ON Thursday three lucky young Ballarat residents were each awarded a $3,000 Experience Asia scholarship by the City of Ballarat to volunteer in Asia this year. The successful scholarship recipients, Leah Behncke and Darcy Mahady will be heading to Nepal in May to assist with teaching and community development, while Andrew Scherek will head to Fiji in August to assist with coastal marine conservation.
Presented by Mayor John Philips on behalf of the City of Ballarat in partnership with the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) and Global Vision International, the scholarships will assist young Ballarat residents aged 18 – 20 to experience the diverse culture of Asia and build strong international relationships whilst volunteering in the areas of teaching, environmental sustainability or community development.
In partnership with local councils, Experience Asia, an initiative of the Foundation for Young Australians works to create genuine pathways for young people to access immersive cultural experiences in the region which will have a lifelong effect on their life and work, and our country’s connection to Asia. Cr John Philips City of Ballarat Mayor said it was good have made the connections with FYA and be able to offer young Australians these experiences. “To have two organisations working so closely together and being able to offer great opportunities for young people is just fantastic,” he said.
“I’m certainly looking forward to hearing the results when these young people come back.”
“From my perspective I would like to congratulate you, wish you all the best and certainly look forward to hearing from you when you come back.”
Hayley Bolding from FYA said the presentation last week was a full circle moment, “I want to take you back a little bit to more than a year ago when I was at a luncheon and was very fortunate to be sat next to your previous Mayor, Joshua Morris, and we got to talking about FYA,” she said. “FYA is the largest independent not for profit organisation dedicated to young people. We want to work with young people, prepare them for what lies ahead in work and life but we can’t do that without making new a partnerships and that’s exactly where Mayor Morris and I landed.” Ms Holding spoke about her own volunteering experience. “I was a country girl and after university I was fortunate to undertake a volunteer engagement in India. I went there when I was 22 and didn’t come back until I was 29 so my volunteer placement lasted a long time,” she said. “Mayor Morris got it and said ‘at the City of Ballarat we want to do the same thing, we want to offer opportunities to our young people to look beyond their borders’.
“So today we come to the fruition of where that conversation got to. I am so excited for each of you. It will be a wild ride but what I can guarantee is you will come back completely different people, different people for the better.”
Ms Holding added that Ballarat was the pilot project for FYA. “This program would not be a program had Ballarat not stepped in , taken up this exciting journey with us and taken a risk,” she said. “You have actually created a bigger change; because of this partnership was a success this year we are going to expand to ten councils across Australia with the same program.”
For their part the three volunteers were all excited and thankful to nFYA and the City of Ballarat for the opportunity to volunteer overseas.
“I am going to work with children either in a day care centre or orphanage, just whatever needs to be done,” Leah said.
“It will be for about three months and I’m really excited to come back and tell everyone how great it’s been and I couldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for the Ballarat City Council and FYA. I’m really grateful for that.” “It’s a really great opportunity for me because I wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to travel and I‘m looking forward to making a difference in that community. I’m going to do marine conservation so I’ll be collecting data, restoring habitats and things along those lines, so I’m really excited to go,” said Andrew. And Darcy, “I’m doing the same program as Leah but I’m leaving on Tuesday and will be in Nepal for nearly four months. I’m really looking forward to going and then coming home to share my experiences.”