Gloucester’s Jade Spencer was offered an opportunity to chase her dream and thanks to the support of the community, it became a reality.
In December 2017, she embarked on a journey to Ahmedabad, India for a summer semester program with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) as part of her Bachelor of Humanitarian and Community Studies with Charles Darwin University (CDU).
“It was an amazing experience,” Jade said.
The EWB India Humanitarian Design Summit program supports university students in developing a project to create positive change within a community.
Jade left Australia on December 3 and joined a group of a dozen CDU students, a facilitator, two EWB representatives and two translators in Ahmedabad.
Shortly after arriving the group met up with members of Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), a trade union supporting self-employed women.
The group spent three days learning about what SWEA does and the project they would be involved in - finding solutions for families working in the salt mines.
Jade explained how they travelled to Dhrangadhra where she stayed with a host family before heading out to the salt farms. Dhrangadhra is the nearest community for the families who live on salt farms for eight months during the mining season.
Families live in makeshift homes with no electricity and basic supplies.
The group was set the task of finding solutions to address nutritional needs with lack of fresh food storage, personal protective equipment to avoid health issues when in contact with the salt and non-flammable material for housing in an environment where nothing permanent can be built due to monsoon season.
The experience was eye-opening for Jade, travelling to communities with severe poverty and very basic living standards.
“It was really interesting to see how the children entertain themselves,” Jade said.
“Here the kids fight over iPads and there kids on a farm pile up rubbish and see how long it takes before it blows away.
“The whole experience has changed my perception of a lot of things,” she said.
Jade commented on how her fortnightly Centrelink payment is more than the families make doing “back breaking work” for the entire salt mining season.
“They live simply and are very happy.”
She acknowledges that her experience was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Gloucester community. Jade sent letters to the service clubs requesting financial support for her trip to India and she was overwhelmed with the response.