I received my scholarships for two placements in Sydney, the first at Royal North Shore Hospital and the second at the Royal Rehabilitation Centre in Ryde. Coming from the small NSW town of Cootamundra, it was quite an experience moving to the big smoke for two months. My placements were more than 4 hours from my home town and even further from Albury where I went to uni. This meant that, unlike many metropolitan students, I was unable to live at home, or at my uni address while I was on placement.
Travel expenses, having to source accommodation, living costs and just being out of my comfort zone made the prospect of these placements very daunting. I counted myself extremely lucky to win the ACEN scholarships. I think the main value of the scholarships is that by easing the financial burden of my placements, they made it easier for me to concentrate on the learning (and living) opportunities on offer in a big city hospital and rehabilitation centre.
With the aid of ACEN I was able to make a couple of trips back home to visit my family, so I didn’t feel so isolated. I was able to afford an internet dongle which made studying in my accommodation possible, rather than having to source a internet café or library. This meant I could spend my time more efficiently. The placements themselves gave me experiences that I will never forget. My time at Royal North Shore prepared me extremely well for the job I took as a new graduate this year. I’m now in a large tertiary hospital and the skills in working along side nursing, medical and other allied health personnel that I learnt on that placement have been irreplaceable. I had the opportunity of working in the Intensive Care Unit and treating patients that I would never see in a rural situation. The Royal Rehabilitation Centre also gave me the opportunity to treat patients that you just don’t see in a rural setting, along with the opportunity to work with leaders in the field of neurological and spinal cord injury rehabilitation.
Aside from the huge advantages that I gained in working in these metropolitan areas, I got a taste for living in a metropolitan area. I got to experience the urban lifestyle, public transport, peak hour traffic, massive shopping centres, back-street bars and coffee shops, my morning jog under the Harbour Bridge. I would have only just been able to afford to be in Sydney without ACEN, but it would have been a struggle. With ACEN it was incredible!
(Bachelor of Physiotherapy)
Fair trade organisation in Laos
I worked as an intern for a fair trade organisation named Saoban, located in Vientiane, Laos. Saoban employs women from rural villages to make products using their skills and traditional techniques. Interning as a product design developer for a fair trade organization was unique. It was similar to a consultancy position – a profession reliant on experience and knowledge, however, there was no protocol set in place for me to follow, making my experience both challenging as well as highly rewarding. I cannot refer to the position I had as being a ‘product developer’ but must discuss it as fair trade product development. The most significant difference was the absence of strict procedures and consistency within the position; this allowed me a lot of freedom but required a lot of flexibility.
Most often product development requires market and product trend research, looking at market requirements, product appearance and aesthetics as well as new technologies. Where as with product development it is efficiency of manufacturing and cost effectiveness that are key, when working with in a not for profit cottage industry, it is about working with traditional artisans to preserve and promote village crafts and textiles. Working under the principles of fair trade means creating employment opportunities for villages and reducing poverty. The placement allowed me to see and participate in some of these initiatives.
The benefits of the placement
While working with Saoban, I established many contacts working for similar organizations, as well as meeting the founder of the NGO, which Saoban is funded by. I had to discuss with him how I would structure the rest of my time with Saoban and also look at what areas I could work in given the amount of time I had, taking in to consideration how long it takes to get tasks completed in Laos. I was given quite an open brief: to improve the design of woven silk and bamboo products, as well as source new products and materials.
While the weavers skills are brilliant, and the hand made aesthetic is valued, improving the consistency of all products (and where the materials used to make them are from) is one area Saoban is working hard to improve – and is really important when trying to secure more wholesale clients. This was what the rest of the team was focusing on during my placement and I was fortunate to be invited on a trip to a southern province called Savannakhet where there are villages growing organic cotton which Saoban supports (but cannot sell as organic) as it is not yet certified and has only recently been growing in this region. The consistency of the crops is a problem and the aim of the trip was to find out how it can be improved so as it can be certified as organic. I also had the opportunity while on placement to visit Luang Prabang, a beautiful town located in the north of Laos with many silk weaving initiatives and fair trade home ware stores. The purpose of my visit was to see what different weaving groups are producing and what techniques/ motifs/ materials are being used. Each province has a very distinguishable appearance and there are 39 recognised ethnic groups in Laos – all with their own textile traditions.
The placement was beneficial in that it allowed my to see exactly how working under fair trade principles gives artisans greater opportunities through technical training, design advice and product development, as well as helping groups build their own businesses, rather than work for a middleman, as their profits stay in their communities. I will continue to work with Saoban in the future. Saoban is passionate about reviving traditional crafts which form the cultural identity and heritage of Laos, and they do this by harnessing the existing resource of talented artisans and crafts people and help them move from subsistence production to more sustainable livelihoods.
How the scholarship was beneficial
Undertaking an overseas placement was a brilliant opportunity that I was given, and accepting it was difficult because I was restricted with dates and did not have enough time to save. There are many additional costs with completing a placement overseas, not only flights and accommodation, but being unable to earn an income over the duration of the placement, and paying my rent at home. I am very grateful to be the recipient of the ACEN scholarship, and it helped me to cover some of the additional costs associated with my placement.