UN volunteer award and grant for ACU staffer

Friday, 31 July 2009

15 July 2009: Life will be made a little easier for communities in South Vietnam thanks to the hard work of Australian Catholic University (ACU) staff member Elizabeth Tracey, and a $20,000 grant from the United Nations Volunteers (UNV).

A member of staff in the School of Education at the University’s Canberra Campus, Elizabeth has long been an advocate for sustainable living in South Vietnam, and was recently acknowledged with the United Nations 2009 Volunteer Award.

Away from her responsibilities at work, Elizabeth has contributed much of her time to ‘Global Compact’, a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations with principles of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.

Her passion for improving the quality of life for villagers in Vietnam began on a trip to the remote South many years ago, when together with a friend, Elizabeth documented the stories of 60 families living in isolated areas.

The ensuing results demonstrated high degrees of commonality. For example, all participants lived in remote areas and were isolated from medical aid. It was not uncommon for males to have died at a very early age as a result of disease, the true cause of which is unknown to this day, resulting in women having to care for the rest of the family. 

Since then, Elizabeth and a number of Vietnamese volunteers including doctors, teachers and interpreters have been liaising and working through ‘Global Compact’ to ensure the sustainability of these remote communities. 

“I am a big believer in sustainability within the country and its communities,” Elizabeth said.

“The most problematic issues associated with these communities are ones of accessibility. It is currently a 21 hour journey by boat and four-wheel drive to reach the outskirts of these villages, most of which are built within craters left by the bombing during the war.

“With the help of this grant, the remote communities in South Vietnam will benefit from the inclusion of sewerage systems, running water and accessibility to surrounding villages.”

Through implementing these systems, the Vietnamese people will be enabled with the skills needed to create sustainable living conditions for their families and communities.

“These people are extremely gracious, selfless and happy,” Elizabeth said. “We do not wish to change their lives or infringe on their culture in any way other than to provide support and empower them in what they do.”