Contained within the recently published GVI Impact & Ethics Report are numerous stories of success from GVI programs across the globe. Hearing the stories of the real impact GVI has in these locations is a source of inspiration for all of us. The insights provided allow us access to the detail of how various GVI projects function, and how they succeed.
For us at GVI Chiang Mai, we are quite a unique program, in that we are a hub that focuses equally on conservation and community. In recent years, conservationists have realised that, to conserve species effectively, engaging the communities local to the species’ habitat is essential. Almost all conservation-related issues are due to human/wildlife conflict in some form or another. Due to the breadth of activities undertaken by volunteers within our program we are always looking for ways to improve what we do on this wide scale. As such, it is important to look at what other GVI programs are doing, regardless of their focus, as they will have learnings for us to take away.
One such program is GVI Fiji Dawasamu. In the Impact & Ethics Report, Program Manager, Michele Comber, describes their work within UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2: Zero Hunger. In the district of Dawasamu, there are many issues of malnutrition, particularly for mothers and young children (aged 0-12 months). Through a series of education workshops, GVI Fiji taught mothers about the importance of regular breastfeeding and other health-related issues. These workshops were interactive and gave participants plenty of opportunities to feedback and discuss what was being taught. They could not have been conducted without collaborating with the Dawasamu district nurse, who was also provided support to aid her in helping mothers and young babies all across the district. Our key takeaway from this is the importance of educating local communities on health issues.
While we do not work directly towards UN SDG 2, we do work towards UN SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing (another SDG that GVI Fiji focuses on) when appropriate. A few months ago, two of our volunteers, who had degrees in Public Health, delivered teeth brushing workshops to children at the local school. While we are focused on our own SDGs as part of our program, capitalising on opportunities such as these is important, as one of our aims is still to improve the standard of living for the village of Huay Pakoot (the community that we collaborate with). GVI Fiji shows a great example of how to do just this!
At GVI Cape Town, Gordon’s Bay, they work within UN SDG 4: Quality Education to aid women’s empowerment in the area by teaching computer classes. Women’s empowerment is an area where we are fortunate to work with a community where there is little disparity between men and women. While there may be certain roles generally taken on by men and others by women, each are seen to have equal value by the village. Of course, there are always ways in which we can help to provide more opportunities for local women. We do this, in some ways, just by being in the village, as during our time here, many shops have opened to sell products to our volunteers. They are now used by the villagers just as much as us, and as such are now self-sustaining. Most of these shops are run by the women of the village. We also give women of the village the opportunity to come to our base to sell their hand-woven goods, providing another source of income that they can generate through skills they already have.
Hiring local community members, such as our Community Liaison, Su, allows us to give them skills in leadership and organisation, as well as improving their English competency. Teaching at the local school also allows us to teach English to both girls and boys equally. As the remote village of Huay Pakoot becomes more engaged with the outside world, especially with a young generation growing up where a mobile phone is seen as a normality, there may well be an increasing demand for modern skills, such as computer use. The fantastic success of the GVI Cape Town, Gordon’s Bay, program in this area, described by Program Manager, Sian Morris, will be a template to follow for us at GVI Chiang Mai.
GVI Alumni, Irene Gonzalo-Cruz, describes her experience at GVI Seychelles, helping their marine ecosystem surveys of coral reefs. This is a part of their work within UN SDG 14: Life Below Water. While we at GVI Chiang Mai mainly work towards UN SDG 15: Life on Land, both hubs are looking to improve environments for increased biodiversity and suitability for life. Similar to us, GVI Seychelles is also aware of the importance in engaging communities about conservation issues. Irene talks of how they educate children at the local school about the ocean and the importance of preserving the coral reefs. This would otherwise not be a part of the curriculum for these children. At GVI Chiang Mai, we also teach local children about the importance of caring for the environment through our weekly Conservation Curriculum. Here, we show them how to make use of recyclable materials, or use creative arts and crafts techniques to engage them in the natural world. What the work of GVI Seychelles reinforces to us is the importance of inspiring children within local communities to care about the land and the ocean that surrounds them. In this way, they will grow up as actors for change.
Our final takeaway is from Irene’s description of how her participation in the project benefited her. What makes GVI programs worldwide a success is that they are mutually beneficial. The communities we work with learn about conservation and the environment or health and wellbeing, improve their English and gain soft and hard skills. The volunteers that participate in these projects learn about local cultures and different ways of living, improve their own language skills (both local and international), and gain personal and professional development. Local communities and GVI volunteers accomplish this through continued collaboration.
In the GVI Impact & Ethic Report, there are many examples of this collaboration in action, as GVI renews its commitment to Doing Good, Better. There are many takeaways that you can gain from the report, so why not download it today?