Ukraine Speech Pathology Student with Child

Volunteering with children with disability in Ukraine

Using Speech Pathology and Education skills to support children with disability in Ukraine.

Heading into the unknown can be daunting and overwhelming for any volunteer. When you are going to the Ukraine to volunteer with children with significant disability these feelings can often be amplified, especially given the current political situation. However, after spending two weeks partnering with the beautiful clients and staff at Dzherelo Rehabilitation Centre in the city of Lviv, our volunteers were filled with hope and inspiration, and plans to return to this wonderful country.

Our small group of volunteers were accompanied by a Professional Health Facilitator from Australia who has extensive experience as a Speech Pathologist working with children with disability. She has been to the centre in Lviv a number of times before, and was familiar with the clients and staff, as well as having an understanding of some of the challenges that the group would be likely to face.

The volunteers spent their first few days with their Facilitator wandering the snowy winter streets of Lviv and had the chance to see the sights of this historical town. The also got to taste their way around Lviv with dumplings, borscht and stuffed cabbage rolls being some of the highlights.

Sightseeing in Lviv

This was followed by an orientation to our partner site Dzherelo Rehabilitation Centre which caters for children through to adults, with conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Acquired Brain Injuries and other special needs. Dzherelo provides high-quality family-centered services for children and youth with special needs and provides services including consultations, rehabilitation programs and daily care. The centre is staffed by a qualified interdisciplinary team of specialists, who work collaboratively with parents. Dzherelo is a model centre in Ukraine with an aim to integrate children and youth with special needs into main stream society.

The Development Together team with Dzherelo staff

Our group of volunteers this year consisted of Speech Pathology university students and a qualified Primary School Teacher. They spent their days with young children and adults who had communication, speech and feeding difficulties. They contributed to their care during their volunteer placement by: conducting oral assessments, assessing speech and swallow abilities, encouraging appropriate feeding techniques through demonstrations, reviewing consistency of food, considering behaviour management at meal times and encouraging language and literacy incorporation into the mainly therapy based curriculum. Micky, a Speech Pathology University Student from Melbourne, Australia said, “Up until now… I haven’t had much chance to work with kids with disability, especially in the areas of dysphagia [or at] feeding and meal times. So the practical experience I’ve been getting here at Dzherelo has been amazing for those practical skills”. 


Talisha providing a literacy session with one of the children at Dzherelo

Micky conducting a communication therapy session

 As with all Development Together placements we incorporate the service learning model and our volunteers spend time capacity building and providing education to local staff. On this occasion we were able to provide education on how to thicken food and fluids appropriately for clients with swallowing difficulties, incorporate language and literacy into daily routines, and encourage more communication and problem solving with some challenging meal time behaviours. The local staff were thrilled to be a part of the education and collaborate and share their ideas with our group. Our volunteer Talisha, an early Childhood Teacher from Perth, Australia said ” I’ve realised how important the health and education profession is in the support and development of children with disabilities to help them live their best lives”.

Providing an education session on feeding techniques for local staff

As with all volunteer placements there can be challenges to face. It was winter in Ukraine when our team where there, and coming from a warm, hot summer in Australia, they required more layers than they expected, but really enjoyed the chance to see and have fun in the snow! They also said that despite a perception that the Ukraine was unsafe, they felt very safe in Lviv with friendly people helping them find the right food in the local supermarket to providing directions when they lost their way in town. They felt the language barrier was not as much of an issue as they first thought it would be, especially because Development Together had arranged for an interpreter to work alongside the group and this made communication with staff, clients and parents a very positive experience. And of course, when they interpreter was not available, there were always “charades” and “sign language” to help them communicate! A real highlight for the group was when the local staff organised a cooking class and our volunteers had the chance to learn how to make Ukrainian dumplings. This helped to establish a really great relationship between the staff and volunteers.

A joint cooking class with local staff and our volunteers

Overall, our group had a wonderful time in the Ukraine and felt their time was highly effective for the clients and staff at Dzherelo. They also spoke about how much this placement impacted on their own personal and professional development. Elise, a Speech Pathology student from Melbourne, Australia said, “The experience has really been something special to me, and its not going to be something I will forget easily…. It will be affecting me for years to come in the most positive way.

We hope that you might consider joining us this July, or January 2020, for 2, 3, or 4 weeks, and opening yourself up to the possibility of impacting on children’s lives and helping them be the best they can be.

For more information go to

Hear from our past participants!

Hear from the 2019 Development Together Health participants Michaela, Elise and Talisha as they talk about their experience at Dzherelo Rehabilitation Centre in Lviv, Ukraine.


Why should I pay to volunteer overseas?

Why should I pay to volunteer when I am already giving up my precious time and helping others for free?

This is a question that we often hear. When you are researching volunteering, you may notice that some organisations charge a fee to volunteer, and that there can be huge difference in the fees charged. Usually the simple answer to this question about paying to volunteer, is that you pay a fee so that the stress of having your volunteer placement organised is done by someone else.

So how is my volunteer placement fee spent? At Development Together we believe in transparency. Keep reading to get a better understanding of where your hard earned cash goes……

1. Administration and Logistics – There is a lot that goes on in the background to make your volunteer placement happen. We identify appropriate partner sites, develop partnerships and contractual agreements, we review the site to make sure it meets our Safety and Security standards, we conduct Risk Assessments and we spend time with management staff from our partner sites to ensure their programs align with our company ethos. We also spend a lot of time creating a suitable itinerary (with input from our partner sites, past participants and locals) that meets the placement goals and objectives. We set up meetings, make bookings and we may be involved in your visa application process. All of these things take time (lots of time!) and we employ a small staff of experienced professionals to help us make this happen.

2. Professional Facilitator Support – Being accompanied on your placement by a suitably qualified facilitator is one of the main things that differentiates us from other companies. We believe in providing a professional facilitator who is qualified in the area our volunteers will be working in. Our facilitators have a good understanding of the culture of the country you will be in, the partner site and the project goals and objectives. They are also chosen for their industry experience and are able to provide you with the level of practical/clinical support that you need. When they are in-country with you, they work up to 12 hours a day (or more) making sure that your placement meets your needs, whilst also dealing with logistics and administrative issues, acting as an in-country liaison officer between you and partner staff, and dealing with any emergency situations that might occur. They are paid a fair wage for their time in this role and have most of their costs covered, as you would expect with any business trip.

Casper Cameron, one of Development Together’s Facilitators.

3. University Liaison – Many of our volunteers are university students who complete their placements as part of an Internship or Work Integrated Learning program to gain Academic Credit. In these instances, our staff spend time liaising with your university, signing contractual agreements, providing relevant documentation and meeting their Risk and Insurance requirements.

4. Pre-Departure Briefings – We pride ourselves on the preparation, advice and guidance that we offer to all volunteers prior to commencing a placement. We know that going into a new country for extended periods of time can be daunting, and we want to make the transition as smooth as possible. All our volunteers are encouraged to attend our Pre-Departure Briefing sessions. Along with getting a chance to meet your fellow volunteers and your Facilitator , you will be informed about: culture, partner site expectations, work hours, accommodation, food, health, safety, vaccinations, items to pack, visa processing, finances etc. Feedback from past participants is positive about these sessions, and people say it has helped to better prepare them for what they face when they are volunteering.

5. Food and Housing – We want you to be able to enjoy your time whilst away and a big part of that is identifying the right accommodation to suit your placement. We complete an Accommodation Risk Assessment on all our accommodation sites prior to booking them to make sure that where you lay your head each night will be safe, comfortable, and suit the environmental conditions where you are based. Dependent on the placement location, we also make arrangements for some of your meals to be prepared and provided, this means we need to ensure that the staff cooking your meals have access to appropriate food and food preparation areas, they are suitably qualified to cook the food, and they can provide options to meet most dietary requirements.

Development Together volunteers enjoying their daily lunch prepared on-site in Cambodia.

6. In-Country Orientation – We expect that our volunteers will try to adapt to and learn about local customs and practices. These practices can be very different to what you experience in your home country, so by attending our 2-3 day Cultural Orientation you will get to visit significant historical, religious and cultural sites that contribute to your understanding of how the country you are volunteering in operates, and why things are done a certain way. Attending our in-country Language Lessons also adds to your cultural understanding and gives you the chance to communicate more effectively with locals, often making them more willing to trust you and to accept you in their communities.

7. Trips and Excursions – Making sure that our volunteers also have fun and some “down time” whilst they are in-country is important to us. We create a fun weekend away for our teams of volunteers which means they can further enhance their understanding of the culture and take some time out from the partner site to relax.

Development Together volunteers hiking around Sipi Falls in Uganda. Image courtesy of Casey Hughes. 

9. Training and Resources – We develop resources for our volunteers to help guide them both prior to departure and during their placement. These include our Country and Partner Guides, Pre-Briefing Preparation Session Materials, and Country Reports from Past Participants.

9. In-Country Assistance – We make a provision from your placement fees to assist in the training and up-skilling of some of the staff at our partner sites. These staff members are primarily locals, and on occasion we may need to provide some training and development to make sure that they understand their role, so that they are able to provide appropriate support to you as required.

Development Together volunteer providing professional education for local staff in India. Image courtesy of Childlife Preserve Shishur Sevay. 

10. Providing 24-hour Emergency Response and Support – We undertake a strict Country, Partner Site and Accommodation Risk Assessment for each placement that we send our volunteers to. However, there are the odd occasions when things don’t go to plan and we may have to initiate an Emergency Response to ensure the safety of our volunteers. This means that we have someone “on-call” 24 hours a day to answer the phone and provide guidance and act as a liaison person should you need help, assistance or guidance.

11. Donation – We make a financial donation from your volunteer placement fee to our partner site. This donation assists with the purchase of project materials and resources that you use during your volunteer placement, offsets some of our partner site costs for hosting you, and assists with their day to day running costs. The amount of money we donate is dependent on the type of placement you are working on, the types of materials you may use, and the specific agreement we have with each site.

Development Together volunteers and facilitator creating resources in Ukraine. Image courtesy of Dzherelo Rehabilitation Centre. 

12. Additional Donation – We return 20% of our profits to our partner site. At the end of every financial year we give back 20% of our profits to one of our partner sites (each site is rotated through). We want to support community groups who are doing their best for others in a sustainable and ethical manner.

In a nutshell, there are several areas over which your placement fee is spent. From past participant feedback we know that our volunteers not only have an awesome time, but they also appreciate that they are able to financially contribute to the projects they volunteer on. In the end, when you are choosing a company to volunteer with, it all comes down to the company ethos, and the degree of support that you want from a volunteer placement. We do hope that you are able to make a commitment to get involved in volunteering.

For more information about Development Together volunteer placements go to


Developing Sustainable Solutions to Alleviate Poverty in Uganda: Calvin Kress’ story

Under-graduate students tackle key sustainability issues in local Ugandan communities with two basic Engineering designs.

There are currently 24 million people living in Uganda who have limited access to a clean water supply.  This is scary when you consider the fact that Uganda has a total population of 45 million. It’s an odd concept for someone in a first world country to have to walk many kilometres each day to a well, just to get water to bathe or cook your meals with, but for over half of the Ugandan population it’s a reality they face every day. Diseases such as typhoid – where symptoms include fevers, weakness, stomach pains and sometimes even death – are a common affliction due to the contaminants in the water. Access to adequate water is also seasonally influenced as there are very heavy rains at certain times of the year, and sometimes near drought conditions at other times.

Fortunately, there are organizations working to address this issue. Development Together have teamed up with Seeds of Hope Integrated Ministries Uganda (SHIMU), a not-for-profit group that, among many other poverty alleviating efforts, is helping to provide access to clean water for local people. Development Together facilitates the placement of Agriculture, Engineering and Environment volunteers from around the world. In partnership with SHIMU they identify and implement sustainable solutions to current water, sanitation and hygiene problems in Eastern Uganda.

Enter Calvin Kress, a third-year engineering student from the US, currently studying as an international student at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. Calvin was tired of simply observing the world’s problems and decided to do something about it. After a little bit of online research, he found Development Together and decided to join their volunteer Engineering team for a water storage project in Uganda.

“A lot of people complain about their life, but … they don’t change it. I was one of those people and I decided to accept this challenge, you know, to make a difference in the world. So, I got out of my comfort zone. I did some research on the internet … and I found Development Together.”

Calvin and a small group of inter-professional students arrived on a farm in the town of Masafu, in Eastern Uganda and were faced with a “primitive” way of living.

“There’s no electricity, there’s no toilet [facilities] … they get water from a bore hole, they don’t have the same water [quality] as we do in the first world”

The Development Together volunteers investigating the local piggery. Photo courtesy of C.Kress

They began by talking to local families about the problems they faced, and this was followed by discussing possible solutions with them. They identified a major issue for the Masafu residents was a lack of a decent water supply. Locals who kept pigs were having to travel large distances several times a day to an unsanitary soak (groundwater that has seeped to the surface) in order to retrieve water. They were unable to expand their piggery business’ due to not being able to access sufficient water supplied, and therefore severely limiting their capacity to increase their incomes.

The existing piggery at the SHIMU farm was also unable to expand due to having limited water supplies. Another issue was the larger pigs at the farm were roaming free and eating the chickens (another source of income) in order to stay well fed. This reduced SHIMU’s opportunities to conduct more poverty alleviating efforts, including providing micro-loans to female local residents.

Several projects were taken on by Calvin and his fellow Development Together team mates – including the design and construction of a new piggery to help house the increasing number of pigs, an underground water tank to store water for the pigs, and a pump for the water tank. The newly designed piggery included a tin roof with gutters, allowing rainwater to be collected and stored in the tank.

The team drew inspiration for the water pump’s design from Rus Alit, the creator of the “Rus Pump”. This pump would ensure that the water would be easily accessible. The most triumphant moment for Calvin and the team was, after an initial test of the Rus pump ended in failure, a solution was found, and water began flowing out of the underground water tank.

“People could see the water coming out of the underground water tank. That was the happiest moment I ever had on the trip. Especially when I saw David (who works with SHIMU) smiling seeing the water coming out of the pump.” Calvin recalled.


Calvin and some of the SHIMU and Development Together team in front of the completed piggery.  Photo courtesy of C.Kress

Now that their piggery has better access to a year round water supply, the SHIMU farmers should be able to raise more pigs to sell on the market. This will mean that SHIMU can provide increased levels of support for the community by being able to better fund their other poverty alleviating projects.

Celebrating completion of the new underground water tank. Photo courtesy of C.Kress

Calvin’s stay in Uganda was not all work and no play. Every morning he would enjoy getting food such as bananas from the guest house they were staying at, wandering down to the farm and feeding the goats, which happen to be his favourite animal.

Development Together also organized a few trips for the team, including a visit to Sipi Falls, a look into the local coffee production process, and a trip to Jinja to see the source of the river Nile. During their down time Calvin also enjoyed simply hanging around the town, and David from SHIMU showed them a few local places. “[David] took me to the Church, since everyone is Christian and really religious. I wanted to see their praying because they had a really tough life, but they still have faith. They keep moving on.”

The Development Together volunteers hiking at Sipi Falls. Photo courtesy of C.Hughes

What’s next for Calvin? “I plan to work again as a volunteer, my next destination will be in South America … I want to keep helping people.”

More info for future Development Together projects can be found on our Destination Page!


Keeping girls in school, menstruation

Keeping Girls in School

“Periods”. “Aunt Flo”. “That Time of the Month”. “On the Rag”.

These are just some of the common words used to describe menstruation. For those of us with access to the right resources having your “period” is merely a monthly event. We may complain about it, discuss our cycles with our friends, or simply pay no attention to it at all.

However, there are women just like us, in other parts of the world, who do not have access to resources to assist them during this important time. For these women, it is about more than not having the right aid. It can be a barrier to education, health and for many, even their safety.

The figures are shocking, with 43% of women in India not having access to sanitary pads and 67% of female adolescents leaving school when they hit puberty. A UNESCO report (Global Education Monitoring Report Gender Review 2018) estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses’ school during their menstrual cycle.  In rural, Nepal and India many families practice chaupadi, a tradition where during the time of menstruation, women are forced to live away from their families in a shed, as they are considered unclean. Millions of women live in these harsh conditions.

Women in rural areas have even less access to sanitary pads and this results in them missing school at a very young age. This absenteeism results in long term consequences, not just to these girls, but also to the community and the country’s economy.  Many girls who do not stay in school, end up being at risk of sexual assault when they are left at home alone while menstruating as their parents must still go to work. They also tend to get married at an earlier age, have babies earlier, and may suffer significant reproductive and gynaecological consequences (including an increased risk of foetal, infant and maternal morbidity and mortality) as a result of this.

The lack of secondary education also reduces the amount of people in the workforce, and more specifically limits the number of women entering it which can have significant impacts on women’s access to income and the economy of their community around them.

How Keeping Girls in school during their Mentrual cycle can help the economy and gender equality

Around the world, not for profit groups have attempted to help relieve this issue in a sustainable and effective way. A popular and successful option is reusable cloth sanitary pads. These reusable sanitary pads are made from wicking materials and can be washed and dried to reuse for the next cycle. This alternative also helps to reduce the plastic waste that is frequently produced through disposable sanitary pads.

Distributing reusable cloth sanitary pads to rural areas can also help achieve part of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. More specifically, SDG 4 – quality education, SDG 5 – gender equality and SDG 6- water and sanitation.

Other initiatives include the WASH United’s Menstrual Hygiene Management Day, held on May 28 each year. They hold over 300 events globally to educate the public about this issue.

Projects where we can help to further social and economic empowerment and growth, along with changing people’s futures, in turn creates a better world for us all.


Development Together’s Business placements in Uganda is currently working with non-for-profit organisations in Busia to deliver more sustainable hygiene and health solutions for local women. Learn more about how you can get involved by emailing

Further Reads:


Development Together Benjamin Engineering Work experience

Benjamin’s Engineering Experience in Cambodia

  1. Why did you join Development Together on an Engineering Volunteer Project?

I joined Development Together because I saw this as such an amazing opportunity not only to work as an Engineer in the real world, but also to help better the lives of real people. Development Together catered to the needs of a young and striving engineer like me in seeking for a platform to develop and discover a new chapter of my career and life.