After spending some time working in the southern sub Indian continent six years ago, Aidan Craney finally made up his mind to work with youths as a career.
He had worked with youths as part of his university studies, and in his native Australia, but it was at the Indian sub-continent where he made up his mind.
"I started off as a 20-year-old studying social work at university level in Australia. I worked with youths in various communities, and later, I did my masters in international development.
"In 2006, I went to southern India to work at a place which is far away from the nearest city. That's where I made up my mind to do this kind of work," Craney said.
Now he is a volunteer with the Australian Youth Ambassador for Development, an AusAID initiative that deploys skilled volunteers to live and work in developing countries as part of the overseas aid program.
"I actually applied to come and work in Fiji and I chose Fiji because I think it's one of the best places in the Pacific. And since Australia lies in the Pacific region, I think we shouldn't only look after our interests but we should look after each other as well," he added.
Craney's social justice beliefs were not learned at university but were ingrained by his parents as family values. And along with his Catholic background, all his reasoning have this thread woven into it.
He is currently volunteering as a youth development officer with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) for the next 12 months.
ADRA is an agency which tries to make positive changes to the most vulnerable in the community through empowering partnerships and responsible action. Craney will be assisting this NGO develop a youth program strategy that will help to improve ADRA's response to issues affecting young people.
"I really want to undertake a career where I work with young people. After this stint as a volunteer, I might work with NGOs at policy level or and through further research," he said.
Craney said he was fortunate that ADRA already had existing youth development projects which are well structured. He has also blended well into these projects because it allows him to work out the subtleties of working in a new culture altogether.
"In terms of cultural difficulties, Fiji is a bit easier because there is a lot of commonalities between Australia and Fiji, like rugby, but still, I have to be careful about these sensitivities.
"Like the other day when I went to a village, I was standing there with my hands on my hips, to which a friend reminded me that it is a sign of authority in Fiji, and it is something considered rude," Craney said.
He added that while Australian volunteers are expected to share their knowledge with their local counterparts, they also learn from them, and most of the time, they appreciate the many limitations and challenges in working in countries like Fiji.
Craney says that he is working with other ADRA staff to develop a five-year strategic plan for the organisation, something he hopes will allow the organisation to prosper and be able to make more impact in the lives of many in Fiji.