Mark Betheras, Senator Kay Patterson, Jorge Gonzales, Alan Davis, John Griffith, Sylvia Griffith and Santiago Acera.
Mark Betheras, Senator Kay Patterson, Jorge Gonzales, Alan Davis, John Griffith, Sylvia Griffith and Santiago Acera.

Volunteer teacher has much to offer, plenty to learn

By EMMA CORNFORD

WHEN Clarence Valley drama teacher Santiago Acera heard about the chance to volunteer his skills in the tsunami-ravaged Maldive islands, he put up his hand without hesitation.

Tonight, Mr Acera will head to the Maldives with six other Australian volunteers for six months as teachers in the region.

Although unsure of his exact role or where he will be based, Mr Acera said he would call upon skills he had learnt through teaching drama to help children deal with the devastation of the disaster.

"It will be a lot of watching, learning and trying to gain their trust for the first while," Mr Acera said.

"I know it will be step by step ... and learning about the culture and the people."

But the six-month stint in the Maldives will not be the first time the Lawrence-based teacher has been deployed overseas.

In 1997 and 1998 Mr Acera went to the war-torn African nation of Eritrea, which had recently come out of a 30-year civil war, as the artistic director of the only circus in the country.

"Children there were traumatised because of the war and there are some similarities between that and this, because although this was a natural disaster and that was a war, people have a similar response," he said.

"I'm expecting to use the same performing and drama skills to help overcome their grief of this kind ... but I use the same techniques in the Clarence Valley to bring the kids out of the shells because we have dramas there, too, which they deal with."

Mr Acera said going into the community with a humble attitude would be the most important aspect of the volunteer position.

"If you go in with a humble attitude and wanting to learn and help that is how you are received well."



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