19. Stephanie Livingstone

5 Mar

Stephanie Livingstone has an interesting theory. She considers education to be currency. It flows naturally that her investment into bettering the lives of individuals in the developing would be through teaching. At the age of 20 and with no formal training Steph realized that a love of teaching as a skillset could be more valuable than a merely financial contribution to combatting some of the challenges faced by the small Indonesian community of Sembalun on the small island of Lombok.

Steph’s induction into helping others came into its own in her local community. Volunteering in the St Vincent De Paul Society and serving as the Diamond Valley division’s Vice President set her apart from many people her age – volunteering in a soup van for the homeless as well as helping out at holiday programs and kids days. It was through this experience that Steph first learnt about UN Youth. UN Youth had at its core an educational purpose, and anyone that watched Steph in action will agree that she truly did justice to UN Youth’s tagline to “open young eyes to the world”.

Graduating quite quickly from facilitating workshops in classrooms to organising them Steph was delivered a significant challenge.  Reflecting on her experiences she describes the process as an opportunity to learn about teamwork, leadership and to channel her passions into real outcomes. Her passion for the plight of Asylum Seekers and Refugees influenced her choice of theme for two day long events for Year 9 students, attracting over 400 attendees. Steph remembers standing nervously in front of “a stadium of young faces” trying to start up a conversation which is often sensationalized by politicians and figures in the media. Regardless, Steph relished the challenge and has soared to great heights utilising the skills she has developed along the way.

Steph’s most recent and exciting project has developed since returning from a month long visit to Sembalun, Lombok in 2010. The village is located precariously at the base of a Volcano and has been the catalyst for a major realignment of her world view. Steph says that her “whole perspective on life was turned on its head”, returning she harboured “a resentment of Western Culture, stayed away from shopping and was unable to take part in consumer culture after watching friends of mine living on less than $4 a day in Lombok”. Personal friendships formed and a feeling of welcome have aided Steph’s ability to build her project in Sembalun. At home in Australia Steph continues to teach English classes by Skype with a classroom sitting around a mobile phone on loudspeaker.

Steph radiates positivity and enthusiasm. What’s the secret? “Focus on something that resonates with you, take opportunities to take that spark or frustration and do something about it” oh and another thing “you can never dream too large, get a team together and strive for ten times what you think is possible”.

Steph’s big dream for the future of the Skype program is for it to go National and has already begun building capacity here in Banyule conducting a pilot program at St Martins of Tours Primary School in Rosanna. This component will have primary schoolers taking part in letter-writing and creating storybooks that can be used by Steph as a teaching tool and foster a greater understanding of the lives of kids in Indonesia.

Steph and the Skype program are taking off but not without the support of her community. So far the program has had a positive reception in schools as teachers and students recognize the real opportunity to experience cultural exchange. Individuals are encouraged to contact Steph to register their interest in supporting the program, “Support comes in many forms but really it’s what people are capable of it could be money, or donation of resources but the more important thing is education and awareness”. Listening to her speak I am endeared to her cause, her moral obligation to enhance kids access to universal and basic education. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And we’re all hoping that simplicity spells her success.

Steph can be contacted at Stephanie_livo@hotmail.com

Words By:Anna Carrig


Photo by: Sean Porter


© Sean Porter 2011


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