Going the extra mile to help young Indigenous people

As part of Viva Energy’s partnership with the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy (NASCA), 18 volunteers from Viva Energy have dedicated over 150 hours of their time to help at NASCA events. This has included Aimee Ilano’s amazing individual contribution of 82 hours to support their programs*.

NASCA Remote

 

When Viva Energy announced its three-year partnership with NASCA in 2018, Aimee leapt at the chance to be involved.

Established in 1995, NASCA is a not-for-profit organisation that helps strengthen community development and cultural pride and resilience among young Indigenous people. It runs programs designed to encourage school attendance and engagement, build confidence and self esteem and foster the development of cultural identity.

“I was excited to get involved,” she explains. “I love children, and having grown up in the Philippines where there is a great sense of community I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to feel that again.”

Initially Aimee helped supervise NASCA students on excursions, but she felt she could contribute in a more meaningful way. The school in Western Sydney that offers NASCA’s Resilience Program also proved difficult to regularly get to from work, so she looked into other options and found the NASCA Remote Program*.

Intense and rewarding

“The Remote Program is eight days in total,” says Aimee. “We spent a day of induction, which included development activities and cultural awareness training in Sydney, before flying out to Alice Springs.”

“That was my first time visiting Central Australia. There was another two days of preparation in Alice Springs before a three-hour drive to the community where we were to spend the next five days.”

The twenty NASCA volunteers were split up and sent to nine different communities. “Our role was to provide classroom support at the local school, one-on-one mentoring in literacy and numeracy, and supervising the before and after school sports program.”

“I was assigned to the high school students, helping them with maths. That was fortunate because maths is probably my strength! I spent the five days mentoring the students one-on-one, and we also conducted fun activities outside the classroom, focused on the theme “My heart”.

Back to school

Aimee is full of praise for the staff at the remote school. “It’s different to school as you or I might know it. The teachers have to be flexible, adjusting the lessons depending on how many kids are there and how engaged they are. It was an eye-opening experience.”

The kids look forward to each visit from NASCA volunteers. Three times a year, NASCA brings a different learning experience to these remote communities with activities designed to maintain the kids’ interest while also encouraging them to learn. “The orange NASCA shirt means a lot to them. It represents continuity and they get excited whenever they see it, regardless of who’s wearing it.”

Family, love and trust

Aimee describes her NASCA Remote Program experience in three words: family, love and trust. One moment in particular sums-up all three:

“We were having a community barbecue after school with activities that included face-painting. One of the young mothers wanted her baby’s face painted. The kids surrounded us, watching, but of course the baby didn’t like it. She was crying, but all the kids gathered around and tried to comfort the baby and her mother, being very supportive. The sense of kinship in the community is huge. It was great to feel part of the community for that one week, but it’s also the continuous presence and support that NASCA brings into these communities that is really having the impact.”

The opportunity

Aimee can’t help but be struck by the idea that Australians generally love traveling and exploring different cultures and we’ve been given a huge opportunity, having one of the most interesting and oldest cultures in our own backyard. “There is so much we can learn from Indigenous culture, such as the importance of family, their community and their knowledge of the country. Developing a deeper understanding will improve our connection with Indigenous people. I’m proud that Viva Energy recognises this and is taking positive steps through the programs we support and also through our Reconciliation Action Plan.”

*Aimee Ilano volunteered with NASCA in 2019. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, NASCA’s remote program is temporarily closed to volunteers in 2020.

Learn more about Viva Energy’s Community Program and commitment to its Reconciliation Action Plan.

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