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Connecting children in Timor Leste and Australia

What’s it like to be a young person in different parts of the world? And what do kids actually want to learn about life in other countries?

These are some of the questions being answered through ChildFund Connect, a new educational program that links children in Australia with children in developing countries. It’s a way for kids to connect and learn with each other using video and other technologies to communicate.

Teaching kids about the world is a really important part of their education, but we’re finding through this program that what kids are taught is not necessarily what they’re most interested in.

We’ve visited schools in Australia, Vietnam, Laos and most recently Timor Leste, armed with pocket video cameras and microphones. At each school, the students decide what they want to know about their peers overseas and then film each other asking their questions. Across all countries the favourite topics have been food, sports, popular games and free-time activities. For example, Grace from Australia wanted to know: “What do children eat in Vietnam?” And Mai from Vietnam asked: “What do you do for fun in Australia?”

By using technology to record questions and answers, children have been able to discover how similar and different their lives are compared to young people in other parts of the world. As one participant from rural Australia put it: “I learnt that the Laos children are not that different from us.”

We began this program because we wanted more children to discover what life is like for someone of a similar age, living in a different country. It also gives children a chance to communicate what’s important to them and show us their lives in their own way. We might not use the language of child rights with kids this young, but essentially it’s child rights in action – children lead every step of the program, from what they choose to film to the design of the website.

They also provide feedback on the activities, which helps us ensure the program is working for them. As one girl said to me: “It is really cool to see the kids in Vietnam and Laos answering our questions.” And I really believe that the best kind of learning happens when kids use their own creativity and inquiring minds to find out about the world.

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