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Students mobilise international health projects through New Colombo Plan


Jessica Huxley
19 December 2016
Southern Cross University students have made a lasting impact with their educational work at The Friendship Village in Hanoi, Vietnam and at Tianjin University of Sport in China.

A team of 20 occupational therapy and speech pathology students spent three weeks at the facility which provides medical care, physical therapy and education to Vietnamese children, young adults and veterans affected by Agent Orange.

Meanwhile, 11 sport and exercise science and podiatry students embarked on an educational four-week course in Tianjin, China. Both groups were funded through the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan.

Occupational therapy course coordinator Beth Mozolic-Staunton said students worked in teams of three to provide on-the-ground therapy support and health projects in Vietnam for 120 children and rotating groups of 25 veterans.

She said students delivered training workshop for teachers and physios at the village on strategies for working with children with autism, demonstrated rehabilitation programs at the medical centre, fundraised for two water filters, and made a presentation to the directors of The Friendship Village about an ongoing Southern Cross University partnership.

“The students also worked with local non-profit Think Playgrounds to design and commission the construction of a playground made out of recycled materials and local labour,” Ms Mozolic-Staunton said.

“The students raised more than $5000 and construction on the playground has now started.

“Every project these students have been involved in will have a lasting impact, and we have heard from the Australian Government our impact will be even greater in years to come.”

Southern Cross University has since received funding for an additional eight student mobility projects in the Indo-Pacific through the New Colombo Plan.

Sport and Exercise Science course coordinator Jak Carroll led a team of nine of his students and two podiatry students on the educational multi-disciplinary trip to Tianjin University of Sport.

He said the four weeks of study gave students the opportunity to gain an understanding of the Chinese philosophy and practice in improving health and wellbeing, which equals one elective unit.

The students took classes at Tianjin University of Sport in traditional Chinese sport and exercise, massage and rehabilitation, tai chi boxing, had an introduction to Chinese Mandarin, connected with local gymnasiums, taught English and visited tourist spots including the Great Wall.

“The students came to understand you don’t have to be big and lift heavy weights in order to be strong – they learnt the importance of flexibility, flow, breathing and strength of mind,” Mr Carroll said.

“They taught English classes and fielded questions about kangaroos, football, politics and breakfast.

“The cross-cultural and cross-discipline learning our students received will help them throughout their future careers.”

Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science student Tom Beggs said the experience widened his view of the world and showed him how people live in other countries.

“I learnt that sport and exercise has no communication barrier, even though we could not speak the same language we could still play multiple sports with the locals and have a great time,” he said.

“I believe that the biggest difference is how the Chinese use skills and knowledge that has been taught and learnt over many generations.

“Certain techniques can be taught here in Australia but the understanding and deep meaning is part of the Chinese ancient culture.”

Photo caption: Occupational Therapy student Bianca Craig works with a Vietnamese child at The Friendship Village. Photographer: Guy Roberts High resolution images available on request.