Helen Swain

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Armidale is a place that I keep coming back to and I wonder why - probably it is to do with me doing secondary ed in Armidale and then going away and coming back to do teacher training in Armidale, going away and then coming back to study at UNE. going away and maintaining contacts in Armidale. UNE has afforded me the opportunity of knowing all of you. There is an interconnectedness already within the group. I am a teacher ; initially I taught as an infants school teacher in Tamber Springs and from there I moved into Gunnedah. I met a guy who was going off to be a volunteer in the pacific and I always had it in the back of my mind to do it and I remember contacting mum to say Mum I am off to Africa and she said I will get your father to ring you back straight away, but they ended up being supportive of the idea - Overseas Service Bureau now Australian Volunteers International - Huge cohort of Oz teachers being sent to Botswana - growing quickly and achieved independence and diamonds and there were funds to set up schools. I have just met Shirley and we were just beginning a relationship so off I went and I was appointed to a teacher training college in Lobatse, close to Bophutatswana , an independent homeland of South Africa at that time. I was appointed to teach PE. I taught every class in the college and interestingly we had no balls to bounce and we made balls out of newspaper and pantyhose. I developed a love of Africa as I had opportunities to travel to other countries. I wanted the experience of living in another country and traveling. You became part of an international community and I am really interested in networking and I can contribute my interest and abiltiy in networking. I have contacts in lots of places and I am fascinated by it.

My father had a language of his own ; I was brought up in a farming community with its own language for terms.

I returned to Africa again with Shirley in 1998 as another vollie with AVI to Mozambique as EL Teachers - we were sent to northern Mozambique to Nampula and mosquitoes are incredibly powerful creatures and we didn't see out the two years so Shirl and I ended up going to Germany and Shirley and I decided that we were going to be away from OZ for two years and despite me having contracted cerebral malaria, so we ended up teaching in Romania for twelve months. What am I interested in - At the moment I am teaching at the TAFE - part time position that is not particularly secure and I teach in a range of programs - teaching Sudanese English, indigenous youth, programs for women who are trying to enter workforce, teach humanities subjects to the equivalent of yr 10 and tertiary prep course for year 12. Teaching a course in Human rights - the power of stories and learning and the power of oral language and it is having contact with the Sudanese who have a very strong oral culture - a lot of the women that i have taught form Sudan are pre literate and this has challenged me teaching English as I have never taught pre-literate before. Gong right back to teaching people how to write. Trying to overcome the wretched barrier of filling in forms - We developed vocab around shopping ,money where to shop.

I was initially employed to teach Sudanese that came to work in abattoir- originally occupational health and safety and they had to learn all different procedures. From my understanding having been involved with Sudanese for a few years the first thing they want to do is get a few dollars and then the money is sent back to Sudan or Uganda - out idea of savings - forget these guys have got families with incredible needs that they are trying to support. Now what I am seeing three years later, I want an education, I don't want to work in an abattoir forever . they are sacrificing quite a bit to embark on studies. it is exciting that they are able to consider themselves first. I am not quite so sure that I can condone. this one guy is particularly interested in going to military college in order to learn how to solve the conflict in Sudan - maybe we can eventually stick something in there and think about other paths. In Tamworth in January last year the civil leaders of that Town were making some horrible decisions about whether Tamworth can be a refugee community. One of the guys in class googled his name and it came up in an article from UK in the Telegraph - wanted to know what "chasing our sheila's" meant. Interested in Cultural diversity and experiencing that - can be problematic in that we can't all live in harmony - exploring difference and accepting difference that interests me.

I have a rural background and I keep coming back to Land - I have a small acreage at Ogunbil.

Since my mother has died all sorts of stories have come out of the closet. I had the opportunity last weekend of spending time with my uncle who is 99 and was a teacher and still is a teacher. Knows about military history - the learning that I have gained from this old man and I have had a couple of weekends with him i the past two years 0 he is engaging at a contemporary level as well. In relation to what we are doing, connectedness across stories, cultures and communities, exciting and empowering and could engender a pathway that we haven't yet thought about. I am not sure where I fit in and where I can contribute I don't know to what extent. I would like to think that there is a place for me.

Instrument maker in Botswana who was rebuilding an old organ and we had an impromptu concert and learned violin from a very accomplished german woman. I am really interested in music and a major in ethnomusicology - music as part of culture - know about the music of Kiribati - use of music in ceremony and life cycles.

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