Two Fijian students with disabilities, identified and supported by Australian volunteers, recently gained employment with a five-star resort. This is a momentous achievement for the two young women who attribute securing their first jobs to traineeships they completed, thanks to an initiative of the Australian Volunteers for Development (AVID) program.
Through their employment, Shamane and Afrana, have gained independence, are able to make valuable financial contributions to their families’ incomes, and are providing inspiration to other students with special needs.
The resort, Radisson Blu, is so impressed by the work of Shamane and Afrana (who were paired with members of hotel staff during training) that they have committed to support the initiative into the future. This is a first step in providing employment pathways for students of Fiji’s 17 special schools, who until now had few opportunities once they completed their education.
Australian volunteer Kristyn Bashford was part of the team who helped get the traineeships off the ground. “We listened to the head teachers who commented, ‘We have nowhere for our children to go from here’” she says.
After being approached by the Australian volunteers, the resort was quick to identify the potential of the opportunity and decided to offer three-to-six month internships for selected students.
“It really excited us” said Kristyn “because in our minds that’s what we wanted – a future.”
The traineeship initiative is part of a broader Allied Health Cluster project that has placed 23 Australian volunteers in Fiji in partnership with Fiji’s Ministry for Education since 2013. The long-term goal of the volunteer cluster is to deliver high quality education to every Fijian student living with disability so that they may better participate in the community.
Australians with an array of complementary skills in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology and special education have worked together with Ministry staff at a regional level, rather than in individual schools. This holistic approach to special schooling means all special schools in Fiji can benefit from the work of the volunteers.
One focus of the cluster has been the introduction of Individual Education Plan (IEP) templates at each school. Mandated by the Ministry for Education, these new templates ensure that more than 1,000 students with a disability will soon have individualised learning goals relevant to their needs.
It was through the introduction of the IEP that Shamane and Afrana were identified as students with potential for traineeships at Radisson Blu.