New Colombo Plan recipient reconstructing disaster relief
From coming second in a power lifting competition, to washing her clothes by hand and carrying 20 litres of water home, it’s safe to say that Won-Hae Shim’s experience working in Nepal was not a dull one.
Won-Hae, a Construction Project Management student at UTS, received a New Colombo Plan Scholarship from the Australian government in 2017. This initiative seeks to strengthen ties between Australia and countries in the Indo-Pacific Region by providing undergraduates with an opportunity to study or intern in the region.
Won-Hae felt passionate about using this scholarship, paired with her industry experience and knowledge gained through her degree, to help developing countries and countries affected by disasters or crisis.
“I chose to live and study in Nepal because I wanted to gain experience in construction in the post-disaster setting,” she said.
“Nepal was hit by two high-magnitude earthquakes in April and May 2015, which took the lives of over 8,000 people and destroyed over 500,000 homes. Reconstruction efforts are still continuing today, and I wanted to be part of this.”
While in Nepal, Won-Hae worked with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) on web and mobile based application ‘FieldSight’.
“FieldSight was initially developed in response to the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. It allows for remote monitoring, supervision and quality assurance on development and humanitarian projects around the world,” she explained.
“My involvement was in project coordination and general operational support. Work would vary from improving communications and setting up new projects on the platform, to meeting with different UN agencies to explore how FieldSight may assist their projects.”
The app has helped promote the use of technology to overcome major challenges experienced in construction and humanitarian projects in developing countries, as well as reduced the need for project personnel to travel to thousands of sites in remote locations.
On top of working with UNOPS, Won-Hae was also simultaneously working with the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), which provides technical assistance and supervision on housing reconstruction projects in the worst earthquake-affected districts.
She was tasked with assessing existing safety practices in housing reconstruction and proposing recommendations to improve safety. She also developed an induction presentation for workers, to explain the importance of safety and causes of common incidents, to reduce occurrence of injuries.
She investigated the supply chain of building materials used in post-earthquake reconstruction in Dolakha district in Nepal. This information was used to create a source map to quickly locate suppliers and initiate reconstruction promptly. This exploration into locally-sourced materials will benefit the development of the community and reduce duration and costs of reconstruction for families in Nepal.
Won-Hae has since left Nepal and continued her scholarship by interning in Thailand, Singapore and now India. Here she has been working with company Multiplex, where she has been learning about business operations, as well as getting involved in client meetings and project proposals.
“ has undoubtedly been one of the best years of my life. The experiences, knowledge, and lessons learnt have been priceless. I would strongly encourage UTS students in whichever field they are in to apply for the New Colombo Plan, as it allows you to challenge and develop your existing skills and knowledge in a global context,” she said.
“I would also encourage students to consider how their chosen field may be used to help those in need, where your skills and knowledge can be applied to make the greatest difference. The world is a big place and opportunities are endless.”
Won-Hae received a Commendation in the ‘Elizabeth Hastings Memorial Award for Community Contribution’ category at the 2018 UTS Human Rights Awards for her work in Nepal.