Oaktree Corporate Tour Returns Inspired!
1 September 2004 at 1:09 pm
When Hugh Evans, the founder of the Oaktree Foundation and Young Australian of the Year, took a group of corporate mentors to South Africa recently his aim was to inspire them! But what really happened he says is awesome!
Evans who has made numerous trips to South Africa with young people his own age had never taken a corporate study tour before and says the experience has blown him out of the water.
Ten professionals including a lawyer, an accountant, a photographer and a former UN worker spent two weeks looking at projects that Oaktree, Australia’s first youth-run international aid organisation, is supporting as well as future projects.
Evans says his aim was to educate the group about issues of global poverty and injustice in a tangible way.
What happened he says is that they are so much more fired up than he could have ever expected, returning home with not just plans to mentor young people interested in helping South Africa but also initiating projects using their own expertise through Oaktree.
He says plans for a young entrepreneurs program; a volunteer freight option to get food overseas and a whole range of proposals have been delivered to him within days of their returning home.
For Hugh Evans there were two unexpected and defining moments on the trip. The first was when the group visited an orphanage at Kwa Nyuswa where a white cement and bare walled room housed 13 AIDS affected orphans sleeping on just three beds. The dedicated carer told the group they survive on just $10 a fortnight.
Evans says he was shattered and found himself brought to tears and his plans of strategic donations went out the window as he and members of the group put some money together to buy food.
He says while it was devastating he also saw the possibility for hope. The second moment came when they visited the Community Resource Centre that Oaktree is building.
He says he was encouraged by the whole-of-community involvement in the project that gave him enormous pride.
He says when you are back in Australia it is hard to comprehend why things take so long to happen in places like South Africa but he and the group saw first hand how the building project brought empowerment to the local people.
He says the study tour group also came away with a great hope of investing in the future.
Melbourne Lawyer, Leanne O’Donnell from Middletons, describes the tour as a roller coaster ride of emotion. The hands on trip saw her helping out at the World Change Academy helping a young American called Joe White research funding opportunities.
O’Donnell says she was heartened to find that her legal and life skills are transferable and the possibilities that work involving young lawyers in Australia can possibly go international.
She describes the tour as life-enhancing and as a mentor is even more inspired to not just talk about the experience but continue to be involved in making change in the places they visited.
Having to kill her own dinner and share in the family life of a Zulu village are indelibly etched in her memory.
The experiences of the ten corporate mentors will be shared across the country in coming months. Oaktree’s Dinners for Life national event on September 10 will no doubt include some great dinner party travelling stories!
For more information check out the Dinners for Life website at www.dinners for life.com.