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Monday, March 8, 2021

Put your hand up!

Reading Time: 3 minutesVolunteering and travelling to make a difference to the less fortunate is a great way to enjoy a giving experience. By TASNEEM ZAVERY
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Think about a paid travel experience to volunteer and be the change in rural parts of India and Kenya. From helping communities to building toilets in schools, planting trees, learning arts and crafts to understanding their basic needs, and living in their shoes for a period of two weeks. It is bound to be a life changing experience.
“I believe travel and volunteering are the most amazing ways to open people’s eyes to new perspectives and to see what really matters in their life,” says Kristy Moore of Hand Up Australia, a social enterprise that provides a unique opportunity for Australians to connect and experience life in rural India.
Hand Up Australia was founded in December 2012, with over 4,000 people participating in their international programs from UK, Canada and USA over the past 10 years, through Hand Up Australia’s international partner Me to We. For the first time, these volunteer travel adventures have been made available to Australians, with two trips already been made to India.
“Hand Up Australia believes in providing a hand up, rather than a hand out,” says Kristy. “We believe lasting positive change is best achieved through self-actualisation”. The organisation connects Australian volunteers with Free the Children, an international charity which works in North West India around the villages of Udaipur with the communities of Lai, Berna, Barind, to name a few.
The most recent trip to India in September 2013 saw a group of six Melbourne teenagers visiting the community of Barind. “This trip confirmed my belief that people who have a better understanding of gratitude and empathy are the happiest people in the world,” says Hugh Van Cuylenburg, who connects Hand Up Australia in secondary schools”. He further says that while building a toilet in the school for the girls in particular, they realised that fifty percent of the girls had stopped coming to school once they hit puberty, as there were no proper hygiene facilities available to them. The volunteers often joined the boys at the school during their games sessions, or helped them in their herb garden. “With this project we hoped that more girls would attend school,” says Hugh.
So who can apply? “Our programs are open to Australian families, business teams, adults and teenagers who are looking for a meaningful and sustainable way to make a difference in the world, and also in their own work or family life,” says Kristy. “Our team of passionate travellers, volunteers and business professionals are happy to make it easier for Australians to volunteer overseas”. You can either apply online, attend an information session, or invite the Hand Up Australia team to speak at your company, group or school. Their onetime fee covers all ground costs, including transport, accommodation, meals, facilitation and safety for 5-20 days. Itineraries are handed out before each trip, with activities ranging from being welcomed into the homes of local community members, learning their local language, customs and traditions, exercising at the break of dawn, learning and gaining an insight about microfinances, or helping them in getting clean drinking water.
“Purpose built living areas are provided for guests of these programs, surrounded by stunning scenery and near the communities with which they meet and work,” says Kristy. “Working alongside community members enables volunteers to be part of solutions that break the cycles of poverty, without feeling like they are imposing in any way”.
Kristy further states that parents of teenagers from the last India trip said they feel that their children appreciate their education much more than before.
The next Hand Up Australia trip has been organised for January 2014, and interested adventurers will be advised about which community they will be working with from the eight villages on the list.

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Tasneem Zavery
I enjoy talking about people's stories, achievements and highlighting their issues through my articles.

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