International Volunteer Day celebrates volunteers’ contributions and their efforts with communities, non-governmental organisations, government and the private sector. This year’s theme is #GlobalApplause – a chance to applaud volunteers and acknowledge their contributions to sustainable development around the world.
The Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID), an Australian Government Initiative provides opportunities for skilled Australians to be placed within host organisations to work with local colleagues build capacity within the organisation.
Australian Volunteers Melaina Schuller-Tate, Tony Frugier and Shelomi Doyle are currently in Papua New Guinea volunteering in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, East New Britain and Port Moresby.
Melaina Schuller-Tate is currently working at the Bougainville Integrated Community Learning Centre, Iamaru Village as a Community Development Mentor.
“The assignment I am on is helping to set-up a community learning centre in Southern Bougainville. Working specifically with the Konnou people, I’m working with a range of different people in the family and organisation,” said Melaina.
(L-R) Judith Moini with Australian Volunteer Community Development Mentor Melaina Tate at the stationery shop of Bougainville Integrated Community Learning Centre, Buka, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono.
Melaina feels she is privileged to work with the people in Bougainville and says teaching is two-way. Although her assignment has only just started, Melaina borrowed the words of her Bougainville colleague Miriam to summarise progress so far: “We’ve spent the last three months getting to know each other, building a relationship and learning about what drives us.”
Tony Frugier is working with the Burnet Institute in Kokopo, East new Britain Province as a Research and Operations Mentor.
“We’re working on a really interesting project called Healthy Mothers and Babies. We’re trying to understand why there is such a high mortality rate in pregnant women in Papua New Guinea, and we want to get tangible answers about it.”
(L-R) Australian volunteer Research and Operations Mentor Tony Frugier with Ruth Fidelis of Burnet Institute, analysing medical samples at the organisation’s laboratory located at St. Mary’s Hospital Vunapope, Kokopo, East New Britain, PNG. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono.
“I think it’s important that local staff take charge of the projects. I’m here specifically to mentor the team leader and she’s really already a brilliant team leader. My big wish for her is that she can become the Country Manager to the program. They don’t need an Australian manager to come here and drive the program. I think she has the capacity to do that one day.”
Shelomi Doyle works at the Port Moresby Nature Park as Curator of Horticulture.
“My work is contributing to identifying plants in the nature park to be a scientific resource for education. I’m also training the horticulture staff to better look after the plants through health identification.
“I’ve learnt a lot about the plants and the animals. But I’ve also learnt a lot about people. The people have such a beautiful personality. I’m learning a lot about their culture, and meeting people and hearing their stories has been amazing,” said Shelomi.
(L-R) Kula Oka from Port Moresby Nature Park holding a Paphiopedilum sp. Orchid with Australian Volunteer Curator of Horticulture Shelomi Doyle. The POM Nature Park has almost 11,000 orchids in their glass house collection. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono.
Michelle McGeorge, General Manager of the Nature Park said the combined zoological, botanical and cultural facility has an education and conservation focus.
“We need people to provide guidance to our staff who are hungry to learn, but unfortunately we don’t have the capacity to do the training that’s required. By having volunteers here, we can lead the change that we need for our organisation, and for our staff, so they can reach their full potential,” said Michelle.
AVID Program has 23 volunteers working across nine Provinces including Port Moresby, East New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, , Western Province, Madang, Sandaun, Eastern Highlands and East Sepik.