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Oxfam responds to emergencies around the globe

Learning about emergencies

After more than 2 decades Oxfam’s school program has closed. Our commitment to tackling poverty and empowering communities continues. The resources on these pages will no longer be updated.
– September 2019.

Every year, more than 35 million people have to abandon their homes as a result of natural disasters, war, crime and political unrest. That’s more than the entire population of Australia — many lose everything they own. And it’s often the world’s poorest communities who are hit hardest.

Recent years have proven to be difficult for many of Australia’s neighbours.

On March 13 a devastating, Category 5 cyclone, hit Vanuatu. The cyclone’s eye passed close to Efate Island, where the capital Port Vila is located, and winds are estimated to have reached 250km/h with gusts peaking at 320km/h. More than 13,000 homes were damaged and 180,000 people across Vanuatu were affected.

Further afield, Nepal had it’s worst earthquake since 1934 on April 25, 2015 measuring 7.9 in magnitude. A second 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit on May 12 — a double disaster as it hit areas where Oxfam has been working to help people already in urgent need.

The UN estimated that eight million people across Nepal were been affected by the disaster — more than a quarter of the country’s population. This is roughly the same number of people who live in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory combined.

Oxfam Australia has created a short inquiry sequence in relation to its disaster responses, in accordance with the Learn, Think, Act methodology of teaching for global citizenship. This resource gives young people the opportunity to:

  • Learn about the disaster and what organisations like Oxfam do when they respond to emergencies
  • Think critically to build empathy and understand what can be done to help, and
  • Act as empathetic and responsible global citizens.

The materials can be used to teach the Australian Curriculum, including geography, civics and citizenship, ethical understanding, personal and social capability and intercultural understanding.


Activity 1: Webquest

Using the KWLH organiser give each student (or groups of students) one of three tasks:

  • What do you know about Nepal/Vanuatu?
  • What do you know about earthquakes/cyclones?
  • What do you know about the Nepal earthquake/Cyclone Pam?

The ABC has some before and after photos of Nepal which might aid this task and give some context.

Oxfam Great Britain has also created informative PowerPoint presentations about the Nepal earthquake and Cyclone Pam, tailored to middle secondary years. It can be easily adapted for older or younger students, and the Australian context.

Activity 2: Oxfam’s response

Oxfam is one of the leading non-government organisations responding to the Nepal Earthquake. We are working in seven districts in Nepal, delivering aid and supporting:

  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): by delivering clean water, water trucks, water tanks, water pumps, pipes, wells, hygiene kits and toilets
  • Emergency Shelter
  • People to make a living: by providing cash vouchers, paying local people to work for us, and helping families rebuild their livelihoods.

The following links can be used to explore the following questions: Who is Oxfam? What do they do in emergencies?


Activity 1: Lead a class discussion exploring the following questions:

How are we connected to the affected country?

  • Does anyone have family or friends from Nepal or Vanuatu? Has anyone travelled there? Eat food from that country at a restaurant? Who has watched movies or read books about Nepal or Vanuatu? Have we studied about these countries in class?
  • How far away from the country is Australia? Can we be considered neighbours or part of the same community? If so, which community might that be?
  • How are we connected as fellow human beings?

Why should we support the affected country?

Oxfam’s PMI chart can be used to help aid decision-making and order thinking

  • What is our role as Australians? What is our role as a global citizen? Do they differ? If so, how?
  • What are our values as Australians? What are our values as a global citizen? Do they differ? If so, how?
  • Do we have any obligations or responsibilities?

How can we help those in need?

Oxfam’s PMI chart can be used to help aid decision-making and order thinking.

  • What is within our possibilities as school children? As Australians?
  • What is easy? What is practical? What do we want to do? What is needed?
  • How can we best support those on the ground? Use the flowchart to explore how the help we might give could reach those in need in Nepal.


After going through the Learn and Think process, you may find your students are brimming with their own ideas as to how we can make a difference together! Ask your students about how they might like to help.

With emergencies of this size and seriousness, we need all the people power we can get! Using everything you’ve learnt, will you and your students consider joining in Oxfam’s lifesaving efforts, by holding a fundraising activity?

Here’s a few quick and easy ideas, created specifically for the Nepal Earthquake:

  • Have a Nepalese lunch — with colder weather setting in, how about some selling some delicious Nepalese food for a day, or even a week? Get your canteen, school dining room, home economics teacher or hospitality students on board! SBS Food has a list of great recipes that can be adapted by classes or canteens, including Thukpa (Nepalese chicken noodle soup), Lamb Sekuwa (skewers) and potato salads.
  • Make a Money Mountain – Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, is in Nepal and measures 8,848 metres tall. Part of the Himalayas is also in Nepal. Can you make a Money Mountain out of coins that measures 8.85 metres tall? Or even a small mountain range from coins? Ask students to bring $2, or any spare change they have, to school. Then, using your school hall, basketball courts or a large wall etc use the coins to create the mountain outline. Attach it using sticky tape or blu tack, and you have your own Mt Everest replica!
  • Casual clothes day — an oldie but a goodie, especially for those who don’t have a lot of time or organising assistance. Everyone in casual clothes gives a gold coin for the privilege.

What can your efforts achieve? This PDF has all the answers and more! We also drafted a template letter to parents and guardians, tailored to the Nepal Earthquake, that you are free to adapt and use.

Donating money is easy:

Thank you!