It is with great sadness that I am writing of the sudden, tragic passing of one of our GFF representatives, Thanh Vu a few weeks ago. She was a kind, giving, beautiful soul who touched the lives of everyone she encountered. Thanh had the challenging task of initiating GFF’s work in Vietnam and despite many obstacles she encountered along the way, through her sheer determination, she always found a way to drive the project forwards. She had such a big heart and wanted to help make the opportunities she had available from her education in Sydney, more accessible to other children in her home city of Ho Chi Minh.
Image: Tharaka Munidasa, front centre, and GFF India Saom Namchu, back centre, pictured here with children from the rural community who are involved with a SANASA Campus programme.
An introduction to Tharaka
Hi there my name is Tharaka! I am a recent graduate from the University of Auckland having completed a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with First Class Honours. I was born in Sri Lanka but moved to New Zealand when I was 6 months old. Growing up with two different cultures, I was determined to fuel my curiosity to develop my global mindset. I gained secondary schooling experience in Hiroshima, Japan through my Asia Student Exchange Scholarship, a semester abroad at Pennsylvania State University, USA through the 360° Auckland Abroad Exchange Travel Award and finally, professional experience where I completed an internship abroad in Shenzhen, China through the Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia.
Having reflected on the wonderful opportunities I have had abroad, I set a goal to give back to communities in Sri Lanka before engaging in my career. I connected with the Glenn Family Foundation (GFF) through the University of Auckland Business School, where I proposed the idea to expand GFF’s global reach by coming to Sri Lanka to facilitate a partnership with a local NGO and establishing a new location for the HELPS programme. I believe I can make a greater impact on my hometown if I can create the opportunity for volunteers to get involved for years to come! My current volunteer involvement involves teaching English communication skills to first-year students at SANASA Campus and looking to transfer these skills towards children in the village. Furthermore, I am consulting on an IT Development Programme to build IT skills for students and the community.
In December last year, Violet Ge of Auckland University left for her birth place, Hainan, to pioneer a new GFF HELPS programme. With the school holidays approaching she was eager not to lose out on any time and so put forward a proposal to run a three-day Student Camp at Wulian School. She used her local connections to find where to host these activities, and managed to recruit a team of students to join her. Within no time they had their activity outlines for the three days and had created and translated professional GFF HELPS marketing materials and started a WeChat social media platform.
*Photographs by Yu Chen
Sarah McLaughlinViolet Ge – Blazing a GFF HELPS trail in Hainan
Hello Everyone! I am Sulochana Thapa born in Darjeeling hills and brought up in Kalimpong, India. Prior to volunteering with GFF HELPS, I was working with Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment in Darjeeling.
I completed my graduation and post graduation from Bangalore University, India with specialization in Community Development, Medical and Psychiatric Social Work. I have done a couple of internships on issues related to women and children in my earlier experiences in India. I have worked with organizations such as Bosco Mane (working with street children), Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology (working for children suffering with blood cancer), the Association of People with Disability (with a special focus on differently abled children), Pravah (a youth development organization), Hayden Hall organization (working with mother and child healthcare) Mercy Corps (working on the school component of WASH – water, hygiene and sanitation).
This is my first visit to Kathmandu, Nepal. Traveling across different places and serving communities gives me immense pleasure and energy to enjoy my work with the Glenn Family Foundation.
Sarah McLaughlinMeet Sulochana Thapa, GFF Representative – Nepal
I have learned that sharing and giving can be just as rewarding as receiving. There is a big hospitality culture in the Philippines and people will try make you feel at home whenever they can. If you find yourself at a Filipino home, they will more than likely offer you food and drink and to join in with the whole family. I am blessed to come from Ireland, which has relatively low poverty, a great education system, low crime and plenty of jobs on offer. I should not take my education and the morals I have learned for granted and I should share with those who have not yet had the same opportunity.
I have learned to care for the environment even more so than before. The environment is lush and abundant in greenery and wildlife here. I have found that a lot of people here don’t respect the environment enough and throw so much rubbish on the ground, burn all types of rubbish including plastic and recycling simply doesn’t exist.
A good few of my highlights and enjoyable times so far working with YARP and GFF have been going out on the truck, because I’ve always been sitting in the back I mostly attributed this to seeing the beautiful landscape and being able to soak up some nice sun on the way, along with chatting with the local workers, even if some of it was very basic due to the language barriers.
Naturally I have enjoyed teaching the kids here too and seeing their smiles and faces of understanding when they understand what we are teaching. I’m looking forward to plenty more classes in 2019.
Despite spending half of my life in the Philippines, I have found myself being culture shocked by the hierarchy system in all parts of the Filipino society. From government to organisations, leaders or bosses must be obeyed or informed of any actions that the employees are doing. This is one of the reasons why it took a while for them to give us clearance to conduct our GFF projects.
Nevertheless, the school children’s obedience during our School Projects reminded me of how being polite and well-mannered was taught in Philippine schools and that I should carry this with me wherever I may be. People here are so polite that they never fail to address someone as ‘Ma’am’ or ‘Sir’. Formal language is used with one word ‘po’ to anyone older than yourself. They will excuse themselves when they walk passed two people having a conversation. These are just some simple things that reminded me of what it takes to be a Filipino.
This experience has given me the opportunity to connect with communities in rural areas and allowed me to learn more about my own culture. Though I have been exposed to disadvantaged areas in the Philippines when I was young, this was the first time I have been able to understand the difficulty of living situations in some areas. Most families we have met and encountered do not have a consistent source of income that they can rely on. Some have alcoholic problems within their households and some are going through issues that have been a result of broken marriages. Despite this, they still manage to smile and try to cope each day, living their lives with what they have.
Another thing I have noticed in these communities is that even though life has been financially challenging, they seem to more content. They are even happy with just a simple visit in their houses. There’s also been instances where beneficiaries offer us something to eat despite not having much themselves. Those things reminded me that I should be content and grateful not for the materialistic things but rather the people whom I value and values me.
I learnt to appreciate that on the whole people are generally good and want to do what they can to help others. Almost every person I met during our stay was incredibly welcoming and couldn’t do enough to help us be comfortable in their country. Whenever I did something to help someone such as running a football training session, they couldn’t be more appreciative of me giving up my time. It can be easy to forget that most people are good people that want to make the best of themselves and others around them, no matter what their background may be.
My personal highlight was doing morning football coaching in Chibbo village. Many of the people that I coached had never had the opportunity to receive formal coaching in the past, despite being incredibly passionate about the sport. So, it was incredibly rewarding to provide this for them and see their smiles as they arrived for the sessions each day. Football is something I am very passionate about, so it was fantastic to share something that I love with people in a totally different part of the world.It was also awesome to see the group grow from only two people for my first session to over thirty by the time that I left, making me feel as though it was doing a good job and adding something beneficial to the community.
Emily RobertsonJoe Fisher, GFF Representative, India and Nepal, 2018
One of the things that working with the beneficiaries of Bal Suraksha Abhiyan Trust taught me was that children have more resilience than most people believe or give them credit for and can endure a number of horrific hardships and still maintain a smile and pure enjoyment. They can make many decisions on their own about their wellbeing and we should listen to what they have to say. They deserve the ability to make decisions about their own lives and we can provide good guidance, support and positive learning environments for them.
From my experience in Kavre, Nepal, I learnt the value of community support for individuals and how critical it is. Working in these communities it is clear to see that without the network and social support of their neighbours and family, individuals would suffer a great deal more. From the perspective of working in these environments, it is integral to have community support for projects, not just individual interest, and to be able to see the needs of the community as a whole. The relationship is often reciprocal – what benefits and empowers an individual will benefit the community and vice versa, and knowing and working with that in mind you can create a greater difference. This has also given me cause to reflect on my sense of community in New Zealand, and how I can foster change and growth in the people and community around me.
Emily RobertsonSophie Jones-Williams, GFF Representative, India and Nepal, 2018