Rebecca Hunter joined the Asian Aid team in 2012 and has utilised her background in teaching to assist schools overseas in countries such as India and Nepal. Rebecca can often be found travelling two days to reach a village school in the tea plantations of Northern India, colouring in with children at a preschool in the centre of an urban slum in Mumbai, or travelling on some incredibly sketchy mountain roads in Nepal.
What is your experience in teaching and education?
I have been connected to teaching for the last 10 years. During my university degree I was lucky enough to teach in Cambodia and the Solomon Islands – both amazing introductions to the impact and power of a quality education, especially in developing countries. After I completed my Bachelor in Primary Education in 2009, I moved to Port Macquarie and taught for two years at Port Macquarie Adventist School. I was looking for another way to utilise and expand my teaching knowledge and experience, and while I loved teaching in Australia, the idea of teaching overseas always excited me.
In early 2012 I joined the Asian Aid Team, first in the sponsorship programme and then in Child Rights and Protection. Even though Asian Aid has been working with schools for almost 50 years, I was the first teacher who had ever been employed to work there. So, it was both an exciting and overwhelming role to take on.
What is your role with Asian Aid?
At Asian Aid I am responsible for advocating for children’s rights and ensuring their best interests are paramount in all we plan and do. I lead in child focused training and am responsible for raising awareness of child safety and implementing Asian Aid’s child protection policy.
I work with an amazing team of staff here in Wauchope and throughout Southern Asia.
An avid traveller, what inspires you to help educate schools overseas?
Over the past five years I have truly learnt the power of education. For so many families in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, education is life changing. While the parents of many children we work with are illiterate, their greatest dream is that their children will have better, easier lives – and education is central to achieving that.
Seeing the change in families when children have the opportunity to go to school is what inspires me most – especially when students return home and teach their parents the alphabet, or how to count to 10 in English!
How do you connect with different cultures and nationalities?
I have always been fascinated to learn about other people’s lives and experiences. When I am travelling overseas, I always try to remain open to new trying things. From eating fried bugs in Cambodia, harvesting rice in Nepal, to seeing snow for the first time in Austria – I aim to try every new experience and learn as much as I can about the culture and the local people.
What countries/places have you visited, and what are some of the highlights for you?
I have been lucky enough to travel to over 25 countries in Southern and South East Asia, Europe and the Pacific. It’s hard to peg highlights, as I try my hardest to immerse myself into the local culture and in doing so, it all becomes an experience!
Seeing the Himalayas for the first time in Nepal was absolutely breathtaking. Even now, every time I fly into Nepal, seeing the highest mountains in the world stirs something in my soul. Once you land, eat your first meal of Daal Bhat (Nepali lentils and rice) and visit the projects, it’s just sensory overload!
Tell us about some of the various projects you have been involved with overseas.
Most of my work involves working with children, or teaching others how to transform the way they work with children.
While I am no longer a full-time classroom teacher, I still use these skills when working overseas with school administration, training teachers in alternate discipline techniques, and demonstrating how to teach reading in the classroom with children.
Another important aspect of my work is promoting Child Rights and Child Protection through training and awareness activities. As much as possible, I try to make my training practical and hands on. I prefer people to be engaged and involved in learning, rather than just sitting and listening – and I love to see people practically apply what they are learning.
Why is undertaking these projects so important to you?
These projects have given me greater perspective of my own life and how lucky I am to be Australian. More than that, it has allowed me to realise just how much I have to share and how many opportunities we each have to give very deserving communities a fair go. It helps us bridge the gap and realise that whether you are educating Australian kids or kids around the world, we’re all doing our bit to prepare the next generation to prosper.
What changes do you hope to see in the near future in places like India and Bangladesh?
India and Bangladesh are countries so ripe and overflowing with culture and tradition. They are both so beautiful in their presentation, but at the same time, there are so many challenges.
Some of the most important changes I feel could be realised are simple. Giving the next generation a shot at societal contribution through education will yield substantial change. The more youth, and specifically women, get secondary and tertiary level studies completed, the more new ideas and refreshed perspectives will be given a stage. Health and hygiene education will go a long way in eradicating highly preventable diseases.
One of the biggest changes for me personally would be seeing the next generation fairly represented for who they are and see that their voice is heard among their nations.
What is your current focus at Asian Aid?
At the moment I am working on the development of a children’s personal safety programme, which is designed to teach children about their rights, how to keep safe and how to ask for help when they need it.
I’m also excitedly planning my next trip overseas, which will see me travelling to a remote village school in western Nepal to conduct Child Rights and Protection training. Our team back here in Australia shares lots of our project photos and staff travels on our Instagram account; if people would like to get a glimpse of what this life is like, that’d be a good place to start!