Friday, 6 July 2012

First impressions, lasting impressions

Alex Henderson, ACIAR Work Experience Student
Alex Henderson documents her 'impressions of ACIAR'
after a week of work experience
We can contact people across the world with mere clicks of a button and send humans into space... short of flying cars, this is the almost-magical future that was envisioned wistfully in bygone eras. Yet the science fiction wonder world is only bright on the surface, as for all our fantastic technology and medical science, there are still huge parts of the world that are impoverished, uneducated and starving. Surely something in that just can’t be right.

ACIAR exists to right that painful wrong, working to not just feed the world but make sure the world can feed itself. The founder’s motto is, appropriately:

Give a man a fish and you’ve fed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you’ve fed him for a lifetime’.
(Chinese proverb)

ACIAR runs projects that not only teach a man to fish, but to farm sustainably, manage crops and animals more efficiently and improve the livelihood of generations to come. 

Fishway construction on the Mekong, CC BY Jim Holmes
'Teach a man to fish and you've fed him for a lifetime'
A young boy assists with a 'fishway' construction on the Mekong river. Photograph by Jim Holmes.
This is my immediate impression, as a work experience kid wandering into this world I knew barely anything about, somewhat wide-eyed. This organisation is here to change the world, but not by bursting through the walls of poverty like some great foreign superhero saving that day, but as an assistant and teacher, using our technology and innovations to help those who need it and teaching them to use it and create their own.

ACIAR projects are based everywhere from Africa to the Pacific, in places of drought and tribal war, helping people sustain themselves for the future. These projects aim to not only take care of people by ensuring that they have enough to eat but by building up communities, rehabilitating prisoners and soldiers, encouraging equal involvement of women, and increasing education in these areas.

It is difficult to imagine, from my seat in the communications office as I sift through photographs and stories of these faraway places, what exactly it’s like on the ground. ACIAR has operatives all over the world and members of the organisation are setting off in all directions to observe their projects and prospects. This week alone there are about six different expeditions launching out to China, Africa, South-East Asia and beyond. A tremendous amount of work both in thought, on paper, and on the ground, in places of need across the planet, spanning years, but always with brilliant results as are seen glowing from the pages of reports and Partners magazines, which I have been assisting with this week.

My five days here have merely offered a snapshot into a huge and intricate world very removed from the world that we know here in cushioned Canberra. It is eye-opening and thought-provoking, and ultimately uplifting to know that in a world that’s a bit of a mess there are people helping each other to clean it up.

Alex Henderson, ACIAR work experience student


  1. Hi Alex,
    Your blog has been well said. Sometimes we can't do much but the little we do does go a long way to making the world a better place.
    PNG Country Office

  2. Great post Alex. Thanks for putting your impressions of ACIAR's work and the experience of your time with us into words!!


  3. Hey Alex! What a charming writer you are. Thanks for the great read.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Alex. My favourite bit was the last sentence, because that's what it's all about, isn't it? Helping each other. Well said :)

  5. I am very moved by your write up buddy, thanks for the post.


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