Losing her voice didn’t leave a sour taste in the mouth of Master of Human Services student Heather Wentworth.
Instead the long-time primary school music teacher with a penchant for karaoke took stock of her situation and plotted a new career path that has her to India this week.
She is among 22 Griffith University students who arrived in Bangalore last week as part of a three-week study tour focusing on social injustice in some of the city’s poorest areas.
Facing challenges and finding solutions has been an important element of Heather Wentworth’s life since a cyst on a vocal cord led to the end of her music teaching career.
“I decided I had to educate myself back into a professional role,” Heather, a mature-aged student, recalls.
She subsequently applied for and secured a job as a disability integration officer with Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE, around the same time she had applied to do a Master of Human Services (Rehab Counselling) at Griffith University’s Logan campus.
“They (MSIT) were very excited to hear of my university plans. I wanted a study area where I could identify a skills shortage, a growth area where I wouldn’t struggle to get work.
“And it’s a role with a human side to it which is very important to me.
“I’d love to work in an international capacity, so this Indian experience will be wonderful. My thing is connecting people and the idea of doing it internationally is very exciting.”
Students from the School of Human Services and Social Work and the School of Public Health will be confronted with extreme poverty during the tour when they encounter street children, people with disabilities and some very underdeveloped communities.
The student group, which includes a mix of undergraduate, postgraduate and Masters candidates, will also get a unique insight into the quality of the lives of call centre employees, the scale of these operations, the long hours and its impact on families.
“It may be quite confronting for them,” said Dr Pat Dorsett, one of three Griffith lecturers leading the group.
“It will challenge students to think differently about other cultural backgrounds and will also generate for them a new understanding of refugees and migrants that come to Australia.”
Dr Julie Clark has developed the India Gateway Program since representatives of Christ University in Bangalore originally approached Griffith University to establish the collaboration.
She led the first tour group to India in 2010 and last year returned to volunteer her skills for a literacy program there.
She also developed a course, titled Working in International Communities, at Griffith. The UN’s Millennium Development goals, which focus on poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health and combating infectious disease, are a corner-piece of the new course and an integral focus of the current tour.
“We aim to make students more aware of community development and what it can achieve in terms of improved circumstances,” Dr Clark said.
“What students will witness and experience will be in stark contrast to the theory they learn in the classroom. This will help cement their understanding of social justice
“It’s quite enlightening, quite empowering and challenges them to understand their own country better. It signals a realignment of our values when confronted with the reality of life in a rapidly developing country.”