The Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) programme was launched in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) on Thursday.
Two volunteers — Nicolas Harris and Dr. Annie Egan — have taken up their assignments as the first volunteers under the programme.
Two more volunteers are expected to arrive in November and a further two in January, Sally Brokensha, regional director of Austraining International, said at a launching ceremony.
Harris will be the Environmental and Sustainable Livelihood Officer at the National Park Authority while Egan will be the Renewable Energy Programme Officer at the Community College.
Each volunteer will serve for one year.
“We are just delighted that the programme has been so very warmly welcomed to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and I know both Nick and Annie are both really keen to get started on their assignments next week and looking forward to tackling some of the issues of climate change that are confronting your very beautiful island,” Brokensha said at the launching in Kingstown.
Meanwhile, Minister of National Mobilisation,
Maxwell Charles welcomed the volunteers to country.
“I want to applaud the Australian government in this venture in extending a hand of help and expertise in the different areas. This, I know, is going to enhance the national development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
He spoke of Australian aid to countries around the world and said it has made “a positive contribution to poverty reduction and sustainable development and also in enhancing cross-cultural tolerance and understanding”.
Meanwhile, Egan told I-Witness News that the Community College has been trying to develop a renewable energy programme.
“So I am going to be developing resources, organising courses and also looking at renewable energy in St. Vincent and decide how best the college can serve in bringing that to fruition,” she said.
Egan further said she has worked in energy in Australia for about nine years.
She recently completed a doctorate in energy efficiency and has a master’s degree in renewable energy.
“So I am very keen on both sides, both demand and supply side of renewable energy.”
Harry, who has volunteered in Mongolia, told I-Witness News that he was very excited about coming to SVG.
Regarding SVG, he said: “It is an exciting place to be. I don’t think that any volunteers have been here before and this is exactly what I want to do with my work — help with national parks and climate change and stuff.
“It’s right up my alley. And who will pass up this opportunity to come to St. Vincent?”
He told I-Witness News that while it is important to preserve national parks, one must also ensure that people earn a livelihood from them.
Harris studied ecology in Canberra and worked for the government there for five years doing regulations and national parks planning.
Austraining International is a South Australian government owned specialist project management organisation established in 1991.
It mobilises about 600 volunteers annually to 26 countries and has regional offices in seven locations.
There are also Australian volunteers in Dominica, Suriname, the Dominican Republic, Belize, and two will soon be placed at the CARICOM Secretariat in Guyana.
The focus in the Caribbean is the impact on climate change and disaster risk reduction, as well as economic resilience.