How can access to a toilet change a person’s life?
Just imagine that you are 14, you recently began menstruating, and your body is beginning to change. How you, and others around you, deal with this can have a critical impact not only on your self-esteem but on your health, social and economic outcomes.
In the developing world, the topic of sanitation, menstruation and hygiene are often taboo subjects. It is kind of like “out of sight, out of mind”. Traditionally in many cultures these topics are never spoken about, or if they are, it must come from someone the same gender as you.
Now, come back to being that 14 year old girl, and now imagine you are standing in a line to use one of the two unisex toilets at your school for 2000 students. Imagine standing with boys either side of you, ridiculing and teasing you, because they know you are taking your school bag into the toilet to change your sanitary pad. Imagine them jostling, and perhaps even pushing you, to make you feel small and embarrassed.
Once you actually make it into the toilet, you have to rush, not only because there is a huge line of people still waiting to use the toilet in the brief morning break between classes, but because there is so little time now before your next class begins.
Now imagine it is your first time accessing a toilet since you travelled the 8km by bicycle to school today. So first you must relieve yourself of urine, (with a bladder at bursting point, that does not take long!), and then you have to find a clean space to change your sanitary pad in a toilet that few people care enough about to keep clean. After you finish you need to wash your hands, but often there is no water and almost always no soap, in these toilets. Then you must find a way to discreetly dispose of your used sanitary items, which usually means putting them into a plastic bag and placing them back into your school bag, to take home to burn on your refuse pile at your house. None of this sits well with your concern for the local environment that is already polluted by plastic waste and pollution from fires.
After you leave the toilet you are again laughed at, and have jokes and dirty words aimed at you, simply because you utilised the toilet space to attend to your personal hygiene needs. You rush back to your classroom, running late and missing the first few minutes of your Science lesson. Your face is flushed, and you are embarrassed by what this simple task has meant to you today.
The next day, your menstrual flow is very heavy. Too heavy for you to safely cycle to school and sit through all of your classes without an accident. And you know once you are at school there will be ridiculing, finger pointing and gossip about you, as they point out the staining on your underwear and school uniform. Today you choose to stay at home, and maybe tomorrow you will as well….. It is easier this way.
Image 1: Non-functional toilet block shared amongst 800 students at a local school, Cambodia
This story is not just a story. This story is reality for millions of children all over the world who do not have access to clean water or toilets at school. In the first Global Assessment of Water and Sanitation carried out by the World Health Organization and Unicef in 2018 it showed that 620 million children do not have decent toilets at school and around 900 million cannot wash their hands properly. It is estimated that almost 1 in 3 schools around the world have no clean water or toilets and less than 50% do not provide soap for children. Not having access to adequate toilets or sanitation stations is a huge obstacle for all children attending school because they have no place to appropriately go to the toilet.
For young women, this problem is exacerbated when they do not have a single sex toilet/bathroom facility as there is nowhere to change their sanitary items and wash their hands. Studies suggest that 1 in 3 young women miss at least 5 days of school per month (during their menstrual cycle) – this quickly adds up to more than 60 days per year – a full two months off school simply because they are menstruating! Making up that much lost time is almost impossible!
Additionally, when young women and girls stay at home, they are more likely to end up working in the fields, often having to undertake heavy, manual labour that is not good for their growing and developing bodies. It also puts them at increased risk of being trafficked, or subject to sexual abuse or assault, especially if they stay at home and are not adequately supervised by their parents, who are usually out working long hours to earn enough money to feed and clothe the family.
This issue not only has a negative impact on education completion rates, but also negatively impacts on a countries economic development. When less children graduate from school, this results in fewer people being educated sufficiently to undertake more technical employment that requires higher levels of education and can hold a country back from economic growth.
It also significantly impacts on women’s social and health outcomes with lower education levels associated with poorer overall health outcomes, an earlier marrying age, being a younger age when first baby being born, increased rates of obstetric fistula’s and uterine prolapse, being more reliant on their male partners to earn an income to support their families, having less independence and limited control over how family income is spent.
Research suggests that women with a lower level of education are also more likely to have more babies due to limited understanding about their reproductive cycles. This often leads to income stress when trying to feed, clothe and educate many children in the one family, and can lead to their children being inadvertently malnourished or neglected. These children are also less likely to complete school, and the cycle continues.
At Development Together we are making a concerted effort to identify and work with partner groups who see that accessing toilets is a problem for children in their community, and want to come up with a solution to change this.
Image 2: New school toilet in a female only toilet block, Cambodia
In Cambodia we have been partnering with Empowering Cambodia and over the last two years we have assisted in the building of toilets for a rural community, complete with solar lighting and leech drains, and alongside our partners contributed to education for local villagers about the importance of sanitation and hand hygiene and drinking from filtered water.
In Vietnam we have been partnering with the Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and over the last two years we have assisted in the building of a water storage tank, water piping, and 18 water filtration systems for individual households. Alongside our partners we have contributed to education for local villagers about the importance of sanitation and hand hygiene and drinking from filtered water.
In Indonesia we have been partnering with the Bali Appropriate Technology Institute and in the last year we have contributed to the construction of an underground water storage tank and gutters to the roof of the toilet building, that will be sued to supply the toilets and hand basins with water during the dry season. Our volunteers have also contributed to education for local school children about the importance of sanitation and hand hygiene and drinking from filtered water.
In Uganda we have been partnering with Seeds of Hope Integrated Ministries Uganda for the last year and have developed a business plan for the formation of a small Sanitary Napkin Sewing Business, to help supply reusable sanitary items to local young women for a reduced rate. We also contributed to the construction of an underground water storage tank and gutters to supply water to a small not for profit piggery.
Image 3: Development Together Volunteers constructing a private toilet for a local village, Cambodia
Image 4: Development Together Volunteers constructing the foundation of a new toilet block, Cambodia
If this sounds like something you would like to get involved with then head to www.developmenttogther.com and check out our 4 or 8 week volunteer placements where you can #bethechange and #makeadifference
The Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia is one of the world’s biggest religious monuments ever constructed. Throughout its walls lies decades of history and spiritual values. It is one unmissable destination when visiting Cambodia.
Located close to the modernised town of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is a shrine for Hinduism and Buddhism. It is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, who is the “preserver” and “protector” in the Hindu triad. Even though the temple was dedicated to a Hindu god and most of its images are from Hindu scriptures, today the temple is considered a shrine for Theravada Buddhists.
The temple was built in in the 12th century by its Ruler Suryavarman II. As King of Cambodia, Suryavarman II believed in the idea that there was a connection between a King and a God. Vishnu was a popular choice for many kings during this time.
Visitors to Angkor Wat are amazed by the incredible attention to detail of the monument, with carvings of historical events embedded into the walls. The carvings display eight different Hindu stories.
Did you know that the structure of the Angkor Wat was specifically made to parallel the lengths of the four ages of classical Hindu thought? The construction of the temple has so much meaning. Its main entrance is in the West, representing a direction that is associated with Vishnu as well as death in Southeast Asia. This is notable as typically Cambodian temples will face East towards the rising sun. It suggests that Suryavarman II had intended for the temple to be his tomb.
The entrance has guardian lions marking its path. The lion represents royalty, strength and courage and suggest the ability to ward off evil. Middle Eastern tales show lions as representing great kings. Angkor Wat still plays a significant role in Cambodia, with its flag embellished with the silhouette of the temple.
Our volunteers always enjoy travelling to the Angkor Wot Temple and a full day guided tour is included in the placement fee, along with two nights in Siem Reap where you can visit the markets, go sightseeing and try new foods.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to travel to this historical landmark on our volunteer experiences to Cambodia as a Health (Physio, OT, P+O), Engineering, Environment or Urban Planning volunteer.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2019. “Suryanarman II: King of Khmer Empire.” Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Suryavarman-II
NCpedia. 2019. “Moat, guardian lion statue, and causeway into temple buildings at Angkor Wat.” https://www.ncpedia.org/media/moat-guardian-lion-statue-and
Jarus, Owen, 2018. “Angkor Wat: History of Ancient Temple.” Live Science. April 5, 2018. https://www.livescience.com/23841-angkor-wat.html
When you travel with Development Together, you will make memories that you want to remember forever. And you can! Here are three creative ways to make sure that you will have these experiences stored away for not only yourself, but also to show your family and friends.
Journaling throughout your trip is not only good to be able to remember your trip but is also a fun way to reflect on your days and fully take in and experience each and every moment on the trip. You can journal in many different ways and really let your inner creativity flow as you write down and sketch out your experiences. It is also a cheap way of creating memories as all you need is a Note Book and a Pen.
2. Create a photo wall
Creating a photo wall is a great way to showcase your experiences to your friends and family and can be a great way to reminisce on your memories. There are endless possibilities when it comes to your photo wall depending on how much time you want to spend and how creative you are feeling. Photo walls can vary in price depending on what elements you would like included and how many photos you would like to showcase. Photo walls are easier than ever nowadays as most phone cameras have good enough quality to capture what you will need. However, if you do have a more professional quality camera, we would recommend that you bring it along with you on your trip.
3. Create a short film
This one requires a little more time and expertise. However, creating a short film from your trip is an awesome and entertaining way to show your experience to all your friends as you can upload it to social media for them to see. There are many different types of short films that you can create from a Vlog to a Highlight Reel depending on how comfortable you feel. We highly recommend using an action camera such as a GoPro to record your film with as they are compact, durable and inexpensive (depending on which model you choose).
When is it ok to give to beggars?
Begging is something that we are often confronted with when traveling through the developing world. Begging can take many guises. It may be someone badgering you at a famous landmark where you are sight-seeing asking for money, or it might come from someone sitting “panhandling” on a street corner. Sometimes you may be approached by a group of dishevelled, and shoeless, children selling trinkets, books or friendship bracelets. Or perhaps may even be asked to buy a tin of baby milk formula by a mum clutching a distressed, or very sleepy, malnourished looking baby. Finally, it could be from a disabled person in a wheelchair, or with a significant injury that can be quite difficult to look at.
All of these scenarios have been taken from real life situations that we have actually experienced whilst travelling around the developing world. Each time we encountered one of these situations our emotions ran high and we felt conflicted and wondered what the right thing to do is.
Because really, what could possibly be wrong about giving someone a few dollars? After all, we all usually have a few spare coins, or a couple of dollars to spare right? And as travellers we have already managed to fly half way around the world to get to their country, spend money seeing the sights, drink their beer and eat their food. So why all the fuss?
Having given this problem a lot of thought, reading the latest research, and talking to people on the ground in the developing world, we have come up with 5 reasons why in the long run it may be kinder not to give to beggars:
- The person begging on the street may not actually be homeless or destitute – they just have to look like they are. Research indicates that on occasion beggars may alter their appearance so they look like they are worse off than what they are. Why would anyone do this? Well, because begging will earn them an income that is more than what they would earn working in an unskilled labouring job. We know that migration of rural populations to cities is on the rise in the developing world, as people leave their rural towns seeking a better future for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, when they arrive in the city, employment is often hard to find especially for unskilled migrants, and they may have to resort to begging to supplement their income. The poorer, or more disheveled they appear may actually improve their chances of receiving more money when begging. Horrifically, there are many cases where people are deliberately disfigured to improve their chances of bringing in more money from begging.
- Begging is often conducted by individuals, or groups, who are organised by gangs or a “boss” who watch when people give to them. The “boss” then swiftly moves in and takes their cut of the money that the beggar has just received. Word on the street is that the beggar might receive 10% or less of what they are given by generous people, and their “boss” takes the rest. If they refuse to hand over the money, or they protest, they may be threatened, beaten or worse, until they comply.
- Begging creates a hand-out attitude and can create more beggars. When beggars receive money from tourists it encourages them to continue begging. By giving to beggars we contribute to holding them in this cycle and they become reliant on aid, rather than development with expectations that when they ask, people will give. This is often seen as an easier option than seeking a way out of begging.
- Research indicates that begging can lead young people into prostitution, trafficking and slavery. Children who beg as youngsters have very limited access to education and are unlikely to be educated beyond a grade 1-2 level (if at all). Having limited education and being caught up in a begging cycle severely impacts on their ability to gain reasonable employment as they get older and keeps them in a cycle of reliance on others. Often that reliance leads them to jobs in areas such as prostitution, sexual slavery, human trafficking, drug trafficking etc. Once they outgrow their cute primary school aged appearance, they no longer have the same ability to “bring in the dollars” but they still need an income. At this point their “boss” will probably know someone who can get them a “job”. It’s just that it won’t be the kind of job you or I would want for our child – or any child for that matter.
- Drug and alcohol use is on the rise amongst beggars. Sometimes, people legitimately have a drug problem, and this is why they beg. Sometimes people develop a drug problem to cope with the fact that they have to beg and the associated negative experiences they may have had whilst begging. Glue sniffing, smoking marijuana and alcohol use are common drugs used by even very young people begging on the streets. Unfortunately when we give to beggars sometimes this money is not used for the basics of survival like food, water and shelter, but is used to by drugs, and results in exacerbating their problems.
So, now that we understand some of the problems that are created by giving to beggars, what is the best solution?
We suggest that you identify an organisation that is working with the homeless or people living and begging on the streets and making a donation to them. By giving to a legitimate organisation you can be reassured that the money that you would have given to the person begging, will be used in a way to provide support and opportunities to change the situation the beggar is currently in.
Organisations that provide options for beggars to access food and housing, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, education or skill development often have the best chances of making a real impact on people in need. Check out local not-for-profits in the area where you are traveling and read reviews from other people before making a decision to give. Try to identify a reputable organisation that has a history of working with people in these situations.
If you feel really compelled to give to the person in front of you, offering to buy them a meal, or a cup of coffee can be a nice way to provide them with food, and may also be a positive way to start a conversation. Sometimes, having a chat with the person will provide them with a reminder that they are valued and seen in a world that is all too often filled with chaos and mayhem.
One of the many benefits of doing work with Development Together is that you can travel before and after your volunteer experience. Vietnam is one of four placements offered to Engineering, Environment & Urban Planning students and professionals and offers some of the most stunning and unique pre/post travel experiences. In this article we will go over the 5 best places to travel within Vietnam in the hopes that you, like so many others before you, will get to explore these places for yourself.
Located in northwest Vietnam, Sapa is a small town surrounded by a mountainous landscape and littered with rice terraces and beautiful waterfalls. The best way to fully experience all Sapa has to offer is by taking part in organised tours which present the landscape in a way that not many people get to see.
4. My Son
Located on the central coast of Vietnam, My Son is an archaeological site and holds some of Asia’s most important and notable structures’. My Son is especially significant in the Hindu religion as it is where many ceremonies were held to worship the God, Shiva.
3. Hoi An
Located in Central Vietnam, Hoi An is one of the oldest cities within the country being built over 2,000 years ago. With amazing architecture and a rich history and culture, Hoi An is a popular destination with many shops, perfect for bartering and a chance to engage with the locals.
2. Ho Chi Minh City
Located in southern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City (previously known as Saigon) served as the capital of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and therefore has a very interesting history. It is one of the busier and more built up areas of Vietnam and therefore has great shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
1. Ha Long Bay
Located in northern Vietnam, with amazing water, beautiful rocky landscapes and over 2,000 different islands to explore. Ha Long Bay is a must see destination for any traveler looking to experience the more adventurous side of the country.
Sopheap is a Prosthetic and Orthotics’ technician who works at a large rehabilitation centre near Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
We first met Sopheap about 8 years ago, and she instantly made an impact on us, because despite her limited English language skills, and our even more limited Khmer (Cambodian) skills, we were somehow able to communicate and laugh together.
Sopheap is a 45-year-old lady, married with 3 children. She was just a small toddler when the Khmer Rouge emptied the city of Phnom Penh and took over the country in 1975. She survived 4 years of Khmer Rouge atrocities as a small child, and the following civil war and conflict which lasted until 1989.
In 1991, a peace treaty was signed to end the conflict. It was this same year, when she was just 17 years of age, that Sopheap stood on an un-exploded land mine left over from the long running conflict. This accident resulted in her receiving catastrophic injuries to her lower leg and she ended up requiring a below the knee amputation to survive this injury.
Because most people in the medical field had been killed under the Khmer Rouge regime, there were limited qualified staff available to work in the area of Prosthetics and Orthotics. There were incredibly high rates of land mine injuries occurring every day, with farmers working in rice fields, or children playing in the dirt who would pick up or stand on these old land mines. Cambodia soon became the leading country for land mine injuries.
In 1992, about a year after her initial injury, Sopheap received her first prosthetic limb from the Cambodia Trust. It was durin g her rehabilitative period that she developed an interest in Prosthetics and Orthotics, and she was quickly employed, and has remained working in this field, for the last 26 years.
She was never able to formally study Prosthetics and Orthotics and has had to learn most of her skills on the job. Her speciality is making pelite covers for prosthetics legs, moulding polypropylene to fit negative moulds, and she is incredibly skilled at making the most amazing prosthetic hands, which look incredibly realistic, complete with fingernails and wrinkles in the skin.
Our Prosthetic and Orthotic volunteers from Development Together have enjoyed their time working alongside Sopheap. She is always willing to teach, and she loves sharing her knowledge and skills. Thankfully she also has the confidence to quickly jump in and remind our student volunteers how to safely use their knife and cut away from themselves!
Thank you Sopheap for everything you do for people living with disability, and for your openness and willingness to embrace our volunteers and guide them when they are placed at your centre.
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.
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.
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”.
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”.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.