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May Spotlight: Gordon Muir

Gordon Muir: Australian Volunteer 2013-2014

This month on the second part of our double-feature spotlight, we will be speaking with Sonia’s husband, Gordon about the impact Tonga has had on their lives, and some of the lessons they’ve learnt along the way!


After spending a month in Peru volunteering in 2009 Gordon and Sonia Muir decided they wanted to embark on a longer term volunteer gig and started looking for opportunities. A posting at ‘Ahopanilolo Technical Institute (ATI) in Nuku’alofa saw them heading for ‘the Friendly Islands’ in 2013 for a 12-month assignment with the Australian Volunteers Program.




I had the wonderful experience of volunteering, with my wife Sonia, in Tonga in 2013 – 2014 where strong friendships formed, and are still maintained.


We lived in a simple but comfortable house that showed us large amounts of everything are not required to make a ‘home’. The space gave us the chance to invite friends and family to visit Tonga, stay with us, and experience this unique country from the point of view as a local rather than a blow-in tourist. Our guests also assisted the local economy.


Our life in Nuku’alofa revolved around ATI and immersing ourselves into the rhythms of everyday life. We tried very hard not to indulge in too many expat activities - preferring to hang out with locals wherever we could.


I had the opportunity to return to my chef trade that had taken me to many parts of the world and pass on these skills to up and coming chefs that were the part of the hospitality college where we were based.


Hospitality trainers were open to new ways of teaching and also, thankfully, understood my Glasgow accent.


The concept of the Australian Volunteer program is to impart your own skills in a way that capacity building be endured beyond your allotted timeframe.


Where one is born geography has a lot to do with the opportunities you have on offer. I am from Scotland originally and this has always been a part of my philosophy. Having the chance to impart some of your skills and experiences to other who appreciate it is the greatest gift.


With patience and humour outcomes CAN be achieved and we have witnessed many enduring legacies that have been left by fellow volunteers.


I am currently living in Kingscliff, NSW and although overseas travel (and subsequently volunteering) is off the cards for the near future I fill in my time volunteering at a retirement home and other community based organisations.


Tonga is forever etched in my heart.