Stories from Volunteers

Aware is… board member Gemma

 

gemma
Gemma joined Aware because she believes strongly in helping to provide opportunities and new skills for women. She’s been involved in development work only just this year since joining the Aware board and is really enjoying helping out. A part from this she is also the Fundraising Director at the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and is really passionate about teaching young people about how they can create their own action on climate change. She also really loves penguins.

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Aware is…board member Lily!

 

What’s your day job?

I’m a climate change campaigner with a focus in online engagement. You may have seen my around these parts as an AWARE volunteer where I helped with AWARE’s social media strategy and also with this blog!

What sparked your interest in Aware?

Many organisations focus on delivering basic needs to impoverished communities which is really important work, but what I liked about AWARE is the focus on supplying a voice to disenfranchised communities. That voice can be through poetry, painting, drawing, dance, sewing, acting, or however an individual expresses themselves – what drew me to AWARE was the ability to give and give recognition to disempowered people’s own voices.

Highlights so far?

So far my favourite part about being on the AWARE board is working with the rest of the board and director, Stacey; we dream about what AWARE can achieve. I’ve loved helping the organisation develop a more concrete vision and we’re beginning to outline goals for the next few years, which is just so exciting.

But the biggest highlight has been seeing the artwork that children in the Creative Sparks program create.

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Aware is… Claire, Board Member

Hi there! My name is Claire and I am one of AWARE’s Board Members. I have the fun job of hearing all about what AWARE has been up to and helping to plot more great creative community initiatives.

What’s your day job?

At the moment I am finishing post-graduate studies in International and Community Development and deciding what my next day job should be. In a past life I worked for a Melbourne based human rights organisation and a women’s community development organisation on the Thailand Burma border. Before that I was an arts, culture and community development project managing, policy writing and researching bureaucrat.

What sparked your interest in Aware?

In short, it was AWARE Director Stacey! Her initiative, drive and enthusiasm are inspiring and contagious. Stacey really is being the change she wants to see in the world. I am glad to be involved in such a vibrant organisation and the good and interesting work it does in utilising creativity and partnership to support like minded people and organisations.

Highlights so far?

It has been great to meet a group of likeminded people at AWARE and work together on future plans for AWARE. I am looking forward being part of AWARE’s evolution and growth and hope you are too!

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Aware is… Clancy, board member

 

 

 

 

Working on advocacy programs with displaced communities in the Solomon Islands and favela communities in Brazil,Clancy has seen the power of self expression as a tool to bring about change for marginalised communities. He currently works at Oxfam campaigning for food justice and poverty alleviation and teaches sustainability at RMIT University.  In his free time he plays guitar, gardens and dreams about surfing big waves with his long board.

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Aware is… Damien, Board Member

Hi everyone! My name is Damien and I’m the Secretary on the Board of Directors.

For my day job, I am a research scientist in the field of weather and climate. At the moment I am studying for my PhD, looking at the climate of West Antarctica. Prior to my PhD, I was lucky enough to work for an AusAID funded program that assisted National Weather Services in Pacific island nations make better use of climate data. My time spent in developing island nations reinforced to me the importance of the work that Aware does with disadvantaged communities, both in Australia and abroad.
There are a lot of aid organisations out there, so I often get asked why I chose to get involved with Aware. Quite simply, it is because of the focus on creating positive change. Instead of simply providing disadvantaged communities with material goods, Aware aims to increase the self esteem and life skills of every participant in its programs. That’s not to say that material goods aren’t important, however through enhanced skills and self esteem communities develop the capacity to improve their situation for themselves, as opposed to relying on material aid.
In other words, Aware’s art-based programs are creating long term, sustainable change in a fun and innovative way. That’s why I’m proud to be on the Board of Directors, and that’s why I find our volunteers and participants so inspiring.

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Creative Sparks

 

Last week we began our first ever Australian project and we are so excited.  Aware will, in conjunction with New Hope Foundation, be facilitating art workshops with children from refugee backgrounds in Melbourne’s outer west. The aim is to increase self-confidence through storytelling and building awareness about social issues facing recently arrived communities in Melbourne.

We are lucky to have studying art therapist Kristy Heffernan on board to run the workshops, with the help of Aware’s Director Stacey and volunteer Louella. Employing the theories of art therapy in a safe, fun and relaxed space is set to be an amazing experience!

 

Let’s meet Kristy!

What you are studying?

I am currently studying Transpersonal Art Therapy at Phoenix Institute. Art therapy is a therapeutic process in which people can engage with themselves, their lives, and their experiences without the need for constant dialogue like mainstream psychotherapy. Although talking can be a large part of art therapy, the creative process is in itself, the critical part of the healing experience for the participant. By expressing through creativity a person can access and express ‘unspoken’ ideas, memories and feelings in a gentle and safe way, with an experienced therapist present.

Why you wanted to volunteer with Aware?

When I was contacted by Aware I jumped at the opportunity to work with them. As an art therapist I was really drawn to the humanist, compassionate approach of aware within their projects. I also realized the great potential of using art with children from refugee backgrounds, as it allows for interaction and expression that transcends language barriers.

A little bit about the project?

I want to allow a space for the kids to feel free to express themselves and play. We will be using numerous mediums to explore their own experiences as a child in their community. We will concentrate on identity, creating opportunities for the children to tell their stories through their art. The children will be encouraged to show their interests, dreams and personalities through paint, pencil, pastel, collage, stickers and clay.   

What you expect the outcomes to be for the participants?

Fun! I want the children to have a lot of fun whilst getting the opportunity to explore a number of different mediums in art. I also hope to nurture feelings of pride and confidence in their own creativity and for them to feel safe in being themselves.

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A Crafternoon in Cambodia

During my time in Cambodia running Wool for Women, I took some time out to get to know an amazing social enterprise in Batambang – Kinyei. Promoting sustainable travel they run socially responsible bike tours, have a café which serves the best coffee in town, and provide jobs and training to young people. They also have a space dedicated to exhibiting local art. With our mutual interest in working with young people and creativity, I couldn’t help but get involved.

Aware sponsored an afternoon of art and craft within the art space above Kinyei café. We spent hours drawing, cutting, pasting, stitching, creating and having fun. We made broaches, embroidered signs, made paper decorations, sketched and more. It was a lovely way to bring the community together in a safe and fun space. The craft materials that I left with the group have been used in a second workshop, organised by Kinyei staff, creating decorations to liven up the café.

The community of Kinyei – and in particular the young people – relish the chance to get creative and express themselves. In the future, Aware will assist Kinyei in running regular arts workshops, with the aim of building self-confidence in the youth of Batambang.

Check out Kinyei’s projects,

 

Written by volunteer, Stacey

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Aware in Cambodia. Part 1: social enterprises

Two days in Cambodia and I’m already inspired and mesmerised by this place.

In case any of you are thinking about traveling here, I wanted to share with you some places I found that will help you engage in community development while you go about your holiday. Phnom penh is buzzing with social enterprises –  causes that use trade to fund social programs.

If you head to the Russian market, Psar Tuol Tom Pong, a number of stores around the market boast fair-trade or ethical products. Among them is Nyemo which helps disadvantaged women return to work. Rajana which supports 130 producer groups through the principles of fair-trade. Alongside Rajana is Cafe Yejj, although its quite a western cafe, it does achieve a social impact through responsible employment.

Closer to the National Museum you will find Friends ‘n’ Stuff, a charity style store full of handmade and up-cycled goods. Next door is the very successful Friends restaurant which is run by former street children and their teachers. I must say that they food there is amazing and the staff are lovely. Check out their cookbooks here.

These are just few of the many social enterprise shopping and dining options, I encourage anyone spending time in Phnom Penh to check it out and make sustainable travel choices.

Written by volunteer, Stacey
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In preparation for Wool for Womeen

Late tomorrow night, two AWARE volunteers are flying to Cambodia to teach women how to crochet. Volunteers Louella and Stacey have been testing out patterns and perfecting their skills.

I cannot wait to see the teddy’s, cardigans, hats, and broaches that they make through Wool for Women. This program focuses on bringing new skills to women through crocheting to help build up their arsenal of skills to ensure they can earn a decent livelihood. AWARE is partnering with Dorsu to help give women in Kampot, Cambodia the tools to work towards their ideal future.

Thanks to you, we received hundreds of dollars in donations and in kind gifts to bring wool and crochet hooks to Cambodia. Wool was arriving by the box!

Last weekend, Stacey and I took a trip to the Bendigo Woollen Mills to purchase even more wool! After a  long drive from Melbourne, we arrived at the mills to be greeted by every crafters favourite sight: skeins upon skeins of wool!

I’ll be bringing you live updates from their work in Cambodia!

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Aware is … Anna M., fundraiser

Over the next couple of weeks, we want you to get to know the fabulous volunteers that make Aware tick. We’ve profiled all of our volunteers, and we can’t wait for you to get to them!

What’s your role at Aware?

Hi, my name’s Anna and I am helping raise funds for a number of Aware’s projects, specifically organising market stalls to sell the wonderful bags, clothes, scarves and lots more made by the fabulous women at Dorsu Cambodia. We’re hoping to get out to a couple of markets in the next few of months so keep posted for the details.

What’s your day job?

I am studying a Masters of Social Work which is keeping me very busy at the moment but absolutely loving it.

What sparked your interest in volunteering for Aware?

I was inspired by Stacey’s passion for the amazing organisation she had created. Also, looking at the huge success of past programs, and hearing some ideas for the new Melbourne based programs I wanted to help out in some small way.

What has been some of the highlights for you in volunteering for Aware?

Hearing stories from some of the programs in Kenya and Honduras, meeting the other volunteers and just getting involved in some of Aware’s fundraising events, whether that’s been having a beer with Karma Kegs or coming along to film nights. It’s been great to see such support for a fantastic organisation.

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