Held at The Hermitage, a retreat centre and former novitiate of the Marist Brothers in Mittagong, the nine-day course focused on health, culture and sustainable development.
Ten Palms volunteers and three participants sponsored by the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart enjoyed lectures, simulations, cross-cultural field trips, role-plays, personal interviews and various other activities to assist their preparation for their work and lives overseas as volunteers.
Participants came from as far afield as Perth, Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne and Wollongong.
Facilitators of sessions included returned volunteers, a doctor and teacher with overseas experience, members of the Wiradjuri and Yuggera tribes working with Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, lecturers and educators from the Universities of Wollongong and New England, Caritas Australia and Maximum Impact Language Learning, all generously donating their services.
“Palms Australia is lucky to have such a supportive network of expert facilitators.” Brendan Joyce, Palms’ Community Relations Coordinator explained, “Their willingness to donate their services reflects their recognition of the value of good preparation.”
“Palms continues to provide the best cross-cultural preparation of any Australian volunteering agency and as a result is consistently praised by overseas NGOs for the approach and attitude of their volunteers.”
“None of this would be possible without our facilitators generosity.”
The expertise of Palms Australia’s staff, all of whom have worked as cross-cultural volunteers, was also recognised by participants as a contributing factor to the value of the course.
“Thanks for your continuing help with excellent advice born of valuable experience ‘in the field’ and afterwards. It is refreshing to work with such deeply committed people – nowadays not so common,” one participant espoused.
“The course has certainly expanded my understanding of development and better prepared my thinking framework for a placement,” another explained.
“It has been excellent to travel a pathway with a special group of people… The interaction between us really can’t be measured in value. Thank you.”
Palms’ Executive Director, Roger O’Halloran attributes part of the success of the course to Palms’ independence of political agendas.
“Palms Australia’s independence allows us to prioritise the preparation and support of volunteers which are essential to effective and worthwhile placements.
“The freedom to continue to an approach which respects the value of all cultures and the contribution of all people to development is what distinguishes Palms from other volunteer agencies.”
“These thirteen participants, like all the other volunteers prepared over the last 46 years of Palms’ history, now have the tools to ensure they contribute to sustainable and interdependent development.”