The Education Volunteer Award recognises the commitment and impact of a volunteer on one of our inclusive education programmes over the past year.
- Anju Dhital, Nepal: Empowering a New Generation of Adolescent Girls with Education (ENGAGE)
- Hnin Hnin Wai, Myanmar: Inclusive education
- Johan Brusten, Myanmar: Inclusive education
- Mahesh Sah Kanu, Nepal: ENGAGE
- Pooja Regmi, Nepal: ENGAGE
- Prakriti Dhungel, Nepal: ENGAGE
Winner: Anju Dhital
Nepal: Empowering a New Generation of Adolescent Girls with Education (ENGAGE)
Volunteering on the ENGAGE project in rural Nepal, Anju empowers children with visual impairments to benefit from access to quality education opportunities, by mentoring young people, training local facilitators in braille, and motivating parents and community volunteers to support children with disabilities. As someone with a visual impairment herself, Anju’s work in the community is also challenging negative stereotypes surrounding people with disabilities.
As part of VSO’s COVID-19 response, Anju worked to make sure that children with visual impairments – and their parents – weren’t left behind, by sharing essential information in alternative formats, such as audio recordings and braille translations. Throughout the pandemic, she’s been keeping in touch with the children she mentors across the Sarlahi district, following up on their health and wellbeing, and making sure their parents are well-equipped to support them.
Hnin Hnin Wai
Myanmar: Inclusive education
As a volunteer on our inclusive education programme in Myanmar, Hnin Hnin supports marginalised children from minority and conflict-affected areas to benefit from a quality education, by engaging with both families and community organisations to improve young people’s participation in school.
As part of our COVID-19 response, Hnin Hnin worked remotely to continue supporting 133 schools and providing technical assistance to teachers, meaning that pupils were able to return to a safe and healthy learning environment when restrictions were lifted. She also played a leading role in coordinating the distribution of home-based local language learning kits to children during school closures, so supporting young people’s continued learning during the pandemic.
Myanmar: Inclusive education
As an international volunteer working in Myanmar, Johan supported the Ta’ang Education Institute (TEI), which provides education opportunities in northern Shan State – an isolated area where children are at increased risk of dropping out of school due to conflict and remoteness. Johan worked to develop the TEI’s capacity for strategic planning, improve teacher education, implement new monitoring and evaluation systems, and strengthen engagement with remote communities.
Johan has continued to support the TEI remotely during the pandemic, providing technical expertise on how to respond to COVID-19, as well as working on a project that supports out-of-school children in Ta’ang communities.
Mahesh Sah Kanu
Mahesh volunteers as a facilitator and braille trainer as part of the ENGAGE programme in the Parsa district. He supports children with visual impairments to learn braille, as well as running special classes for children to prepare them to enroll in formal education. By empowering these young people to learn, understand and communicate effectively, Mahesh is helping to challenge traditional beliefs that people with visual impairments can’t live full and fulfilling lives.
When movement was restricted as part of COVID-19 measures, Mahesh regularly followed up on children’s health and wellbeing by phone, text message, and via community volunteers. He translated essential materials into braille, sharing these with children and their parents, so ensuring they received accurate information about how to stay safe and well during the pandemic.
Pooja is supporting girls with hearing impairments – alongside their parents, community volunteers and facilitators – to learn sign language, so breaking down the communication barriers that can leave young people isolated and excluded from education. Alongside providing sign language training, Pooja is developing inclusive learning materials, as well as supporting children in informal classes to prepare them to enrol in formal education. She also acts as a mentor for the girls she teaches, offering emotional and pastoral support to help them build their own self-confidence.
In response to COVID-19 and the national lockdown, Pooja developed accessible information for children and their families, including sign language videos focusing on reducing infection and maintaining good emotional and mental health during the pandemic. Alongside making sure essential messaging was accessible to all, Pooja empowered community volunteers across the region to become more confident supporting people with disabilities, as well as keeping in touch with families to help some of the region’s most marginalised girls cope with COVID-19.
As a national volunteer on the ENGAGE project in Nepal, Prakriti works to support children with hearing and speech impairments to improve their communication skills, in order to benefit from education opportunities. Alongside teaching sign language to children and their parents, Prakriti has developed inclusive learning materials and trained the Nepal team and community volunteers, so reaching many more marginalised young people. She also acts as a mentor to children with hearing impairments, supporting them to develop their life skills and self-confidence.
To address the specific challenges that children with disabilities are facing during the pandemic, Prakriti has developed sign language videos to ensure that essential information is accessible to all. She has created videos focusing on COVID-19 awareness and handwashing techniques, as well as translating education materials so children with hearing impairments can keep learning, even when schooling is interrupted.