Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Linh Nguyen was the first student to visit the University of Otago under the Matariki Global Citizenship Exchange program through the McCusker Centre for Citizenship at UWA.

Linh, who is completing a Master of Marketing, was based at Otago’s Student Volunteer Centre during the summer break, where she worked with the Centre’s manager Sze-En Watts and team on a range of projects including a marketing and communications strategy.

She says she signed up to the exchange to explore ways in which young people can interact with global citizenship, be active citizens and get involved in community engagement.

During the exchange, Linh explored ways for the university to engage with the community, as well as worked to develop a social impact tracking framework using the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal as a guiding outline to measure volunteer hours.

“Specifically, through the area that I’m studying, I was looking at how we could communicate and use effective language to engage with parts of the student body in order to get involved in volunteering and make a social impact,” Linh said.

“We are now able to measure the total amount of volunteer hours the centre and the student body at Otago contributes to the community.”

The University of Otago also learned from the exchange. The Student Volunteer Centre’s manager, Sze-En, said they learned some valuable lessons in marketing from Linh about how they could communicate more effectively to students.

An opportunity to complete a unique internship with Pollinate Energy in India through the McCusker Centre for Citizenship at UWA came at just the right time for Grace Roberts, who undertook the internship in her graduation year.

Grace spent three weeks in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India, as an intern with Pollinate Energy over the summer break, where she worked on a project that aims to give local women the opportunity to sell low-value but high-need products in their communities to gain an income.

Pollinate Energy is a social enterprise business based in India and Australia that was founded by six Australians who witnessed the detrimental health, financial and environmental impact of fumes from kerosene lamps on people living in India’s urban slums who relied on the fuel as a source of light. Pollinate Energy works with these communities to provide healthier solutions, such as solar lanterns.

After a number of consultations with women from several urban slum communities to find out what their challenges were in their communities, Grace and her team identified products that could help alleviate these challenges in some way. They included medical kits, rash creams and torches – products that are often taken for granted here in Australia.

“I was surprised how the simple act of people purchasing products for a small amount gave them dignity and gave them a powerful voice as a consumer,” Grace said.

“I’ve seen how Pollinate Energy must align with the interests of the community and how this model can contribute effectively to ending poverty and providing healthier environments on a larger scale.

“The experience has reinforced my strong belief in maintaining personal connections with people and communities who are affected by challenges like the ones these women face. This helped me understand the complex factors affecting their lives and they often already hold the best solutions,” Grace said.

Grace believes the internships that the McCusker Centre for Citizenship facilitates are invaluable for university students as they provide firsthand experience to learn about and contribute to solving complex social issues.

Listen to Linh talk about her global experience.

Listen to Grace talk about her internship experience.

Find out more about the Global Citizenship Exchange program Pollinate Energy internship program.


Education Quarterly