Australian volunteers are typified by the lives they help improve through their efforts on assignment – but sometimes the effect also works in reverse. This is particularly true for Dr James Kang, whose volunteering experience set him on a journey from engineer to educator.
After his position as a telecommunications design engineer came to an end in 2012, James started exploring opportunities with the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program. In 18 months he was on a plane to Ethiopia to start a volunteer role as an IT Advisor with the Organization for Women in Self Employment (WISE) in Addis Ababa.
Through working to build the capacity of local professionals on his assignment, James started thinking about the power of knowledge-sharing, and the positive social and economic impacts that are afforded with quality education.
“While in Ethiopia, I met volunteers from a variety of countries and organisations… we discussed what help could be offered to a country which had been receiving foreign aid for a long time, but making little (socioeconomic) progress” James says.
“We brainstormed and concurred that education was the answer; the new generation should be trained and prepared to change the country.”
These experiences inspired James to make his own contribution to education. Considering his assignment took place at a mid-career juncture, he made the decision to devote the second half of his professional life to the education sector.
As soon as he returned to Australia, James commenced a PhD study of mobile health monitoring at Deakin University, and also took on a tutoring role – enabling him to keep sharing knowledge while becoming a highly-qualified expert in his field.
James graduated in March this year and closed the loop by securing a Senior Lecturer position at the Melbourne Institute of Technology, where he now teaches Bachelor and Masters-level students in networking and telecommunications.
He proudly credits his assignment with re-routing his personal journey for the better.
“The assignment changed my life in a totally different direction from working in the ICT industry – it allowed me to find my vision and goals for the rest of my life, as well as considering what values I can create to help others… I like seeing students learn, improve and follow their goals,” James says.
“I will also keep applying for the chance to volunteer in places where I can help impact others.”