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The Kimberleys and Save the Children

I had a very special opportunity to visit several programmes that Save the Children either execute or manage in two major locations in the Kimberley’s in Western Australia (WA).  It was a fantastic trip with a range of programmes from early childhood education, women’s safe house, supporting kids who have gotten into trouble through to education for mothers to help them understand the importance of healthy eating and taking care of your children.  This part of the world is challenged for a wide variety of social, historical and environmental reasons and Save the Children Australia are doing an incredibly important role in helping to ensure the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Australia and beyond are getting the best chance they possibly can to grow into successful adults.  

The insights I drew from the trip were many and varied and here are a few to share-

The parent’s need to learn from the children – For a wide variety of reasons the current mums, in far too many cases, don’t value education or ensuring their children have a healthy meal. Save the Children are running programmes that focus on giving positive encouragement to attend school, eat properly and in some areas attend lessons in their local language to help keep the language alive.  And the amazing thing is that those children are going back to their parents and educating them, especially for the local language where the kids are teaching their parents.  If the children value education,  eat the right food and have pride in their culture, it will help them have pride in themselves.

Higher education for individuals who will remain in the community – One of the biggest things that appear to be holding back some of the Save the Children programmes (and potentially other NGO’s) is the shortage of individuals who have a Certification or Diploma in early childhood education and similar academic qualifications.   Organisations such as Save the Children and others need to invest in creating qualified individuals to lead the programmes in the community.  And to invest in people who want to stay in the community and be part of the change.  Unfortunately, monies in most grants are for the kid's activities.  Which is great but the programmes do not work unless there are appropriately qualified individuals to run and administer the programmes.  People with qualifications who want to remain in the community are essential for long-term sustainable success of most if not all of the programmes.

If they start right they might finish right – Early intervention is critical.  If children start developing a habit of learning, at a young age, it will make a difference.  Mothers who read to their children make a big difference.  Children who develop habits to come to class on time and following instructions from educators will do better when they get into full-time formal education.  Save the Children goes the extra distance, including picking up children to make sure they get to school on time and cooking meals to make sure they have the right food to eat.

Four generation of welfare does not help – The biggest issue is the lack of role models for pre-teens and teens.  Many of the parents do not work, and in some families, there are at least four generations of living on government-provided welfare.  Breaking this cycle should be a priority as children need to have positive role models who go to work every day. Save the Children is working to help mothers learn how to take care of themselves so they can be better mums.  Through education, to cooking skills to learning how to make things to sell to tourist and in the markets, Save the Children is helping mothers to learn how to better themselves.  If the mums feel better about themselves and can do more for their family, they will create positive role models for their children.

Save the Children do some amazing things with the children and mothers of the communities.  The investment in children will pay off, but it will take a generation, if not longer.  Sustainability for most, if not all, of the programmes, is essential and unfortunately, sometimes the funding channels are not set up to support year on year funding over a ten-year or greater timeframe. 

As part of the trip, there was other personal learning.  The Australian government whether it is federal or state invest considerable money into uplifting and enhancing the lives of the individuals who live in the community, primarily the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.  There are dozens of programmes, and what Save the Children does only a small portion.  Between the medical, vocational education, early childhood support, welfare support and other government initiatives there is a materially significant investment into the current and future environments for the communities.  At times you did think there might be a more efficient and effective way to spend the money to create sustainable change.  I will leave that to the policy makers and politicians as I have learned that applying a CEO mindset to these sorts of issues is not always the right answer.    

The children are the future.  They can acquire new behaviours and skills to change the future.  The communities in the Kimberly’s need children and parents who are positive and motivated to make that change. Save the Children (along with their partners and other organisation) can make a difference.  So if you need something to support with your charity budget, you could do worse than Save the Children.  If you would like to know more about what they are doing in the Kimberly’s and other parts of the world, please click here.

Mary Sue Rogers


Posted On : 04-06-17

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