Youth to Youth Cultural Exchange 2013

As we read in the news, every year more than 500 young Australians are hospitalized from alcohol related incidents in the unhappy Australian ritual of alcohol-fueled post-school celebration. In an innovative project trialled in November 2013, MHI is working to promote a 'Smart Schoolies' cultural alternative.  Students from Rosebud Secondary College in the Mornington Peninsula Shire in Victoria, Australia, visited their municipality’s Friendship Town of Lospalos, to pioneer an alternative version of Schoolies Week, where they celebrated the privilege of completing school, while having a meaningful volunteering experience.

MHI’s project differs from other schoolies travel projects in two ways: firstly the students involved in this project are not from an economically advantaged secondary school. MHI believes that opportunities for interesting and challenging volunteering can be available for all students in Australia, and that it is possible in the wealthy nation of Australia to find ways to overcome financial barriers that may otherwise limit students from these valuable opportunities. Our idea is that as interesting and challenging alternatives are offered to more school leavers, the culture will gradually change to recognise the advantages of volunteering within a unique Friendship City environment.

The second difference is that the MHI project seeks to involve both the Australian students and their Friendship community in activities that have been developed based on knowledge of local needs, and involve mutual exchange and shared learnings.  The MHI project encourages Australian students to apply the talents they have developed during their time at secondary school. In 2013, students from Rosebud Secondary College with talents in the arts prepared a series of workshops they delivered, supported by their teachers, in a range of community locations in Lospalos; schools, a kinder and the Cultural Centre.  This way, the Australian students drew on their special talents and expertise; they shared these in a respectful way with host communities, and in return, they learned about Timorese culture and the arts, when workshop participants reciprocated. 

We intend that participating teachers and students convey ideas that can enrich Timorese approaches to education, while allowing all participants to learn more about themselves and their own capacities. This fits with MHI’s philosophy of a strengths-based approach to development, working with community’ and individual’s strength and developing those, rather than a deficit approach, looking at what isn’t there.

The project is supported by Deakin University, through Professor John Toumbourou, a strong advocate for positive youth development and reduction in harm from alcohol.  Some funds for the students’ travel in 2013 was provided by Friends of Lospalos Group and the Mornington Peninsula Shire where the students live.  MHI acknowledges the significant efforts of arts teacher Anthea Mackenzie in co-ordinating the Rosebud end of the project and her school leadership for supporting the endeavour.  Experienced drama educator and advocate Jim Lawson is also acknowledged for his contribution as a  volunteer leader.  Pending the evaluation of the outcomes of this initial pilot project, future larger projects are planned to establish the annual 'Smart Schoolies Friendship Celebration' as a new cultural icon that other Friendship groups may also adopt.

Find out more from the 2013 group's Facebook page: From Rosebud to Lospalos. Read about in article in Mornington Advertiser

Next Youth to Youth Exchange project to be advised. 

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