10 August 2016

Innovating for sustainability in Vietnam

Six of our students recently spent their winter break exploring Vietnam and developing innovative solutions to combat some of the world’s greatest sustainability challenges.

Our students teamed up with domestic and international students from other Australian Universities to learn about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) during a two week study tour in Vietnam. The 17 SDG’s cover a range of priority development areas including gender equality, ending poverty, improving health, sustainable cities, and climate change.

The study tour focused on exploring rural and urban life in Vietnam and visiting local projects supporting the Goals and addressing some of Vietnam’s development challenges.

The tour allowed our students to learn about primate and turtle conservation in Cuc Phuong National Park; meet women supported by microfinance projects in rural areas; visit a social enterprise preserving the practice of making traditional Do paper; and experience rural life with rice farmers in homestays.

“I met many inspiring individuals and social enterprises who were making positive impacts in the Vietnamese community. It was such a great opportunity to learn from these communities as well as develop cross-cultural collaborations for the Action Project. Meeting these people has inspired and motivated me to make a positive difference in the world.” Kimberly Yap, an Industrial Design student specialising in Service Design, said of the experience.

In small groups, our students completed an Action Project in support of the SDGs. These projects were a chance for them to apply their professional and technical skills in a global context, and create a project that has the potential to make a real impact on global development issues.

With her team, Kimberly Yap used creative design skills to develop EatKenko, an organisation promoting organic food and improved hygiene practices (Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production). Stephanie Cope, Chris McWilliam, and Celso Mai developed an improved technique for drying traditional Do paper (also Goal 12). Hannah Johnston worked with her team to develop a prototype of a rainwater filtration system (Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing); and Chris Moustakas’ team made a prototype of a biogas digester to improve rural communities’ access to clean energy (Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy).

The multi-disciplinary and practical nature of these projects provides students with a great immersive learning experience.

For Engineering (Electronic Product Design) student, Celso Mai, who goes so far as to say, “Going to Vietnam with Laika Academy was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. The people I met were fantastic as they were like-minded people studying in similar fields and were genuinely great people. The actions projects allowed us to apply techniques learnt during the study tour and also taught us about our limits and how to achieve within them which was challenging but a ton of fun. In the two weeks I was there I had learnt lessons, made great memories and friends that will all effortlessly last a lifetime”.

It wasn’t all hard work; the students enjoyed much of northern Vietnamese’s famous cuisine; played soccer and volleyball with rural community locals; and explored Hanoi’s highlights with Vietnamese students and youths.

The program was delivered in partnership with Laika Academy, a social enterprise that leads immersive educational programs focused around important social and environmental issues. It was co-facilitated by a recent graduate of our Master of International Development and the University’s Fair Trade Coordinator, Melanie Lazelle.

“RMIT has a fantastic commitment to sustainability, and it was great to be able to involve RMIT students in real-world sustainable development issues. What a highlight it was seeing all of the students dive into Vietnamese culture and grow their confidence and ability to work in an Asian context,” said Julian O’Shea, CEO and founder of Laika Academy, and facilitator on the study tour.

Applications are now open if you would like to get involved in one of the programs over the Summer break in Vietnam, Nepal and Thailand. As an extra enticer, there is also the potential of gaining course credit toward your degree.

For more information, visit Laika Academy or email our Fair Trade Coordinator Melanie Lazelle melanie.lazelle@rmit.edu.au.

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