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By Nisha Labade
26 April 2023

We work in 190 countries around the world, to improve the lives of vulnerable children everywhere. But here at UNICEF Australia we have made a special commitment to our nearest neighbours, to support critical, underfunded programs across the Asia Pacific region.  

These are a series of sustainable, long-term development programs that work in partnership with governments, local community organisations and the private sector, to target issues of inequity for every child in need. 

Here are three ways we support children a little closer to home... 

1. In Papua New Guinea, inclusive early childhood education supports every child to learn 

children play in Papua New Guinea
Philandrah (left) hugging her mum and little brother, outside her inclusive early childhood education centre classroom where children are using a UNICEF-supported hand-washing station (right), in Morobe province, Papua New Guinea.
© UNICEF Australia/2023/Graham. © UNICEF PNG/2023.

 For most of her little life, Philandrah, six, was unable to learn in a formal setting with other children her age. Philandrah is deaf and unable to speak, and until recently, she didn’t have access to inclusive education.  

Philandrah’s mum, Linda, a high-school teacher in Papua New Guinea (PNG), understands the importance of an early childhood education to ensure little one’s can thrive into the future. She told our teams she was deeply saddened that she could not send Philandrah to school. But when the family recently moved to Morobe province for work, they were delighted to find out that her younger son Philandray's early childhood education centre, supported by UNICEF Australia, was inclusive and accessible to children just like Philandrah, with teachers who have the knowledge and skills to support every child.  

"I was just so happy to know that she could start to learn. But this is just the beginning of her journey. I have the belief and the hope that with the right education she can become something and someone on her own and find work."

Philandrah’s mum

Thanks to our supporters*, Philandrah has been given access to a life-changing education. She is improving every day, learning to write, lip reading and communicating through basic signs. She is making friends and building stronger relationships with her loved ones. 

A fair and inclusive world for every child

2. In Laos, parenting programs are positively changing the way children develop 

Nalee and her five-year-old son Phamee,  engage in a holistic parenting session in Laos
Nalee and her five-year-old son Phamee (right), engage in a holistic parenting session at home and in community (right) in Sepon District, Laos with UNICEF Australia and UNICEF Laos staff, UNICEF Australia Ambassador Callan McAuliffe and parenting program village facilitators.
© UNICEF Laos/2022.

In a rural community in Sepon District in Laos, young mum Nalee, 24, is participating in the UNICEF-supported parenting program so she can best support her little boy Phamee, five, and her baby on the way, to thrive. 

Nalee reflected, “Both my husband and I have started singing to our baby in the womb and know now how important it is to get the baby and my older son a birth certificate for their future. We also used to smack our child when he was naughty, but now we have learnt it is better for his well-being to calmly talk to him and help him with his problems.” Nalee said she has already seen improvement in Phamee’s behaviour in taking this approach, but also in their relationship between her, her husband and her child.  

"Supporting parents and caregivers to implement nurturing care practices in their child’s early years can lead to better cognitive, physical, and social development outcomes and positively impact the family, community, and even the country."

Photo of Charlotte Graham
Charlotte Graham
International Programs Manager, UNICEF Australia

Thanks to our supporters*, UNICEF can be there for children throughout their life cycle. By working with government, local organisations, and communities to implement contextually appropriate programs, we can ensure we’re contributing to lasting change.  

3. In Cambodia, young people are supported to shape their futures

Paniet and her mentor
Paniet and her mentor, Anthony Galliano.
©️ UNICEF Cambodia/2022

Eighteen-year-old Paniet has a vision to transform waste management across Cambodia, one leftover meal at a time. In a country where food waste makes up a sizeable portion of landfill, Paniet is changing community habits with her ‘Feed the Deal’ project.  

Paniet has launched ‘Feel the Deal’ with support from UNICEF Cambodia’s Generation Future program; an initiative supported by UNICEF Australia that helps young minds to launch big ideas through seed funding, training, and guidance from expert mentors. 

Paniet’s project highlights the value of leftover food and partners with restaurants to donate excess meals to charities. Paniet is passionate about addressing climate change and believes that extending the life cycle of food will contribute to the health of our planet. 

"I think environmental global climate change affects everything, [it] affects our livelihood… We’re not trying to change [people’s] mindset, but influence decisions where surplus food is unsold at the end of the day. They’re still nutritious, they’re edible."

Generation Future participant

Paniet’s mentor, Anthony Galliano, president of the American Chamber of Commerce and Secretary General of the Cambodia Restaurant Association, says the program is critical in building real-life entrepreneurial skills for ambitious young people like Paniet.  

“It gives [them] a sense of responsibility, teamwork, and real-life experience at the same time,” says Anthony. 

Cambodia has one of the youngest populations in the world. Programs like Generation Future are part of a growing movement to empower a new generation of Cambodian leaders.  

Support from people like you*, is essential in providing young people with the essential problem-solving, life-skills needed to thrive in their adult lives and have a voice in the decision-making that affects them and their futures. 

*This program is only possible thanks to our everyday supporters, partners and the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP). 

Building sustainable futures for children close to home

Support critical, underfunded programs throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific region.