Connect : Connect November 2013
Our Featured Host Organisation: The Gift of Freedom and Independence Host Organisation: SENESE Inclusive Education Support Services Location: Samoa Host Organisation SENESE is changing the lives of children living with disability in Samoa by improving their access to inclusive education. Former Queenslander Donna Lene volunteered in a different Samoan disability organisation in 1990 and since spent two decades in Samoa supporting the development of inclusive education. Now Director of SENESE Inclusive Education Support Services, Donna married and is settled in Samoa with her husband and three children. "I am so proud to be able to engage with both my Samoan and Australian sides to make signifcant impacts in the lives of people with disabilities, their families, their schools and the communities they are included in,” Donna says. SENESE’s mission is to establish and strengthen a national model of inclusive education for children with disabilities and their families in Samoa. In this way they provide both overarching guidance and practical support in partnership with educational and health organisations. The Australian Volunteers program has been supporting SENESE in their work since 2006, with 13 volunteers over the last six and a half years. According to Donna, in that time SENESE has grown from supporting fve students with disabilities with a staff of three to supporting over 300 students and proudly boasting a staff of close to 70. "The volunteers have shared their expertise and gained valuable insight into the Samoan culture," she says. “Each individual volunteer has contributed to such amazing capacity development in areas of inclusive education, occupational therapy, audiology, speech therapy, disability empowerment and specifc disability support.” Donna says that most of the volunteers still have a relationship with SENESE and have revisited since fnishing their assignments, or have gained jobs that still link them with the organisation. "The relationships established through volunteering can last a lifetime and weave much deeper than the length of the actual assignment," she says. "Clearly and unquestionably the volunteers that have had assignments at SENESE are of the highest quality and came for the very right reasons.” Devine and Lene are just two of many children with disabilities supported by SENESE to be included in regular schools with appropriate levels of support. "Achievements such as these may not appear much by ordinary standards, however refecting on these achievements makes the work we do in implementing inclusive education for children with disabilities, worthwhile,” Donna says.
Connect July 2013
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