I mean repeated once or twice, the pronunciation of some greetings, numbers, colours and shapes. Some people picked it up faster than others, of course those from Malaysian and other students with Asian backgrounds found learning Bahasa much easier than the majority of the Anglo-Saxon and otherwise Western participants. I personally forgot how to say ‘thank you’, even after many repetitions. It was then that I decided to stick to English and simply nod or smile when greeted in Bahasa. I was however fond of repeating ‘Apa Kabar’ or ‘how are you’, as I enjoyed hearing the response ‘baik baik saja’ [phonetically pronounced: bike – bike –sa- ja] which I found hilarious.


During one of our many days on the university campus, we were shown around the extensive farming facilities the university refers to as its ‘eco-farming’ initiatives. ITS makes the most of its open space by conducing ecologically sustainable farming and distributing the organic produce grown for sale to locals. This was an amazing experience to see the importance placed on the use of sustainable agriculture, even in the heart of the city, within the university itself.


By far one of the most ‘traditional’ things we did on the trip was play the angklung. This is a historical Indonesian instrument made of hollow bamboo shafts which are shaken creating a musical key.

I’m by no means musically talented, but with very minimal practice (and very good conducting) we were able to orchestrate ourselves and form a band intended to perform in front of the mayor of Surabaya. This was an amazing experience as well as team building exercise as learning something new and intimidating with great success brought the group closer as a whole.


We were invited to dinner at the Mayors Residence, where we were asked to dress in clothes traditional to our country – or formal, for those of us who didn’t want to wear boardies and singlets.

As there were participants from Nepal, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and China, this was an eye opening experience to witness firsthand the traditional dress of so many nationalities in one place.

Unfortunately due to her duties, the Mayor regrettably could not be present with us for the dinner, but we were able to perform the music we had learnt on the angklung before the vice-mayor and other university officials.

During the dinner we were once again presented with many types of traditional Indonesian food, including a type of noodle/meatball soup, which I assume is the national dish as I had eaten it served out of a cart on the streets just the day before, and it tasted exactly the same.


Batik: a method (originally used in Java) of producing coloured designs on textiles by dyeing them, having first applied wax to the parts to be left undyed.

In Surabaya we got a chance to make our own batik, it was on a piece of cotton cloth approximately 30cm x 30cm. This was a great insight into their culture of arts and patience, as a full sized batik could take months to create.

However at a tourists market we found multiple batik-like patterned shirts (the difference is they were made with machines as opposed to hand made with wax and dye). We then decided it was a good idea to wear them around the streets at the same time and run around like hooligans taking selfies at random locations. This was great fun through, and simply walking the streets of Indonesia was so different to walking around in Australia. You could feel the different air around you and all the different sights and sounds and smells made you truly feel submerged in a different culture.


During a cultural tour of the city we were taken on, we had the opportunity to explore a museum which portrayed Surabaya’s struggle for independence against Dutch, French and Belgian forces who tried to rule the city in recent centuries. This tour of the museum and city gave us great insight into the strong sense of patriotism held by its citizens – who were willing to sacrifice everything for their homes, culture and sense of nationalism.

The museum displayed artefacts such as weapons, documents and famous figures during their war for independence.


The last weekend of the trip we had the pleasure of taking a bus-ride approximately 4 hours to a campsite, where we had a campfire, fireworks and midnight shenanigans walking through the woods. We woke up early the next morning to file into our predetermined 4-wheel-drives to take us to the plains surrounding Mount Bromo, a famous active volcano in East Java explored by tourists all year round. This was all a surreal experience as the adrenalin and fear of the night time activities had not shaken off by 3am when we were taken on a rollercoaster ride around steep slopes to the base of the volcano.

From here we were all mounted on horseback and proceeded up the mountain track, guided casually by the horses’ owner. Despite its small appearance in the above photo, Milo, my horse, can only be described as a glorious beast, as it hauled me up the mountainside with all due caution and excitement.


This photo depicts the breathtaking view at the lip of the volcano of Mt. Bromo.

There are few experiences that compare with riding a horse up a volcano. The view was amazing, the cool air was brisk and the sensation of having reached the top was dizzying. This moment was by far the highlight of the trip for me, and although the sense of vertigo I felt looking into the volcano itself stopped me from walking as far around as some other participants, I was equally awe-inspired.

There was an amazing sense of achievement when we reached the top of the mountain, possibly due to the many sleep deprived days and night full of activities, all in anticipation for this moment. This was a point in the trip where many of us were exhausted (not just a little from the shenanigans in the woods the night before) and reaching the top of the stairs only to feel on top of the world brought about a sense of rejuvenation that is difficult to describe.

I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read my reflection on the CommTECH journey, with the above photos, experiences and memories that they’ve left me with.

I’d also like to thank very much the entire UTS BUILD team who provided us the means to enter this amazing program, as well as nonstop assistance leading up until out departure.

ITS University Summer Program Reflection

Before I start my reflection on the BUiLD summer program that I participated in at Indonesia, I would like to thank UTS for providing me this opportunity and allowing me to be part of the BUiLD program.

It is extremely hard to describe the wonderful time that I had during this program. Attending this program was like a life changing experience as it was my first time to visit Indonesia so every day during this program was a new experience for me. I went to Indonesia two days before the program started. Mr Wahyu who is the supervisor of the Commtech program, was with us throughout this program. He organised two people to take us from the airport to the hotel. Mr Wahyu was at the hotel waiting for us where he allocated the room already. He then invited us for dinner, despite it was a bit late the city was so crowded. It was a good opportunity to see what Surabaya is like and I had a great time as well, as I started to know the surrounding places around our hotel. After dinner I went straight back to the hotel because I was so tired.

Next day, I was introduced to new volunteers that will be with us throughout this program, and I was informed that there will be approximately 40 students in this program coming from 15 different countries. For me, this was absolutely a great opportunity to meet new people and learn about their culture, education and lifestyle.

The next day at around 8:30am we went to ITS. There was a welcoming ceremony and we were introduced to the course that we will undertake during this program. My course preference that I chose was Sustainable development in developing countries, therefore attending this course in Indonesia who is a developing country is an advantage its self because I will not only be able to study sustainability about developing countries but I will also have the opportunity to experience the process of sustainability in a developing country physically.

Throughout the week, we attended the classes for sustainable development which was extremely beneficial as we had one of the classes at the city council which was very interesting as they explained to us the new transport system that the government will start it in Surabaya.

During this program we had to read some articles, answer questions, perform a number of presentations and a number of other tasks that we had to do. We did a number of activities throughout this program which I certainly had a good time that I will always remember.

1This is a photo that I took before the session starts at the City Council

This image shows the water recycling system that one of the villages uses to filter the water. The blue area is where the filtering process occur

This flower is made out of plastic bottles

These images shows the system that they use to recycle the waste and generate gas

This photo was taken during one of the classes

Mount Bromo

I also had the opportunity to go rafting, this particular activity was very special for me as this was my first time, it was a really good experience and we had so much fun

The topics that I studied during this program and the knowledge that I gained, will definitely help me in the future. This program allowed me to improve my communication skills because I met so many people and we still communicate until now via Facebook. My knowledge towards sustainable development has significantly increased; I have a deeper understanding about the environmental aspects in developing countries. I had a wonderful time, the Indonesian people were very nice and for me it’s a journey that I will always remember.

I represented UTS in a very well manner, where I ensured that all my actions were appropriate and I followed all the rules and the instructions that were given to us. I also told the people that I met how beautiful UTS is, where I talked about all the great facilities and the opportunities that UTS provide to students. Lastly, I would like to thank UTS for giving me this opportunity and allowing me to represent them overseas.

My Indonesia experience – Shankar Prasad Aryal

I attended community based sanitation in urban areas in Indonesia from 2nd of February to 10th of February 2015. I really enjoyed my time there and learned so many things from that experience. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life.

While I was in there I was not only involved in learning community sanitation but I was involved in learning Indonesian culture, Indonesian food and Indonesian food as well.

I communicated with locals and students of ITS about the problems they are facing and found out the negative impacts of poor sanitation in their daily life. Also, we were invited by the Surabaya City mayor for dinner and I found out how government is helping to improve the sanitation facilities and how local leaders are involved to improve the life of Indonesian People. On our site visits, we went to different communities and found their lifestyles as well. Also, we learned to make Tempe which is traditional Indonesian food. We learned bhasa Indonesia as well. Now I can understand simple words. Moreover, we went to different schools and learned to play traditional Indonesia music and songs. I made so many amazing friends from Indonesia and around the world. We also got opportunities to explore the natural beauties of Indonesia for example Bromo Mountain and many rivers.

I gave my presentation about sanitation condition of Nepal as compared to Indonesia and analysed the similar problems these countries are facing in terms of sanitation behavior. Also I talked about University of Technology and the services and the facilities offered by UTS. So, most of the students were really interested to study in UTS as well.

I told them about my wonderful experience in UTS and I recommended UTS for them if they wish to come here in Australia for study. Also I am working as UPASS leader in UTS and I explained them about this wonderful program which helps students to interact socially and form friendships with other students in an informal, collaborative environment.

The biggest challenge for me was to interact freely and effectively with other people. I actively involved myself in as many group activities as possible without any hesitation. The scheduled group discussion sessions were a platform for me to communicate to other students.

This program will be very beneficial for my future career. This gave me opportunity to immerse myself in another language and developed my skills in a foreign study environment. It gave me experience what it is like to live and learn in another country. I have huge interest in studying water behavior, sanitation and our environment. This gave me more confidence in studying these areas because I was directly involved with these communities in urban areas. In addition to this, I learned we can improve people’s lives if we have good team and determination even we have limited resources.Apart from that I have developed my communication skills and leadership skills which will be very useful for Civil engineers. Moreover, it has given me the ability to view the world, and its issues, from several perspectives.

Shankar Prasad Aryal – 11436286

Sustainable development in developing countries – Indonesia

Exchange program Reflection by Fadi Faraj

I applied to this program and I was not sure if I will attend or not, because I was doing my internship last semester and my workplace asked me to stay for the summer break. This program was in the city of Surabaya, organised by ITS University.

This exchange program was one of the best experiences in my life. I made new friends from many countries and learned more about my degree. My major is Civil and Environmental Engineering.
After undertaking this program, I became more motivated about my course. I learned so much about the sustainable development in Indonesia. I went to Malaysia in 2014 in another BUiLD exchange program and learned about managing water in tropical countries. I would like to thank BUiLD for giving me this great opportunity for the second time and having the faith in me as a representative
of UTS and Australia. I really appreciate it.

I arrived two days early in Surabaya to have some relaxing time and do some shopping. I did not find it difficult at all to find the ITS volunteers at the airport who drove us to the hotel and invited us for dinner with Mr. Wahyu (program coordinator). I felt welcomed and people were very friendly with me.

Figure 1 Arriving in Surabaya1

In the opening ceremony, volunteers performed the Saman dance, a traditional Indonesian dance that participants of my sub-course had to perform at the end of the program. I found it really fun and enjoyable to watch and perform.

Figure 2 Saman dance in the opening ceremony

After that, participants and volunteers were grouped in small groups and as an ice breaking activity, we were asked to find something in common between all the members of the group. My group found that everyone was wearing a watch. I had so much fun during these activities as well as the performance that we did during the welcoming dinner. We danced, laughed, had a memorable night and found out more about each other. I felt privileged when I was asked to represent Australia for the newspaper photo session.

Figure 3 Representing Australia for newspaper photo session

Figure 4 Welcoming Dinner

Figure 5 my group’s performance

The traditional games were great. I like how everyone took the games in a serious manner and tried their best to make their team win. I started my team’s first game and won the ‘jumping in a bag’ activity. I was so happy and my team was proud of me. At the end of the day, everyone was happy and we took plenty of pictures as usual and went back to the hotel for dinner.

Figure 6 traditional games and activities

The city tour was amazing and I found out more about Surabaya. I learned how heroic this city is and how its people freed their city from the Japanese. I also learned that Surabaya means the shark and the crocodile, representing the typical fights between the two animals in the waterways around the city. I enjoyed my time in the museum and took many pictures.

The program was very well organised. The classes were not long and I found the content interesting to learn. The teachers used videos, fun activities and group discussions and presentations to make the sessions more entertaining and beneficial.

I learned some Indonesian words, which were similar to Malaysian. I also learned a traditional song and dance of Surabaya. Participants were given the chance to make their own tempe (a traditional Indonesian food made from soybeans). I found it delicious and needs creativity to make as people can add the ingredients they want to make it.

Figure 7 Making Tempe

Figure 8 City Tour (Museum)

Figure 9 City Tour (Museum)

Figure 10 3D image trick at the museum

Figure 11 Farm visit

One of the most memorable days of the program was the Mount Bromo visit and water rafting. We had to wake up at 3am, get into jeeps and arrive at a hilly area to watch the sunrise while looking at Mount Bromo from a distance. I forgot how sleepy and tired I was as soon as I saw the spectacular view. The smoke produced by the volcanic actions was visible. I have never been that close from an active volcanic mountain.

Figure 12 Watching the sunrise – Mount Bromo

Figure 13 Catching the sunrise – Mount Bromo

After that, we had breakfast and went to the bottom of Mount Bromo where there were many horses to hire souvenirs sellers. My first experience of horseback riding was an unforgettable one. I enjoyed every second of being on top of the horse. The view from the top of Mount Bromo was breath taking.

Figure 14 Horseback riding to Mount Bromo

Figure 15 View from the top of Mount Bromo
Figure 16 Trip to Mount Bromo

Right after that, we went back to the bus and slept for 3 hours before we arrived at the water-rafting place. Again, as a first time experience, I had a great time in the waves of the river.

Figure 17 Water Rafting

The visit to the city mayor’s house was unforgettable. Even though the mayor was busy at that night and could not attend, the service and welcoming of the coordinators and the people from the government reflect their generosity and values.

Figure 18 Dinner in Surabaya city mayor’s house

Figure 19 UTS participants and representative (Joanne Taylor)

Towards the final days of the program, participants had to prepare a presentation highlighting the sustainable aspects of their universities and countries. Every student was allocated in a different
faculty. I was allocated in the business management faculty and the students of the class were very well behaved, good listeners and showed interest about UTS and Australia.

The closing ceremony followed with some good food, speeches and videos about our journey that had ended. I liked the idea that every participant received a CD with all the pictures taken throughout the program. We also received appreciation certificates.

Right after the closing ceremony, I went shopping with some friends for the last time and took many photos. At night, all participants and volunteers went to a karaoke place and made the last night of the program a very entertaining and memorable one.

Figure 20 Fun photo-shoot session after the closing ceremony

I always felt a sense of belonging being in this program. People called me brother and I really felt that I have formed a second family in Indonesia. Staff and volunteers always made sure that participants are fine and making the most out of the program. I will never forget how friendly, simple and welcoming Indonesians are. I will never forget Surabaya, its history and great people. It is not a tourism city like Bali or Jakarta, so people used to stare at me all the time because they are not used to seeing foreigners. Some people even asked to take pictures with me, which made me feel like a celebrity.

Thank you Indonesia & ITS for having me. Thank you BUiLD for this great experience.

I am glad I took this opportunity.

Fadi Faraj – 11380817

Lessons Learnt in Vietnam

When a scooter is riding towards you, keep walking

At first sight, it seems like there are no road rules in Vietnam but, in fact, they are just very different (sometimes the exact opposite) of those that exist in Sydney. Crossing the road is daunting, especially as the scooters’ constant beeping adds to their aggressive air. On busy roads, you have no option but to slowly inch your way across (silent prayers are optional). One member of our group, Marlena, favours a different to technique that I like to call ‘ignorance is bliss’; the idea is that you simply close your eyes as your cross the street. This works quite well once you’re comfortable with the fact that scooter drivers do actually ride quite slow and are (usually) skilled enough to dodge you.

Be courageous

Hanoi (and Vietnam in general) has a lot to offer, but to make the most of it, you will have to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t second guess yourself. The streets of Hanoi are so alive, so packed with goods and services to try. Eat street food, get your hair cut and your shoes polished, all without having to walk through a shop door.

Haggle til your heart’s content

Haggling (or bargaining) is a central part of the shopping experience in Vietnam. Most shops don’t display prices and every shopkeeper inflates their prices in anticipation of bargaining wars. To accept the first price you’re offered is to make yourself known as a gullible foreigner.

Take a local with you

Exploring the streets with Derick allowed us to the try the best, out of the way food shops in Hanoi, which are well-known to locals but rarely touched by tourists. It also allowed us to gain a greater understanding of what was happening around us. He was excited to explain the culture and history behind statues, paintings, and artefacts. The history of Vietnam came alive in stale museums and on bustling streets.

– Jacinta, Poverty Reduction through Microfinance program, Vietnam, January 2014.  

Jacinta Vietnam

Microfinance in the Field

The program consisted of three field trips to two different communities, Soc Son and Hoa Binh (which is Vietnamese for ‘peace’). Our workshops in Hanoi introduced us to the theories and complexities of microfinance programs, while the field trips translated these into practice. This combination allowed us invaluable insights into this area of development and inspiring glimpses of rural Vietnam.

During the field trips, we observed the communities, farming practices, and interviewed locals to learn about their experiences. Every farmer welcomed us into their home and was happy to share their story with us.

One of the interviews stands out for me. During our first field trip to Hoa Binh, we interviewed a young, female farmer to understand the levels of access to sanitation in the community. During the workshops, we had discussed the complexities of poverty and how it can be split into 3 levels: the poorest poor, the moderately poor and the richest of the poor. This young woman was in the first of these categories.  She was married with two adorable young sons. They all lived in a small concrete house consisting of one room, in which there were two beds and a chest. Walking into her house, we could see the entirety of her material possessions, far removed from the luxury we are accustomed to. For some reason, her story of wanting to expand her crops resonated with me. Maybe it is because she is one of the poorest farmers we interviewed. Maybe because she is 21, the same age as me, which exemplifies how entirely different our lives are. To me, the most inspiring aspect was her resilience; she had a positive view of the future for her family, and plans to increase her income through hard work.

This is where microfinance comes in. Bloom provides small loans to farmers who prove that they will use the money to increase their capacity to earn income. These loans go up to US$400 (although the average loan is US$100) and provide farmers with the capital to buy things such as fertilizer and seeds at the start of the season and repay the loans using the profit they gained from the harvest. We encountered so many struggling families during the field trips, whose only income may come as infrequently as every 8 months. Making that income last is a struggle, creating a cycle of poverty that prevents them from investing in new crops or livestock. Microcredit loans provide farmers with the start up capital to escape that cycle. It is not an instant gateway out of poverty. It involves risk, careful planning and patience, but slowly it can make a difference.

The various interviews throughout our field trips showed us success stories as well as the issues that exist with the microfinance model. Overall, it was clear that microfinance and education programs were giving farmers in these communities a wider range of choices for their futures.

– Jacinta, Poverty Reduction through Microfinance program, Vietnam, January 2014.  Jacinta Vietnam