By JESSICA WHITING
Each year hundreds of young Australians travel to developing countries to help communities less fortunate than ours. But these passionate individuals are not building orphanages or painting school classrooms; they’re helping create IT systems, train teachers and up-skill nurses, physiotherapists and speech pathologists.
Through the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) Program, an Australian Government initiative, 18 to 30 year olds are supported on volunteer assignments of up to 12 months in Asia, the Pacific or Africa. These passionate Australians are placed in local organisations where they share their skills and knowledge with their colleagues. This ‘capacity building’ approach means that volunteers are contributing to change that will make a difference to these host organisations long after they return home.
Victorian nurse Kate Witcombe is one example of how AYADs can make a difference in developing country communities. Kate spent a year in Kiribati, a remote, Pacific island nation, training students at the Kiribati School of Nursing. In a country with no neurosurgeon, no intensive care unit and no CT scanner, Kate had to use her imagination to help teach her second-year nursing students.
“It was a year which saw me using a coconut instead of a skull in explaining what happens to the brain when there is increased intracranial pressure,” Kate explains.
“I taught the students how to use the nursing belts from their uniforms to control an arterial bleed in a hospital without tourniquets. I learnt to adjust my scope of practice to reflect what was available and found my hands-on basic nursing skills invaluable.