Friday, 18 February 2011

Working hard in Paradise

For the first time this year, UniBreak students had the opportunity to travel to the Maldives for four weeks to carry our volunteer teaching and sports coaching placements. On January 9, 17 students flew to the low-lying coral islands In he middle of the Indian Ocean where they're currently running community swimming and rowing classes and teaching in local schools. Providing much-needed assistance to staff in pre-schools and high schools has been a great learning experience for the students, most of whom are working towards uni degrees in teaching or sports and exercise science.

In fact, many say the teaching work is quite demanding and allows them to be more challenged than they are when on prac in Australia. But life in the Maldives hasn’t been all hard work. The team has also been taking time out to make the most of everything the Maldives has to offer - the beautiful white sandy beaches, snorkelling and swimming and learning about the fascinating Maldivian culture. From the sounds of it, there is a lot more to paradise than meets the eye.

CQU students overcome language barrier to deliver baby in Nepal

On their recent health placement in Nepal, CQU Nursing and Midwifery students and supervising staff embraced the challenge of helping deliver babies with only limited resources and limited language to communicate. Supervisor Amanda Hackett said one of the deliveries was quite traumatic with local medical staff having to resuscitate the new born baby.

"After several minutes they eventually got the baby to breathe much to our relief," Amanda said.

The group was also amazed at the rapport that can be developed with locals under trying circumstances when you don't even speak the same language.

The group of midwives also had the opportunity to speak with local women in the village about birthing and antenatal/postnatal traditions and care. After hearing the women's stories (with the aid of a translator) one of the students even got up and did a demonstration of birthing and positions for birth that we use in Australia. How’s that for comparing notes! The undergraduate students also had the chance to attend to blood pressures for the doctors before patients were treated at a health camp.

Prior to the placement, the CQU students did an amazing job fundraising for resources which they bought on arrival in country. The group then gave donations of text books, pencils, erasers, a cricket set, soccer ball, basket ball, a world globe and some educational posters. Some also gave out toothbrushes and did some oral health education with the younger ones. And the locals weren’t the only ones who benefitted.

"it was fun because everyone joined in and the little ones were soooo cute!!!,” Amanda said.

Despite the long days in the hospitals and clinics, the girls also managed to make the most of their time in Pokhara getting massages, shopping, relaxing and eating out. A few of the girls also went out for dinner, drinks and dancing!

Roseville College takes first school expedition to Morocco

In December last year, Roseville College embarked on Antipodeans Abroad's first ever expedition to Morrocco. And from the sound it, this first trip definitely won't be their last.

After a rough flight in to Casablanca, the Roseville students split up into teams and prepared to set out for their community project.

Their first stop was Meknes. While suffering from jet lag, the team was more than happy to settle into their comfortable hotel.

" We all thought Antips was about roughing it and doing travel at a basic level, but no. This was great. Hot showers, comfy beds, elaborately decorated rooms and foyer, and everywhere a feel for what Morocco was going to be like with mosaics and cool pictures lining the walls. Obviously Antips wanted us to settle in and be ready for the adventures ahead."

The next day, the team managed to convince their driver to take them to Chefchaoen, the Marroccan city famous for its blue and white colour scheme. For the students, arriving into Chefchaouen was like experiencing another world.

"The city is completely blue and white, our cameras would never be able to do it justice, a Roseville girl said.

" It was a feast for the eyes to try to take in everything going on around us and not miss a thing."

Funnily enough, the bus rides around Morocco also turned out to be quite an interesting cultural experience.

"For those of you who want a taste of what our bus sounds like, turn on Dynamite by Taio Cruz, change the lyrics to "singing eh oh, we're in Morocco" then do some funky dance moves with your hands in the air whilst remaining safely seated at all times."

Sounds like fun.

En route to Chefchaoen, the group also stopped at Volubilis, home to fascinating ancient ruins that allowed students to see what a town would have been like when the Romans occupied parts of Northern Africa.

"Each gate had three doorways - a large one in the centre for chariots and horses and two on either side for pedestrians. Aside from seeing some great mosaics, we saw the ruins of houses, shops, temples and the market place."

The team also couldn't help but notice the Romans' penchant for phallic symbols used on door knockers, wind chimes and the like. Supposedly, these were used as a sign of health and fertility.

Roseville College's expedition was filled with many other fascinating sights and amazing tales.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Not goodbye, but see you soon!

When it comes to saying goodbye, Matt, Anna and Ingrid should be experts.
Let us give you a little rundown on our final week in Pali, which consisted of little more than would-be-goodbyes, loads of food and a barrage of bangles and bindis.

On Thursday evening we travelled to the other end of Pali City (100 rupees away, brought down to a much more modest 70 rupees thanks to our perfected and perhaps somewhat aggressive bargaining skills) to celebrate an Educate Girls staff member, Kalpna’s birthday with her family, friends and our beloved Tejas. I don’t think we have ever seen Anna in such high spirits as we did when the first course was brought out – a large and ornate chocolate birthday cake. It soon became clear to us that the cake fight at Anna’s own birthday a few weeks prior was not a one-off, but a typical India birthday tradition, hence the next hour was spent capturing all involved stuffing one-another’s faces with cake on camera.
Mains were followed by much dancing (if you can call Matt’s Pulp Fiction/Sexy Eyes move dancing), having our names inscribed in henna on our hands (just so that we don’t forget), and more cake.

On Friday morning we farewelled the Educate Girls office staff with samosas and soft drink, a real treat in Pali and then made our full-bellied way to Kesars restaurant to have our farewell lunch with Manju and her boys. Just when we thought we had filled every inch of every nook and cranny of every bodily cavity with food, we were whisked off on motor cycles by Sunil and Navneet to Waves Restaurant for another delicious dinner to farewell our favourite blokes from the office.

On Sunday night the motor cycles arrived again, to take us, and Tejas, to Sunil’s house for dinner and a game of dressups, in which Ingrid and Anna became the jewelled and sari-ed mannequins to Sunil’s female family members, friends and neighbours. This was followed by a lengthy Indian style ‘star shots’ photo shoot in which the girls assumed poses that were supposedly sultry, yet tasteful and modest, perhaps due to the addition of props including vases and faux flowers. Such photos are the centre-piece and pride of most Indian mantle pieces and our own can be viewed on Facebook, for those interested.

On Sunday we farewelled Kesars restaurant for the final time, with Manohar and Tejas in tow and again, a huge amount of food. Saying goodbye to Tejas and watching him ride off on the bicycle he acquired from Matt and promises to ride everyday to achieve that Bollywood 6-pack was perhaps one of the hardest and most emotional moments of the trip so far. No sugar coating required, Tejas really is one of the greatest guys we have had the pleasure of knowing!

And just when we thought we had out-farewelled ourselves, we made two trips to the office on Monday to drop off some bits and pieces (and say goodbye) and a trip to the local police station to sign out of Pali (and to say goodbye). Hugs and tears (mainly from Manju) were followed by a two hour wait for our delayed train, where we were so grateful to have some of the staff there to wave us off to Mumbai. Our 14 hour train trip was taken in a rather sombre silence, very unusual, for the three of us.

So, when it comes to saying goodbye, Matt, Anna and Ingrid should be experts. But we most certainly are not. In fact, it was a word we flat-out refused to use. The phrase on repeat in that final week in Pali was “Not goodbye, but see you soon”, and we truly hope that this is the case.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

NEW GapBreak Video 2011

NEW GapBreak DVD! Features 2009 and 2010 students across all out programs. Copy and past the YouTube link, and show you mates where you went!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Visit to the tribal belt

The latest from India Matt, Anna and Ingrid have spent the last week coming to terms with their imminent departure from Pali and preparing for the final stint of their internship, which will take place in Mumbai. There have been an abundance of mixed emotions.

While our train tickets to Mumbai, still known popularly as Bombay, have yet to be confirmed we hold a pretty secure spot on the waiting list and are set to leave on either the 6th or 7th of this month. Time has passed us by far quicker than we could have possibly imagined, and the thought of uprooting and leaving Manju and the Pali staff behind so shortly has left us all a bit shell-shocked.

On the plus side, Matt and Ingrid managed to organise a final visit to the tribal belt in order to complete an ongoing photo project that seeks to juxtapose the benefits of a school going girl against that of a tribal dropout. Trips to the tribal belt are always an eye opening experience and have been one of the definite highlights of our stint in Rajasthan. It is always inspiring to witness the breadth of Educate Girls' program, and this is most distinct when travelling to these areas (some of the poorest in all India) where basic living conditions are so grossly malnourished and yet so many children now have access to real education. The photos themselves have turned out great and we look forward to compiling the remainder of our project in Mumbai.

Meanwhile, Anna has had the opportunity to make some uninterrupted headway in her compilation of Educate Girls' program manual and has been working closely with all the Pali staff. Accordingly she has come to better appreciate their individual roles and has helped us better understand the intricate workings of our grassroots NGO while simultaneously cementing our rapport with the team. We also had a surprise visit from Safeena, the Mumbai-based head of Educate Girls, which proved to be an enlightening and enjoyable experience; we received some great feedback on our respective projects and had a chance to appreciate her indefatigable charm over a veritable feast (all credit to Manju) at the guesthouse.

On the more banal side of things Matt finally swayed Ingrid to drink coffee - a beverage she usually abstains from - resulting in a caffeine-induced episode of autodidactic brilliance; within 15 minutes both had become entirely fluent in radio alphabet and have ceaselessly pestered Anna with their inane ramblings.

We also finally confronted the issue of sending packages back to Australia, as we were all in dire need of ditching some excess baggage prior to our onward travels. We falsely assumed we would need only arrive at the post office, surrender our bags and see them on our way (having been in India for two and a half months, you think we would have learnt not to assume anything by now...). After queuing up for a while at the wrong counter, we shifted to the parcel booth where we eventually worked out that we needed to put everything in a large cardboard box, seal it up with tape and then sew white cloth around the entire monstrosity. This apparently was a service not provided by Pali post office, and after enquiring at a local textile shop we discovered that we would have to buy the cloth and sew it up ourselves. After some scrounging around at the Educate Girls office we located some semi-suitable boxes, crammed everything in there and set Matt to work with an oversized needle and thread. Never having sewn anything before the end result was somewhat crude, but nonetheless effective. We finished the job bang on 4:30, rushed to the post office and discovered (somewhat predictably) that contrary to popular wisdom their opening hours extended not till 5, but 4:30. After much fruitless pleading we agreed to ditch our colossal parcels with them, leaving the conundrum of how to actually get them out of the country till tomorrow.

Alpha Lima Alpha Sierra.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Update from our UQ Nursing Group, Cambodia

A quick summary of where the group is at to date.

The placement here is/has gone quite well. We completed assessment of 105/120 homes in the Military Centre, the other 15 were either un-occupied or un-allocated as yet. Generally pretty health people, varying range of living conditions in the Centre, but no one really bad like last year (from all reports). We have decided on donations towards the housing element - seeds for crops to all; mosquito nets,
soaps, toothbrushes as deemed necessary via assessment, water pumps (approx. 20) locations to be finalised; a mattress and pillow for one particular resident with identified high need due to clinical condition.

The school sessions went very well and seemed to be gratefully and enthusiastically accepted by the adult and child participants. Adult sessions ranged from basic hygiene, first aid, oral hygiene, mens health issues and womens health issues (which by all reports went very well). Class numbers anywhere from 8 - 27 on a given day. The kids were taught a range of appropriate topics from the adult list, as well as some basic english literacy and numeracy, as well as just having a good fun time with the students! Donations to the school primarily 2 shade areas at the end of each school building for covered play. I think particular mention goes to our students who
performed exceptionally well considering they have never a) taught before and b) been taught how to teach!

Effectiveness of the clinic time varied a little. Patient throughput was quiet initially, but seemed to get busier as we have been there. Maybe the word is out and we have had a small positive impact!? Students worked at setting up a medical records filing system for use with patients from both the Centre and the surrounding villages. They also worked in triaging patients and also incorporated a range of basic hygiene interventions with patients waiting for review, such as awareness of dehydration (with actual rehydration provided) as well as washing many children. Donations for this area include a wide range of medicines, as well as various medical equipment that was identfied as a need in consultation with clinic staff.

As we finished in the field a little early, we moved from the centre into the first of the surrounding villages. We assessed 60 homes (138 exist in the village) with approximately 200+ residents (my estimate). As you may know, anywhere from 2 - 10 people in a house! We only conducted health assessments on residents that identfied themselves as being unwell, and referred 17 to the clinic for further follow up. We are going back to this village on Monday to donate 2 mosquito nets to every household.

Overall the students have continued to display a positive approach, and have shown the ability to be flexible and adapt to necessary changes at short notice. Apart from a couple of minor hiccups there have been no issues to date. A few minor medical issues have arisen along the way, but really just the usual range of upset bellies here and there. All are starting to wind up for the trip home.

Adam Burston