Anthony Samuels in PNG

Student volunteering in PNG

University of Newcastle Construction Management student Anthony Samuels recently spent a month in Papua New Guinea working on improving sanitation and hygiene within the coastal villages of Laukanu and Kelkel.

The trip was part of the SAGO Network, a volunteer team of design and development professionals focused on facilitating community development projects that bring together the skill and energy of designers, architects, engineers, development practitioners, students, local organisations and developing communities.

The student volunteers were selected through a competitive application process from fields of study including environmental engineering, architecture and construction management. Of the ten Australian students selected, Anthony was the only one to come from outside Sydney, as well as being the only Australian construction management student.

Laukanu and Kelkel are fishing villages that are only accessible by boat, located on the Huon Gulf of Morobe province. The students primarily lived with the families for whom they were designing the sanitation solutions.

Local empowerment and ownership were the key goals of the project, with villagers able to repeat the construction process and share knowledge with other members of the community in the absence of the SAGO network. The students focused on planning and design issues whilst balancing the practical concerns of managing a project on extremely limited budgets.

The project had its origins in an earlier 2011 project focusing on community funded pit toilets. This project however involved individual family groups who self-funded construction of the toilets and had greater input into the design process, with the students providing technical knowledge which was then passed on to the families they worked and lived with.

The project focused on Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) toilets and also investigated the possibility of implementing composting toilet solutions due to the high water table coastal environment of the villages involved.

“Volunteering in projects like this allows you to experience something completely different from your daily routines,” says Anthony “It illustrates to future employers that you have the ability to operate in diverse environments, and at the same time allows you to give something back to those who aren’t as privileged.”

Anthony advises that students considering participating in similar projects may be able to source funding through organisations like Ausaid, Rotary or through private sponsorship arrangements. If you would like to hear about this SAGO experience, or if you are an employer or NGO/NFP organisation with opportunities for students, Anthony can be contacted at

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