In rural Ghana, Africa, the Nectar Home orphanage provides food, clothes, education and shelter to more than twenty children orphaned by HIV/AIDs. It is just about as far removed from life as a University student in Australia as you can get. But Lizke Le Roux and Louisa Yeo, two undergraduate students at the University of Melbourne, are doing their bit to bridge that gap.
Lizke and Louisa are the project managers of Nexus Abroad, a student run international development project that assists community organisations in developing countries to become financially independent. Associated with the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), the project attracts undergraduate students from across the University who are interested in development issues.
Nexus Abroad aims to implement an ethical and socially appropriate governance infrastructure to enable partner organisations achieve their own mission of empowering their local communities. Lizke, who is currently completing a Bachelor of Commerce, says the team is looking to expand the program in the future: “This program definitely isn’t about continuous aid, we are working to develop a sustainable model that can be applied to organisations in different places” she said.
The Nexus Abroad team has been working with Nectar Home since 2008 and was awarded a University of Melbourne Dreamlarge Knowledge Transfer Student Grant in 2009. This summer they will be sending over the first group of volunteers to Ghana. Selected students will travel to Ghana and stay in volumeter accommodation next to the orphanage. Teaching English, the volunteers will interact with the children daily as well as contribute to the operation of the orphanage.
Lizke says the student volunteers that travel to Africa will have an amazing experience as well as achieving practical outcomes. “It is a unique opportunity for students to apply their textbook knowledge and experience of Ghanaian culture and hospitality,” she says. “We received applications from more than twenty students. The amount paid by each student volunteer provides enough funds to sustain the orphanage for five years. All the money goes towards Nectar Home so it is a big deal for them.”
Being involved in the management of the program has also provided the students with excellent professional experience. Louisa, who is completing a Commerce and Arts double degree, says a great deal of satisfaction comes from the knowledge that a group of students can make such a big difference to the lives of those less fortunate, “it allows us to apply the skills we have learnt here at the University to practical outcomes. Things that actually make a difference.”
Louisa, Lizke and the other students involved have to work across a diverse range of areas: implementing governance structures, applying for grant funding and negotiating partnership agreements. The group recently organised a successful Charity Ball where more than 220 fellow students enjoyed a two-course meal and night-long music and entertainment. The event made more than $2000, all which will go directly to the orphanage.
Through their work with Nexus Abroad Lizke and Louisa have also gained a unique insight into Ghanaian culture. Their weekly conversations with the head of the orphanage, Pastor Fred, show how far global communication has come, “We tried a couple of different ways to communicate with Pastor Fred but Google Chat turned out to be the easiest,” said Lizke. The chats provide an insight into the challenges facing development organisations but also highlight the positive impact they are achieving through Nexus Abroad, “We chat with Pastor Fred every week, it is amazing to hear how far things have come for kids.”
Staff and students interested in getting involved should contact firstname.lastname@example.org