Talking with Jonathan Mansfield

In our new Q & A series, Engage Newcastle will be talking with people in our community who are making a difference.

Third year Environmental Science and Management student Jonathan Mansfield participated in a community development program, working in a village in West Timor earlier this year.

We talked to Jonathan about his experiences and his life in Newcastle:

Tell us about your background and what drew you into your area of study?

I was born in Newcastle and have lived here for most of my life except for a few years living in the UK and travelling in Asia and South America.

My decision to pursue my degree at the University of Newcastle came from of my belief in the importance to protect the environment and to aid improvement in life outcomes for the world’s population.

Have your studies changed your point of view or reaffirmed something you already felt/knew? In what way?

Sustainable outcomes must be sought in all aspects of life if we are all to live a long and happy existence on Earth. Studying how this can be achieved has highlighted the worldwide issue of overpopulation. To combat this and to aid in the life improvement for the world’s developing population, the education of women is thoroughly imperative to achieve positive outcomes for all.

Who or what do you draw on for inspiration?

Alan Weisman, Richard Dawkins, Geraldine Cox, any David Attenborough documentary, and the How the Earth was Made series.

What has been the most unexpected aspect of your study experience so far?

That in every single lecture we learn something new that provides a greater understanding as to how we can achieve more positive outcomes relating to environmental protection.

You recently went overseas as part of your study. Can you tell us a little about how that opportunity came about?

In September 2013, the Faculty of Science and Information Technology contacted students regarding the opportunity to participate in a community development program in West Timor, Indonesia. Its aim was to work with the community in a rural village in order to provide some basic necessities they otherwise wouldn’t have. Some of the tasks included the provision of, and housing for, a water purification system, carts to provide the means to transport that water to their homes, and educating the inhabitants of the village on important issues such as education, sanitation and waste disposal. By participating in the project students also completed the Organisational Placement third year subject in their relevant degree.

img5 Image: Jonathan Mansfield

What did you think was in store and did your actual experience vary from those expectations?

All the students expected the conditions in the village to be quite basic, however it was exciting to know that I was able to participate in a program that could have a dramatic effect on the lives of the community involved. Once there, it was evident that although the project itself was going to be challenging, the villagers would do their very best to make us feel welcome and comfortable.

What do you hope will be achieved by what you did overseas and what did you achieve or realise on a personal level?

Most importantly, I was hoping that the project would aid in the provision of potable drinking water for the local community. As they had no running water or electricity, it was evident that addressing this most basic need would benefit them significantly. It also opened a discussion with the community about the importance of education and sanitation for long term improvement in health and well-being.

Personally, a greater understanding of Bahasa Indonesia (the official language of Indonesia)  helped me communicate much better with the community throughout the project. Also, seeing the smiles every day on the villagers’ faces made me realise that a simple life can also be a happy life if you adopt a positive attitude.

What has been your proudest achievement to date?

After spending the majority of my time after high school focusing on travel by any means necessary, I am proud of my ability to step back and study something meaningful at university. I think anyone educating themselves on issues which can lead to positive results for the environment and people should be proud.

What are you passionate about and what would be your dream project?

I’m passionate about food, travel, soccer and the universal right to equality and basic needs being met. My dream project would be any project which focuses on the education of women and helps to break down gender inequality issues.

What does the future hold?

If you know, please let me know. I hope to continue my studies and following that participate in, and hopefully lead additional development projects in Indonesia which provide sustainable long-lasting outcomes.

In the short term, I am involved in an annual fundraiser for an orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It is taking place on the 16 March at Hamilton North Bowling Club. It will provide funds for equipment for the orphanage, which cares for children with disabilities and HIV.

For more information about this event, visit the National Borey for Infants and Children Fundraiser page on Facebook.

img4 Image: Jonathan Mansfield

What’s your favourite Newcastle neighbourhood?

I would have to say Islington is a favourite due to its ever-changing nature and close proximity to the city, beaches, decent restaurants and pubs whilst still being affordable.

Can you name a local hero?

I think that there is a multitude of local heroes. Quite often there is a silence surrounding them as they spend the majority of their time volunteering locally or internationally for the betterment of lives of others. I think anyone who is considerate enough to donate their time to a worthy cause deserves to be named a hero in order to demonstrate that a selfless action can provide much satisfaction.

What do you look forward to doing most in Newcastle in summer?

Spending as much time around the water as possible, be it at the beach or lake. It’s also a great time to spend anywhere outdoors with friends over the extended break, especially if the sun is shining and the beers are flowing.

And winter?

Playing soccer as the season runs all through winter. Also spending time in a restaurant or pub with mates catching up for a few cold ones somewhere warm.

Where and what was the last greatest meal you had in Newcastle?

I am forever a fan of Barrio 2304 in Mayfield. For consistently good quality and great value tapas you can’t go past them.

Where is your favourite getaway destination?

Treachery Camp at Seal Rocks is the best place for a quick break. Some great beaches and quiet spots all so close together make for a nice chilled out weekend.

Tell us your number one Newcastle insiders’ tip.

For a great walk on a weekday when everyone is at work head to Burwood Road near Dudley and walk the Yuelarbah Track to Glenrock Lagoon. An oasis so close to the city and you will have it all to yourself.

Image: Jonathan Mansfield


Do you know someone in our region making a difference? Let us know!

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One Response

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  1. Louise Barnes
    Feb 21, 2014 - 07:32 AM

    I am Jonathan’s proud aunt. He had to make lots of tough choices as a young adult but I have watched him develop into a motivated, responsible man with a passion to provide a better life for people in third world countries. Congratulations!


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