Monday, 27 July 2009

Rebecca Davis - time of her life in Vietnam

Volunteer Rebecca - first month of a three month placement in Hanoi

My first few weeks have passed by in a blur. Hanoi is beautiful,
crazy, noisy and hot, hot, hot! The Old Quarter is so much fun. It is
always busy and chaotic, I see something new every time I walk down my
street. The are so many amazing restaurants, it would never be
possible to go hungry here. All the food is so great, I have had no
problems with my veggie diet. Lots and lots of choices. I've been
eating both western and Vietnamese. Even went to Thai food last night!
The clothing stores are all really fun and cheap, but the clothes are
kinda tiny. A bit hard to find clothes that fit! The jewellery is
amazing, I have already had to put myself on a limit as I've bought so
much of it!
The sights are beautiful. I have spent so much time at Hoen Kiem Lake.
I never get tired of it, especially the sight of it at night time.
Also went up to West Lake and watched the sunset. Honestly the most
beautiful sunset I've ever seen. And visited Lenin Park yesterday
which was very beautiful and strange. Lots of seemingly abandoned
amusement park rides and lots of strange statues. It made me feel like
Alice in Wonderland. The hotel is great. Very comfortable, and the
staff are so helpful. Had absolutely no problems with it.

My time at Morning Star so far has been so great. I'm very lucky
because I have four great teachers in my class of about 12 amazing
little kids. The class is made up of all little boys and one gorgeous
girl who looks like a perfect little doll. They all have been
diagnosed with autism but their cases are mostly mild. With most of
them, they act like any other little kid. They are so friendly and I
lose count everyday of all the kisses and cuddles I collect. The
teachers are so supportive and have been really tolerant of me and my
lack of language skills, which must be frustrating for them. It's been
great spending time with the other volunteers as well. It's nice to
get to talk to other foreigners, and I'm currently planning a trek up
in the mountains with one volunteer from Denmark.

Phuong has been such a champion. She has helped me so much out here.
We have been shopping, out to dinner, been swimming, and she has even
taken me out to a birthday party and introduced me to her friends. I
probably wouldn't have survived my time here without her help. She has
been a serious lifesaver.

I can't believe almost a month has gone by. Hanoi already feels like
home. I am quite comfortable here now. I can't wait to see what the
next two months is going to bring!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Last school day in Peru

Written by Jane, Peru in-country agent

Today was the last day at the school for the Antips group. All Peruvian schools have closed and the volunteers are preparing their further travels.

Despite this, the Antips group worked really hard to finish off their lessons and the computer centre so that we could celebrate together with the teachers and students on their last day.

There was lots of dancing, singing and reciting of poems. Each of the Antips received a Peruvian beanie made by the mothers in the community.

The computer centre looks great with six new computers, printer and photocopier. The kids were so excited to sit in front of the machines. They had no idea how to use even the mouse but it won't take them long to learn.

Half the group are off on the Inca Trail on Sat and then they all start their travels to Arequipa, Nazca, Brazil etc.

We have been so proud of this group. From the beginning they were very organised with their lesson plans and required very minimal assistance. The kids have really benefited from the classes and are retaining a lot of information. The were very organised with their project planning, running the budget and ensuring that the computer centre was finished on time.

Thanks from one our our GapBreak parents

Written by a parent of the GapBreak 2009 Peru group

I would very much like to thank you all for looking after our daughter and I know that she has had a wonderful experience with her group and Peru family, brother & sisters.

She would never have been able to do anything like this without meeting you and I give you my heartfelt thanks. The communication to us wary parents (only at first) has been exceptional and for the first few weeks, we were aching for these emails from you as our daughter was too busy to think of her worrying parents at home.

Once again, THANK YOU with much love.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Development Scholarship to India!

Antipodeans Abroad is offering a three-month scholarship on a new and exciting pilot project in the heart of the desert state of Rajasthan. Apply now for the chance of a lifetime. Gain unique international community development experience in India. Two full scholarships are available



Currently only 13% of women in India have completed more than 5 years of schooling, and the situation in rural areas is far worse. India’s current public school system is one where nearly 20% of the girls are dropping out each year, resulting in an average dropout rate of close to 80% by the time they finish 8th grade.

The NGO ‘Foundation Educate Girls Globally’ (FEGG) program focuses on mobilising communities to take over government schools, working with teachers, bringing girls who have dropped out back into school and making schools work for girls. The program also focuses on improving school quality to retain girls in school. We are pleased to offer two scholarships to FEGG to document the work done so far and assist in the program’s development. Working alongside the NGO’s local staff your responsibilities will include documentation, research reports and creating presentation materials for the government. Please see for further details about the organisation’s work.

Rajasthan’s fascinating mix of religions, festivals, temples, bazaars, exotic and colourful people and beautiful landscapes make it a compelling country of contrasts and contradictions.

Accommodation, Food, Airport Transfers, Pre-departure Assistance, Orientation, 24-hour support on the ground and in Australia.


International Airfare, Personal Travel Insurance, Local Transport, Visa, Vaccinations.


Applicants are required to have previous study and/or work experience within Education, Social Work or Development Studies. Applicants must have excellent document writing and presentation skills, a good camera, a laptop (preferred) and to be able to manage their own work time.


Please apply with your resume and a cover letter detailing your relevant experience and addressing the following criteria:

- A recent project you have researched- Relevant work experience
- Interest in development issues
- Previous travel experience
- Career aspirations
- Ability to work independently and as part of a team
- Ability to support yourself financially

To apply for the scholarship and for more information please contact Fiona Reeves on or (02) 9413 1522.

Calling all Education students!

Want to make the most out of your university holidays?
Want to gain invaluable teaching experience overseas?

Join a team of Education students from around Australia and teach for 6 weeks in Nepal from 2nd Jan - 20th Feb 2010. Live in the foothills of the Himalayas in Pokhara, and immerse yourself in the culture, education system and language of Nepal.

Gain practical teaching experience working in local schools, adult education centres, care centres and on community projects with local non-government organisationn. Live in a local homestay or in volunteer share accommodation. And you may be eligible to gain course credit!

The Nepal Education Placement is designed to provide students with an opportunity to gain invaluable personal and professional experience in a cross-cultural setting and the chance to contribute to a developing community by sharing their skills as volunteer teachers.

Students will be placed in local schools where they will teach conversational English and other subjects to Nepali and/or Tibetan children. In Nepal, English is becoming more and more of a required skill to access higher education and employment. Schools in Nepal often lack funding and resources.

Class sizes can range from 10 to 80 students. School runs from Sunday to Friday with Saturday off, and students are generally between 4 and 16 years of age. Depending on your skills, experience and university course you may teach in primary, secondary or special education centres for 5-6 days per week.

The team will stay at a local guesthouse on a twin-share basis with breakfast included. Lunch will be served at respective schools. For dinner, delicious local food is available very cheaply for a few dollars a meal.

Weekends and Free time
Activities abound in and around the area for you to make the most of your time in Nepal. Options outside of Pokhara include, including trekking the surrounding hills and mountains or up to the World Peace Pagoda, a trip to near by Sarangkot for the mountain views and paragliding, or for a longer more adventurous trip head to Chitwan National Park.

Cost: $2225 per student

• Accommodation during placement in twin share guesthouse
• Breakfast and Lunch
• Antipodeans Training Workshop
• In-country meet & greet, airport transfers, orientation and transport
• Placement and screened community project
• Support by In-Country Agent
• 24 hr back-up by Antipodeans Abroad in Australia

• Airfares
• Transport to project (budget $2-4 per day)
• Dinners (budget $3-5 per meal)
• Visas and vaccinations
• Items of a personal nature
• Tips and gratuities

How to Apply
To apply for the program please jump on our website and fill in an Interview Request Form. Once we receive this form, we will call you to arrange a time for an interview. Interviews are held face to face in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane or over the phone in other areas.

For a free information pack please contact Kirsten Cunningham on: or (02) 9413 1522.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Update from Forest Lake/Springfield Team A

The team has successfully finished their trek and community project.

The past couple of days have been both rewarding and exciting. The days in Halong Bay have were very much enjoyed as well. Currently the team is seeing the sights of Hue.

Update from Canberra Girls Grammar - B

Team B has arrived safely in Borneo and are currently enjoying themselves in Sandakan.

The group will be heading off to their community project soon, with much excitement.

Update from Canberra Girls Grammar - A

The girls have arrived safely in Borneo and are thoroughly enjoying themselves in and around Kota Kinabalu for a couple of days sightseeing before heading off to their project and trek.

More new from on the ground in India

Written by Elizabeth Hardby - GapBreak 2009, India

Today has been really good so far, we went to the day care and it was so fun! The little kids were jumping on me and my favourite kids were there, but they are all a little sick, one has a really bad ear infection and another had a tummy ache. They are so cute, when we sit down, Laxman and Puran (2 boys) run over to me and drape themselves on me, its great.

I have taught them different faces and they will do them randomly now. They are really cheeky.
Yesterday we went into town and brought some clothing because my nice pants got a rip in them, so I got some cotton ones which are really nice.

We have finally organised 2 trips, which we are doing through our in-country agent. We are going to Jodhpur for 3 days and we are doing some sight seeing and going on a camel safari with the new volunteers and Gaurav. Which will be so much fun. We will be staying in the desert with a tribal family and we are going on a camel ride for 2 days. We are so excited. Then in August we are going to Ranthanborne National Park (tiger park) and Agra (Taj Mahal) for 4 days.

Heartwarming experiences and emotional goodbyes

Written by Georgina Kempton - GapBreak 2009, Ghana

We're leaving Swedru on Monday morning to go travelling up north for 2 weeks before heading back to Accra to fly out to our various destinations (London via Joburg for me!). There's been a very intimidating sense of finality growing.

The weekend after that was spent at Akosombo, up in the Volta lake region. The drive there was beautiful - if you ignored the tro tros/locals, we could have been in the hunter valley!!! On Saturday we did a Volta cruise for 6 hours, which was very relaxing. We stopped halfway at Dodi Island where we were met by lots of local kids who led us across the island and back. On Saturday night a whole group of us went camping to Boti Falls - we stayed behind because Claudia was feeling crook but we had a fantastic girls night, went out and bought Ghanaian street food, the equivalent of junk food - Ghanaian chocolate, popcorn and milo sachets!! Just to indulge ourselves because everyone had had a bit of a tough week. Then we decided to go all out and on Sunday morning the 4 of us headed to Accra and saw a movie (angels and demons - loved it!) and had pizza for lunch. So we had a lovely indulgence day :)

The weekend after that (last weekend) we headed back to Kokrobite to Big Milly's for a last weekend on the coast. The boys aren't travelling with us so it was a nice last group weekend too. It was beautiful to go for a big swim in the Atlantic and just chill out. There was a huge reggae party on the beach on Saturday night so we had a great time mingling with Ghanaians and other travellers, and dancing to old songs like 'celebration' that the band was playing on the beach. Lots of fun!!! All in all an excellent weekend.

The weeks have been speeding past and I just finished my last day at school a few hours ago. Very sad - Phoebe and I found ourselves tearing up on more than one occasion. We've donated 20 desks and chairs to the school as well as a beautiful cupboard with about 60 books, clocks, games, a soccer ball, encyclopaedias, posters, maps etc. When we presented everything they were stoked, and phoebe gave a little impromptu speech which was returned by ma (who is not only our host grandma but also the founder of our school). We then had our classes to ourselves as usual for the next hour or so, and after break we did P.E. in the form of dancing...macarena, hokey pokey, nutbush, musical statues etc!!! We went and said goodbye to our kids after lunch which was awful. In Ghana when someone is coming back or coming over or anything they just say 'I'm coming, I'm coming ok?' and one of my beautiful KG2 girls Francisca said to me 'Madam Georgina, you are not coming?' – I almost burst into tears. We had to spend a few moments collecting ourselves! I can't even imagine what leaving our family is going to be like on Monday, it makes me sick just thinking about let's avoid that!!!

My big project at school has been teaching the kids in my class to write their names. I bought them all exercise books and wrote about 13 times in each book their names in dots so they could trace and then copy. It's been so heart warming to watch their progress - and the fact that they now know what different types of weather are and can distinguish different shapes is so amazing. It's hard to believe I’ve taught them that stuff - we all started off with so little confidence in our teaching skills, and now it just feels natural. I'm going to miss my class so much!

Other than that, not too much to say. We're starting our trip with 3 days in Kumasi, a big city about 4 hours north west of Swedru. We’re thinking of skipping back down to Accra on the 10th because Obama is visiting Ghana....we think it would be amazing to see him!!! But we'll see how that turns out. Other than that we're exploring the north...will tell you about it!!!!

Jambo from Kenya

Written by Joanne Cranney - GapBreak 2009, Kenya

It is amazing over here, too much to tell already! The plane trip was hectic. We got to Nairobi ok however it took so long to get through customs that we nearly missed the plane! We only got to our connecting flight as the last couple of people were boarding. We were also delayed because loads of people were trying to help us then trying to get money from us! We arrived at Mombassa and got on this old truck with no walls it was the scariest trip of my life!!! So we got to our little village a bit overwhelmed and tied. I am in a mud hut with 7 other girls. We all have nets around our beds!

Sunday we went for a walk around the village then headed to 40 thieves beach- the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. There were camels there too. So we all (28 of us) went for a swim for hours and there was hardly anyone else there. Monday we started our project work and built this massive fence. I must have gone weak as I was buggered by the end. However, I still had enough strength to play with the kids and a game of soccer with the villages, which we lost miserably! Today I am so sore and can barely move so luckily we had a restful day- we walked about 30 mins to another village and they cooked us lunch, which was so nice. So I am now back at the beach for the afternoon.

Hills, Gods and the Orphanage in India

Written by Emily Fischer - GapBreak 2009, India

It was a little cooler here today, which was really nice. Last night it rained for the first time and I got so excited I was dancing in the street. When it started raining me and some people from the house walked to a shrine at the top of a mountain. Actually the mountain is more like a big hill. It looks like a small temple. I think the Maharaja built it somewhere between the 15th and 18th century. It kind of looks like a small temple, its so nice. Anyway while we were walking up to it, we all got stuck because the hill is covered in all these super prickly bushes. So when we were about halfway up this little Indian guy sprinted up the mountain and started speaking really fast in Hindi. None of us really understood but he showed us the way up and when we got to the shrine he said the Maharaja used to shoot at animals through the archways. It was so nice up there because whenever you go up high you get a breeze.

Today day-care for Liz and me got cancelled because there was a wedding in the village which the kids went to. So we went to Jagdish Temple in the old city, it’s this ancient Hindu temple with big statues of elephants and lots of beggars out the front. When we got inside it was actually the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen…there were about a hundred people from toddlers to 80 year-olds all singing in front of a shrine. I’m not sure which God they were worshipping because they have 330 million different ones, but when we walked in the two village elders at the front smiled while the group belted out this song in Hindi. Their hymns are so good I’ve had it stuck in my head all day. Afterwards one of the elders handed out food to all the worshippers, and he came up to us and explained that it was the food of the Gods and he asked us to have it :D I was so excited to eat the food of the Gods especially because it was actually condensed milk and sugar cake. So yummy!!

I had my first class at the orphanage today! It was fantastic…the kids were really shy at first, they wouldn’t even tell me their names. But then they started to warm up when we learnt about colours and fruit and body parts and everything…I sang to them for most of the lesson but they love singing so it was ok. After the lesson all the kids from the orphanage came and gave me a hi-five, and they all wanted to have arm wrestles so I let them arm wrestle me…they were trying so hard it was hilarious. The orphanage is in a pretty poor state…soon they’re starting a renovation project, which new volunteers are coming to work for. So hopefully I’ll be able to help out a bit with that.

That’s about all I have to report! Thanks so much, we're having the best time!!!

Emotional Goodbyes in Nepal

Written by Stephanie Rae - GapBreak 2009, Nepal

I’m back in Kathmandu. This arvo we are moving in to an Orphanage for the last couple of weeks which is quite exciting :)
Don’t really know what to expect but I am looking forward to it.

It was really sad leaving the village my host mum -who cant speak English and we cant speak Nepali- came into our room the night before and said in Nepali that we are always welcome and we can stay as long as we want for free (and I understood it! ). Junu 0shes the daughter-in-law in our family, told us that we have been here so long that we are family to them now. Upon our farewell we were given big red tikka's on our foreheads and flowers around or neck.

Then we went to Bindabarsini - the local school that we taught at. We pretty much knew all the teachers and students there cause they all live in our village and we had a whole farewell ceremony where they danced and gave speeches and we were given certificates and more tikka’s. We were also expected to each give a speech. I cracked and had to cut mine short cause I started crying. It didn’t help that Prajur (3yr old in our family) was sitting right opposite me. After giving everyone hugs, we were off in the jeep. The kids surrounded the car and gave us flowers before we drove off. That was our last day in the village. I spent my last class playing hangman. I was so proud of the students because they actually understood how to play, which was initially quite hard for them. In my other class I got the students to draw pictures of Australia, which was really funny -they just drew massive blobs on the board and wrote Australia. I also took photos of them and gave them lollies and stickers -a very educational last lesson in other words.

Now on to the orphanage!

From monsoonal rains to Hindi classes

Written by Elizabeth Handby - GapBreak 2009, India

Things are going really well. We had our second day-care class this morning and I love the kids so much, there are very cute, especially Tilsi and Manju, who are both 2 and 3 and they cannot speak much Hindi but when I prompt them to speak they will say 'my name is...' and ‘I am fine how are you’. We have 2 blind children and they are willing and happy, although there was a little bit of a fight.

We did our first orphanage class last night and its all boys. There are 3 in our class and one really struggles but the other 2 are great. Every second day we do craft with them and play games on the other days. The kids love to play thumb wars and high fives, plus when we sing to them in English.

We do lots of lesson planning and it takes up our evening, so by the time it comes to bed time, we are absolutely exhausted.

I have been really tired for the past 2 days because the past 2 nights we have had terrible storms, Monday night was so bad we had just fallen asleep when it began to rain so much and really windy and thunder and lightening that the power went off and Emily and I raced around the whole room shutting all our windows and door to the balcony and man oh man.... then it got really really hot cause there was no breeze… Then last night in the middle of the night it happened again... the power went off and we ran around the house again, shutting windows. Unfortunately on Monday, parts of the house flooded. It was amazing... and all yesterday there were major power cuts. I think its because of the monsoon which starts soon.

We are planning a trip to Agra for about 3 weeks time to see the Taj Mahal so I am very excited. I am also planning my travels after the placement to Delhi, Mumbai and somewhere along the Ganges.
i went into town the other day. We went to an Indian supermarket and it was cool. Emily and I went to a temple the other day and we went in and ate some food of the Gods and got a few photos.

We have been going to our Hindi lessons, I am finally understanding a bit.. I think that its hard but I can remember some words and which words are hard words and which are soft. if a word has a h in it its hard and if it doesn’t its soft. We have been watching some Hindi channels. Music and TV shows and they are so lame and funny but good i guess. I am going to buy some henna and do my hair; apparently it lasts for 3 months so I cannot wait.

From teaching to eating - first experiences of India

Written by Emily Fischer - GapBreak 2009, India

India is so much fun but SO hot. It is currently about 45 degrees! We went and visited the schools and the orphanage yesterday, the kids are really cute! At the day-care centre they all came up and shook our hand and started singing. It was awesome. But then I asked them how old they were and the teacher responded “umm they don’t actually know how old they are!” They don’t keep records of their ages or anything, which is quite sad. As well as teaching English we’re going to try and teach them a bit of hygiene. They all get really sick because they don’t really understand that they should wash their hands or have showers or not eat dirt.

So our first class is tomorrow. The kids are mostly on summer holidays at the moment so we’ll only be teaching in the day-care centres and orphanages. I’m pretty excited but it’s going to be interesting because there are kids from 2-10 years old all in the one class.

The day-care centre and school we’re going to work at is a fair way out of the city. It’s in this little village where they all live in these traditional looking huts and buildings. It’s pretty awesome it feels like your going back in time or something because the community where we’re going is made up of people from the Gameti tribe who are farmers, so everything they have is really old and basic but it makes the village really traditional which is kind of good I guess because its less polluted than the city. When we drove past the kids ran out of their houses and waved and some of them followed the rickshaw. We only met some of the kids who go to day-care though because there was a religious ceremony in the village.

I thought I’d get culture shock really badly but so far it hasn’t really hit me that much. All the shops have the nicest stuff so I’m finding it hard not to spend all my money in the first week. The old city is smelly (I think most of the locals use the side of the road as a toilet?) and loud and really dirty but we all love it - the old buildings and the bright colours and completely different culture is stunning. Also the people are really friendly to us and very respectful. I feel really happy that we're living amongst them and not seeing India entirely from a tourist perspective.

Last night we went out for dinner and sat on a rooftop restaurant that looks over the lake palace and the city palace. The food was good but nowhere near as good as the food we get served in the house! Meenaji's cooking is amazing and she is lovely. She’s always smiling and friendly it makes the house seem so much homelier! The place where we went for dinner was pretty good though, we watched octopussy in the restaurant because it was filmed at the lake palace. The lake is actually dry at the moment but its still pretty. There’s a really nice temple in the old city. We’re learning heaps about Hinduism and a bit of the language as well! I only know 2 words at the moment though.

Forest Lake/Springfield Team B - The Trek

Written by Kia Langmead - Team Leader - Forest Lake and Springfield Team B

The trek went well, and we were lucky that the weather had been a little cooler than the previous few days at community project!

The walking itself was very pleasant, with a good mixture of easier grades and wide paths, to more steep and narrow tracks through the rice and corn fields. The first and last days were rather short... only a couple of hours each, and the middle day was more substantial. In the scheme of things it was not a difficult trek, but with the heat and the very mixed abilities in our group, it was enough and the group feels a sense of accomplishment.

Forest Lake/Springfield Team B - Project

Written by Kia Langmead - Team Leader - Forest Lake and Springfield Team B

We have just arrived in Mai Chau after completing our community project. The group is going really well... no illness or major injuries at the project!
The project went well. Our local guide is great. He speaks good English, gives clear directions, and is good with both the team and with the locals. The project itself involved some very physical labour, with a lot of carting bricks, 50kg bags of cement and big trolleys of sand, as well as mixing cement! That, coupled with this extreme heat, has meant that the group have really sweated it out over the last four days. They feel a real sense of satisfaction though, and I'm already noticing the changes within individuals and the group... who are without doubt pushing themselves harder than they are used to.

The community put on some ceremonial dancing last night, and the group prepared a choreographed medley of songs to perform as well. It turned into a party for the whole community and it was a great experience for them all. Very celebratory and lots of thanks... as you can imagine.

Today we rest for the afternoon and head off on our trek tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it... by now we are getting used to being wet with sweat, so I guess trekking wont be so different in that regard!