Support for schools in Fiji following Cyclone Winston

We are helping children at this school

We are helping children at this school

With the assistance of family and friends, the SEE Project supported three schools in Rakiraki and Tailevu following the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston in 2016. Children at Ellington Primary and Tatiaya Primary schools who were affected by the cyclone were served cooked lunch over a few weeks to help the families  This program was a partnership between the staff, committee members of the respective schools, and the SEE Project. Mr Pushp Dass  – a community worker who is always willings to help others was instrumental in getting this initiative underway. Many homes in the area – including Mr Dass’s was severely damaged in the recent cyclone.

cyclone

Path followed by Cyclone Winston [Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/image/7187114-3×2-940×627.jpg%5D

Lunch was prepared daily by the members of the school community. Groceries for the cooking was obtained from a local store and the SEE Project meets the cost. The rationale for this operation was to ensure that children were well nourished so that they could engage productively in school activities during the day.

Soon after the cyclone hit the islands, a proactive member of the SEE Project team based in Fiji shared some of his thoughts as follows:

“The farmers of western Viti Levu were just coming out of prolonged drought when they were struck by the ‘monster’ cyclone. Many sugarcane farmers were left with nothing as about 80% of the houses in the sugar cane belt were damaged”.

“Many stories and experiences have been shared over the media ranging from ‘magic mats’ that saved lives. Heroic stories of fathers and mothers risking their lives for their children. There was a touching story from Rakiraki where a mother dropped her two daughters (one of them was a two year old) – at an evacuation center and returned home.  After the cyclone had passed, she was found dead at her home clinging to a bag of clothes for her daughters. In another instance, a 70-year woman watched her home blown away as she clung to her husband who has been paralysed for the last 15 years. Later, some able-bodied shameful men took off with their boots and other belongings”.

“It is heartbreaking to hear stories of devastation and knowing that students cannot make it to school. The principal of a school in a devasted area mentioned that following the cyclone less than 50% of students have been coming to school.  Many families have lost their houses, belongings and have no means of cooking. Students are not coming to schools because they have lost all their books, uniform, bags and shoes”.

“One of the reporters from the Fiji Sun mentioned how some students still helped on the farms after school and then get to do some schoolwork. It is still something to think about as there is no electricity and there are rumors that electricity will be fully restored by April – end of first term of school holidays. By then, many schools on the other parts of Fiji would have finished half of their syllabus. Schools are operating without electricity and connectivity is very poor”.

“In the Tavua/Rakraki area most of the students come from families that rely on sugar cane farming. This has been affected by a series of droughts and other problems in the last few years. Farmers that used to harvest 300 tonnes of sugar cane came down to as low as 50 tonnes – meaning a return of $1000 for the year and less if they had purchased fertilizer, rice, etc. Many other students are children of part-time cane harvesters and workers – their situation is even worse.”

“There are many individual case studies of students and parents that we can write about and their experiences during and after the cyclone – but the worry is how these students will come to school, how they will cope and learn during these trying times”.

Accounts such as this were widely shared through the social media. This was one of the reasons why the SEE Project became proactive to make a small difference in bringing normality to the lives of some families.

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Posted in 2016, Uncategorized, Winston | Leave a comment

It was the first time I felt like I really experienced the culture of a foreign country…Casey Chamberlain

Casey Chamberlain is a second year Bachelor of Fine Arts student. In this blog she is reflecting on her experiences in Malaysia in October 2015…..

I taught in the grade 5 classroom with my team: Kate and Afiq from QUT and Syu, Ain, Kim, Aishya, Nadhirah and Munirah from UPM.

Pages created by students for their digital story

Pages created by students for their movie clip

Our lesson plan included a combination of the narrative structure of stories, deforestation, and movie making. The result saw the children create their own story based on the theme of deforestation with which they created a movie clip, using drawings, popsicle stick characters and a voice recording. They edited their films with the program Open Shot by syncing the pictures to the voice recording and adding transitions.

When we first entered the class, the children were very shy and reluctant to speak to us in English even though they could understand us. This made the existing language barrier even more of an issue to begin with. But after the second day, the kids opened up and felt so much more comfortable communicating with us. It also made a massive difference to have the UPM students translating to make sure no one was left behind.

The greatest moment for me was seeing the kids use the laptops and learning how to simply use a touch pad. They saw dragging and dropping a file as a game and gasped when the cursor went outside of the file box. It was so rewarding to see the mini movies they created and I felt like they accomplished so much in such a short amount of time.

Although playing with elephants was an all time favorite moment, I would have to say the homestay was the highlight of my experience. At one point I remember sitting at the dinner table, surrounding with piles of dishes of amazing food, with everyone around me speaking a language I didn’t understand and it was the first time I felt like I really experienced the culture of a foreign country.

A photo with the host family and friends from UPM

A photo with the host family and friends from UPM

 

Posted in 2015, Malaysia, SK Temai | Tagged | Leave a comment

Jessica’s reflections of her Malaysia trip

Jessica Davies is enrolled in the Bachelor of Information Technology course at QUT. She is majoring in Computer Science and Mobile Applications. She is very talented and many of her intellectual and personal qualities were evident on this trip.  Here are some of her thoughts about the trip.    

Assisting one of my students

The ten days spent in Malaysia as a part of this project have been one of the highlights of my degree. My particular team focused on teaching the year six students renewable energy concepts in a way that promoted digital literacy and hands-on learning. The day-to-day teaching team consisted of three students from UPM – Hamiza, Zaitun, and Celementina – and three students from QUT – Anthony, Mitchell, and I. Over the three days of teaching, we introduced the students to circuit building using Little Bits, programming using Scratch, and a combination of the two, where Scratch was used to program an Arduino board connected to a Little Bits circuit.

Pleasing to see the change in my students

Pleasing to see the change in my students

Our team encountered many challenges throughout our time teaching at SKT, most of which arose from technological issues. We found that the skills and capabilities of the year six students were far better than we had anticipated, with the students picking up concepts much quicker than we had planned. This was a challenge in itself, as it meant that we were having to come up with increasingly challenging tasks that we hadn’t previously prepared. Overall, things went really well, and we all had a lot of fun learning with the year six students.

Planning with my team

Planning with my team

For me, the absolute highlight of the experience was seeing the year six girls grow in confidence over the course of the week. On the first day I noticed that the female students were very hesitant to ask questions or engage with the hands-on activities, outside of what they had been instructed to do. By the end of the week, they were laughing and asking questions, and playing with the Little Bits in a much more confident and creative way. Something that I’d also like to mention is that I really appreciated everyone being so lovely and welcoming, especially during the homestay and our arrival at the airport.

Moved the hospitality of the Malaysian students

Our warm welcome at KL airport

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Afiq reflects on his experiences in Malaysia

Afiq Nazrin is enrolled in the Bachelor of Business program at QUT. Afiq has been supporting the SEE Project for some time now. He volunteered in some activities that involved our project. At SK Temai – he was a part of the team that taught students how to create digital books. He played a significant role in ensuring that the activities in his classroom flowed smoothing.  

At the Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

Admiring the Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

My name is Afiq, and I am a member of the QUT STOMP/SEE project team. I have to say I had mixed emotions about the trip. I was anxious, and a bit apprehensive, but, for the most part, I was excited. I was looking forward to returning to my home country for the delicious food, and I couldn’t wait for the new experiences and challenges that were to come. Malaysia has a population of about 30 million. Islam is the religion followed by more than 60% of the population. My religion too is Islam. What would my colleagues think of my country? More recently some in the media, for example, have not portrayed Islam for what it stands for. Mercy, compassion, and beauty are some of the words that can be used to describe my religion. Regrettably, it is sometimes interpreted as a religion that is intolerant, backward, alien and so on. What exactly is Islam? That in itself is a whole other topic that requires much scrutiny and time, but it was not why we were on this trip. It’s such a big part of the experience, and, therefore, I felt it needed to be addressed. One of the greatest things about our project was the cross-cultural experience. We got to experience the culture firsthand. Although it was only a 9-day trip, I did wonder whether it changed the participants perspectives about people, their religion, and culture.

My group consisted of a team of nine amazingly cool people, three from QUT (Casey, Kate and myself), and six from UPM (Kim, Ain, Syu, Aisyah, Nadhirah and Munirah). We were also very fortunate to have Ms. Nurhezrin Anuar in our team. She is an Education graduate from QUT and is now teaching in a primary school in KL.

Deforestation was the theme for the lessons. I thought that this was an important issue. It’s a huge problem in Malaysia, and Southeast Asian in general, and it’s something that needs to be addressed and brought to light. The haze which blanketed Malaysia for the whole time we were there was a testament to the impact of deforestation.

In a group discussion just before the start of our trip to SK Temai

In a group discussion just before the start of our trip to SK Temai

The third day of the trip was officially our first day of being introduced to the kids, but due to the severity of the haze, the government had closed the school for the day. Our idea was to teach the children how to create a video using a program called Openshot. But with the realization that we only had a limited time (credit goes to Kate for taking charge and coming up with another plan that could be achieved), we decided to make an e-book instead. We started reading books centered on deforestation so the children could get a good grasp of the concept, and then followed it with storyboard puzzles and drawing exercises to develop students’ skills on digital book creation.  The children seemed to enjoy this as we moved through the stages of creating digital books such as cover page, beginning, climax, and conclusion.

Working with the students in my class (Photo: Casey Reine Chamberlain)

Working with the students in my class

At first the children were shy and withdrawn but it didn’t take long for them to get comfortable with us. One of the most memorable moments I’d say was when we got the children to read to us. I was amazed at how well the kids can read. I pointed to the first word of the cover, and it took about a second for them to realize what I meant with that gesture. “The last tree in the city” all in synch, reading the words out loud. I was impressed; they were no doubt intelligent kids eager to learn, and by the end of the day, they were all smiles. I wished we could have stayed a bit longer because the kids had just started to open up to us more on days 3 and 4.

Our team with our students

Our team with our students

I am missing the crew. The QUT students and staff are some the coolest, most down to earth, intelligent, and a dedicated bunch I’ve met. I found it a bit intimidating at first (because I’m the total opposite). But these qualities of our team members motivated me to work hard. The Malaysian UPM students, with their warm generosity, and hospitality, were some of the friendliest, most down to earth, and most genuine people I have met in a long time. It is good to know that there are Malaysians out there that care about the environment. I think I can say from all of us at QUT that the UPM students made it lot easier and played a big role for us regarding our engagement with the kids. There were times when we struggled communicating with the kids, but having the UPM students by our side, meant that they were able to clarify things for the children. We would not have achieved our objectives without students from UPM. The support of Ms. Nurhezrin Anuar was invaluable.

We were very fortunate to have Ms Nurhezrin Anuar in our team

We were very fortunate to have Ms. Nurhezrin Anuar in our team

It’s been huge a privilege working with everyone, and hopefully I’ll get to meet everyone again sometime in the near future. This was a meaningful engagement because it was loaded with new experiences, and developed new friendships. It certainly added a new dimension to my education at QUT!

Posted in 2015, Malaysia, SK Temai | Tagged | Leave a comment

Mitchell’s reflections of his trip to Malaysia

Mitchell Neill is enrolled in the Bachelor of Engineering program – majoring in Computer and Software Systems. He is nearing completion of his studies. Mitchell’s team engaged in a range of activities using digital technologies (eg. little bits and Scratch) in Class 6.

Just helping one of my students

Just helping one of my students

A child’s smile is something that transcends the need for language. During my time in Malaysia, I was lucky enough to explore the country, along with working together with my peers to help teach students renewable energy through the use of scratch (A drag and drop programming language) and little bits (Snap together electronics). As cliché as it might be, my favourite moment within the trip, and perhaps as an educator was when the students claimed they didn’t want to go to lunch but would rather stay and keep working on their projects. This was a truly incredible feeling. I was truly amazed at how the students wholeheartedly accepted us into their groups, playing sports with us, playing traditional games with us, and teaching us about their language and culture. Malaysia was amazing.

Some of our groups presenting for parents and the community

Explaining what we did to parents and the school community. with some of our team members (L-R) Syarifah, Anthony, Me, Hamiza

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Kim Dong Hwan’s reflections of his experiences at SK Temai

Kim Dong Hwan is an exchange student at UPM. He is from South Korea. He was a part of our team. Kim is a popular student – very much liked by all students. Kim worked with his team in Class 5 to deliver a very effective activity. Here Kim reflects on some of his experiences at SK Temai.  

I will have long lasting memories of the experiences that I had with my mates from QUT and UPM.  We had a great time from 25 September 2015 till 3 October 2015.

Just reflecting on something here

Enjoying my lunch at SK Temai

I was very excited as we made our trip to Pekan in the Pahang district of Malaysia. On the bust I talked a lot with my class mates and my new friends from Australia. Our first stop was the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary in Pahang.  There were a lot of elephants in the park. We watched an elephant show and gave the elephants a bath. In the process, I also got wet. I liked our hostel at UMP.  I was really looking forward to our stay here till Friday.

Me with the elephants

Me with the elephants

Teaching at SK Temai went on smoothly.  While our QUT counterparts took the lead, we played the role of assistants. To be honest, I did worry a lot before we started teaching. Questions like “can I teach them?”, “how do I communicate with them?”, “I also don’t know English well, can I help my friends?” went through my mind many times. But it wasn’t problem. Our Australian friends prepared the content and other resources that were very user-friendly. This made it very easy for us to follow.  My friends from UPM  were also able to explain the tasks in Malay – this made it very easy for the children to follow.

Our home stay was also memorable experience

Our home stay was also memorable experience

At SK Temai, the children were very kind and honest. In addition, they participated very well. There were no behavior problems – so we could teach them easily. We taught them about making cartoon movies. The message was on the importance of  forests and how it can be protected. I did my best for the children. The children made an excellent cartoon movie, and then we got time to present on Friday. I felt that we achieved a lot and I was proud of my student and our group.

I enjoyed working with these students

I enjoyed working with these students

I wish SK Temai staff, students, and parents the very best in future.  The SEE Project created new opportunities for me to learn and interact with both – people from Malaysia and Australia.

고맙습니다

For more stories visit: https://theseeproject.wordpress.com

Posted in 2015, Malaysia, STOMP | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Vicki reflects on her experiences in Malaysia

Vicki Jacobs

Vicki Jacobs is enrolled in the Master of Social Work program at QUT. Her team members were able to deliver a very effective activity for students in Class 3 at SK Temai. Vicki played an important role in delivering this outcome. Here are Vicki’s reflections:        

I was so fortunate to be involved with this project as part of my social work practicum at QUT International Student Services. It has provided me with a real experience of culture that would be difficult to obtain on a holiday or a quick visit. I have gained insights and experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I was part of a team of eight students, three from QUT and five from UPM. We used Australian animals to re-create a short story found in the Malaysian English curriculum textbook for Year 3. Our classroom activities were highly interactive and the children had a lot of fun whilst being able to practice their English and learn about Australia. The combination of UPM and QUT students worked well, giving us the ability to explain our lesson preparation and receive feedback based upon local knowledge and incorporate ideas and games from UPM students into the classroom. In the classroom, some of the children found speaking in English very daunting which challenged us to think about other ways of interacting, however the UPM students were fantastic at encouraging the children to speak and this gave them the confidence to have a go!

Students in class 3 enjoying their activity

Students in class 3 enjoying their activity

Being able to stay with a local family for one night gave a unique insight into daily life in rural Malaysia, the customs, the traditions and the food. It was a privilege to be hosted by families who were connected with the school and form friendships with them and the UPM students we stayed with.

With our host parent

With our host parent

Not only did we experience life in a small rural village in Pahang, we also had the opportunity to visit an elephant sanctuary on our journey from KL to Pekan where we helped bathe the elephants and heard about their plight to remain in their local environment due to deforestation. Later on in the week we visited Kuantan, the nearest beach town, complete with cheeky monkeys on the rooves of the fast food restaurants and on our return journey to KL, we stopped at Putra Jaya the country’s new government administration hub and experienced Malaysian street food at the night markets.

We had a good time at the

We had a good time at the elephant sanctuary

In summary, the trip was a very rich and rewarding experience and I will remember the people and places we visited with very fond memories!

 

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