Why I was thanked for being Australian
Here’s the global scale of what AusAid does and why it cannot be cut.
I’ve been fortunate to spend the past 15 years in over 80 countries listening and learning from the world. In the past month, I’ve been very lucky to have spent time in Nepal, India and now Sri Lanka doing various aid and development work.
Here is a brief glimpse of the time I’ve spent in these three countries in the past month.
In Nepal I was helping facilitate a project for a school just outside of Kathmandu that was still suffering from the effects of the earthquake on ANZAC Day last year. In the day before my arrival at the Nepali school an Australian Aid funded program had just passed through giving students a medical check-up on ears, nose and throats as well as providing simple but effective health education.
While there were no Australians on that program (just the funding--the way it should be) the head of the school, the school management committee and the parents association were all thankful to me for the program that had just provided important and much needed care for their children.
Then, in the last part of my Nepali trip in Kathmandu I visited the wonderful Seven Women NGO which is empowering women in Nepal to secure livelihoods, provide shelter for women facing abuse and give women of different abilities their first opportunity to learn, find work and be self-sufficient which is all incredibly empowering. Seven Women was founded by a young Australian woman, Stephanie Woollard, and is now fully operational in Nepal with local staff. I also know that Seven Women had a helping hand up from Australian Aid in their process of becoming a functioning and now successful NGO empowering women and communities in Nepal.
Seven Women NGO
So on to India where I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be writing global citizen curricula that will reach 2.5 million Indian students throughout the country. This opportunity came about from another Australian-born organisation in the Global Poverty Project.
The Global Poverty Project aka Global Citizen is now a huge phenomenon in the US, UK and Canada with concerts featuring 60,000 people in Central Park in New York and acts from artists like Pearl Jam, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and many more. In fact back in 2009 I helped in the early stages of launching the Global Poverty Project by creating their youth and schools program.
While I worked largely as a full-time volunteer for over a year (as did most of the other staff) we did receive a vital grant from the Australian Government to put some big projects into place which then lead on to a wonderful partnership with Plan International Australia and the
youth and school program reaching over 300 schools in two years. While I wasn’t directly working under the banner of Australian Aid in India I certainly know there was some grease in the cogs that helped me be there.
Currently I’m in Sri Lanka and have been soaking up the warm hospitality, generosity and kindness of this beautiful country. In so many of the conversations I’ve been having with local people, I say I work in aid and development they immediately ask - do you meanAusAid? I answered with kind-of.
One because AusAid no longer exists due to cuts and restructuring under the current Australian Government and two because I usually don’t work directly under Australian Aid projects as they are largely to support local people not have people like me to come and tell them what to do.
The people of Sri Lanka know, appreciate and smile when they know I’m from Australia. People tell me about a bridge that was built, a school program that helped their children, health services for their community and in one case, with a meeting with someone from the World Bank, Australia’s lack of presence in Sri Lanka today. Australia’s lack of presence isn’t necessarily a bad thing as hopefully Australian Aid is a part of a plan to empower people to empower themselves so they no longer need aid.
In my view, what I get to experience on-the-ground on a daily basis in all of these countries is that Australian Aid makes a huge difference. There are always communities in a lot of need so now, nor anytime, isn’t great to be keeping our hands in our pockets. Instead we should be valuing working and supporting others and get our hands out of pockets to supporting any number of projects like the ones I’ve come across in the past month that have big impacts.
From Sri Lanka I head to Kyrgyzstan to work with UNICEF for a month on behavioural change communications for health promotion and straight after that I’ll be in the Middle East working with the Gates Foundation on my own project with Teaspoons of Change and Polio Points - an education system for creating more effective and active global citizens.
I know that none of these opportunities would have been possible without the support of Australian Aid whether that was through their funding of Australian Volunteers International (AVI) which allowed me to volunteer in Ethiopia for a year in 2008 or supporting the campaigning organization RESULTS Australia where I have learnt so much or in the grants with the Global Poverty Project. I know I am only a part of working with people to find solutions and be an active part of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development because of Australian Aid.
For me it is a no-brainer to stop cutting Australian Aid on a moral, impact and generous level and it is time for Australians to feel as proud and honored as I do to walk the streets of others’ countries and be appreciated for the country I come from because we havesupported and been generous to their communities.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of each of the partners of Global Citizen.