Far removed from the technologically advanced lecture theatres of Bond University, a group of students veraciously volunteered their time in Western Australia’s remote community of Kununurra, assisting the Save the Children Foundation with social work.
The two week experience meant living and breathing the Kununurra way of life and introduced many of the students to a world of very real social challenges not commonly seen on the Gold Coast.
Student Philanthropy Council (SPC) Chair Alan White explains the project is an initiative introduced by the SPC in 2011 with the aim of providing students with an insight into some of the issues faced by various Indigenous communities in remote regions around the country.
“We wanted to expand on the types of activities that the SPC engaged in and with a number of Bond’s alumni working with Save the Children in Kununurra, the connection was logical and the Kununurra Project was born,” explained Alan.
“The Project is designed to engage, entertain and educate local Indigenous children from as young as five years old up to older teenagers,” said Alan.
He explains the volunteers are tasked with ensuring the community’s children are kept entertained throughout their school holidays.
“We help the children to build up their confidence and look at the future as an opportunity to follow their ambitions, not limited by their environment,” he said.
Working 14-hour days, the students set out to fill the children’s time with activities and events including sports, creative projects and even the occasional disco evening, which Alan explained gave them an alternative to walking the streets at night.
“We also assisted with night patrol, which meant driving around with a Save the Children representative and picking up any children who may have wandered away from home in search of something to do,” explained Alan.
“It was often the case that we would pick up the same child two or three times in one evening, simply because there was no incentive for them to stay at home; this was an eye-opening experience for many students who really value their home life,” he said.
As the students settle back into University life, the group has reflected fondly on the friendships they have made and experiences they have had, noting the lessons learnt.
“The stark reality students are faced with make the program exceptionally challenging for many; however, as a group the students were able to develop skills and learn lessons that aren’t able to be taught in the conventional classroom,” said Alan.
“Most importantly, the students learnt that the result of ‘making a difference’ within a community may not always be tangible or noticeable at first.
“The sheer joy and happiness brought to many of the children’s lives through the relationships made during our time in Kununurra is ever lasting, I believe that was one of the greatest lesson learnt and wholly encompasses the notion of philanthropy,” he said.
The Kununurra Project takes place every year during September and is arranged by the SPC and Bond University. Students compiled a blog of their day-to-day activities which can be viewed here: http://kununurraproject.wordpress.com/