Disability Empowerment Skills Exchange

(upbeat music, talking and laughter) It all began when I went to the Pacific Disability Forum Regional Conference in 2015.

And I was there just to observe and listen to a whole heap of speakers from disabled person's organisations across the Pacific.

They all were saying there's a big gap in the development of the women within these organisations.

So that sort of planted the seed in thinking about how the Australian volunteers program could help.

(upbeat music) The goal is we want to improve the lives of the people with disabilities in the countries we're sending our Australian volunteers to.

So this specific pilot is looking at improving the leadership skills in the disabled person's organisations where the team are going to be based.

and they run lots of different programs.

but also to hopefully develop an inclusive model that could feed into international volunteering programs, really to enable more people with disabilities to participate and benefit from development work.

I'm immensely excited about going to Fiji.

I'm also really nervous.

I haven't been to many developing countries on my own, but I know it's going to be a great experience and I'm going to learn a lot of new things.

I like to feel like I'm in the country that I'm in, so experiencing the food, meeting the locals.

I feel that I'll be able to grow and learn and just experience something that's out of my comfort zone.

To get more insight into how other people with disability live everyday life without the opportunity that we have here.

I hope to become a stronger team player and it will be good for my own personal development.

(relaxed music, talking, laughter) The first few days were spent settling in.

anything else you need? What else do we need Connie, what other food? and getting to know the local surroundings in Suva.

Where I come from is another identity and when we say where we come from.

Learning about Fijian culture and language and what it's like to have a disability and live in the Fijiian culture.

Bula! They're so surprised! It was quite unusual to have a team of five women with disabilities mobilising quite independently around, so they attracted a lot of interested people.

I got a really nice greeting, it's just hard when you're holding a cane and they want to shake your hand! People such as taxi drivers and accommodation staff, shop keepers, were so alarmed and surprised and then so welcoming and you could see how their mindset was changing from their interactions with the team.

Bula.

Bula! Once the DESE team were selected, we sent their CVs over to the Pacific Disability Forum and they assessed their individual skill sets and then matched each DESE officer with a disabled person's organisation.

The skills that they will be able to share to build the capacity of our members in Fiji, we are really excited.

And having met the team so far I think we have a great team.

So Anna, how do you find members? For me, it was putting the talk into action.

You say it, you talk about it, but you never really know what it means until you go to practice it.

The difficult thing I would say is not knowing what I can offer.

That fear of 'can I contribute?' But once I got in, you just work with what you have and try and identify the gap and see how you can contribute.

Whilst the team were there primarily to build the leadership skills of their local counterparts, they also exchanged other skills and these were things like governance, communication strategies, service delivery and how to manage external relations.

And then we'll pass it to Ben to say a prayer.

The DESE project finished with a two day workshop called 'Onwards and Upwards'.

It brought together 25 participants.

I want you to make a list of your services, your programs, your initiatives.

What you do.

It was a really good opportunity to bring everyone together and to share information and knowledge, not just from the DESE team, but between the disabled person's organisations as well.

I really enjoyed it.

It imparted a lot of knowledge in me, especially communication.

It gives me boldness and they also taught me how to communicate with our superiors.

When you chat with someone in similar experiences or gone through situations, you get to see what is possible and what things are out there that you don't know.

I think there were things that we were able to impart and there were things that we also learnt.

I learnt to be patient.

I learnt to deal with what resources you have and make the most of it.

You don't need a lot of resources to be happy and to make things work.

The biggest achievement was definitely we've planted the seed, for the DPOs here in Fiji to take it on further.

I feel that we made an impact not only with the disabled person's organisations but also Suva as a whole.

The impact of the DESE pilot has really gone beyond what we ever expected especially with change in mindset and knowledge towards people with disabilities.

(laughter) There is a lot of interest from people that have heard about DESE so we're really hoping we can get some local partners involved and we can trial the model and see how it works across different sectors and countries.

Source: Youtube