It is always interesting to try to get people to see the value of engaging in international development in collaboration with an organisation like Palms, rather than by putting resources into a project or materials that they self-identify as good aid. I understand the distrust given the way some organisations appear to burn funds on administration, but this happens less than one might think. The extra expenditure by good development organisations ensures that appropriate procedures are followed so there is less wastage.
Good organisations, with experienced people assist effective and sustainable development, which ensures valuable funds and resources are not:
a) wasted on equipment that no one has been trained to use or maintain, or worse,
b) creating dependencies on aid, where communities lose skills and the ability to be self-reliant.
Palms assists effective sustainable development by recruiting qualified and experienced personnel to meet the requests of local hospitals, clinics, schools and other essential community organisations overseas. This allows for the training of locals who need to continue operating the facilities long after the experts who volunteer go home. In parts of Africa and the Pacific the local communities more easily get the expertise they are looking for because they can cover the cost of hosting them.
Unfortunately communities in Timor-Leste who ask Palms to find people willing to volunteer cannot afford to cover the costs of airfares, accommodation, or even a small living allowance for them. (Around $10,000 per annum.) So, unless we can help them to mobilise and host Australian volunteers, the poorest country in the region will remain disadvantaged.
The donor dollar is multiplied.
Finding the $10,000 in Australia means the Timorese community will receive around $70,000 worth of expertise. (i.e. what an Australian employer would have to pay for the same experienced and skilled professional.) In other words Australian communities can assist to raise the funds available to cover these costs and thereby leverage ten times that value for the requesting community.
We have volunteers ready to depart who will be able to take up placements when we identify the funds to make it possible. We can arrange for one in your area to talk to your community (club, school, church) about the objectives of the work that have been identified for them by the Timorese community. Australian communities already doing this are a testament to the ongoing relationship that can grow. Building deep relationship of understanding, acceptance and care between communities across cultures can be challenging, but really inspiring to both communities.
The benefits to your community
An Australian community assisting a Timorese community to cover these costs will have a strong link into that community through the volunteer. The volunteer will maintain an open line of communication about the value of the work being undertaken. The volunteer may return at different points, perhaps with a local counterpart from the Timorese community to inspire the Australian community further in their engagement. (eg. With the support of Australian communities we have seen Timorese able to take up further studies and work experience in Australia after initial grounding in a field with a Palms’ volunteer.) Outcomes are as open as the relationship between the communities allows.
Where such relationships do not exist effective communication is not enabled and well intentioned donations to one anonymous project after another can leave donors disconnected from real human engagement, wondering what the outcomes of their contributions might have been. Donors lose interest. Programs and projects are unable to go to the next level and often fail due to lack of capacity in the local community to sustain what may have seemed like a good idea at the time. This can be avoided.
What Palms CommUNITY offers is a low-key, grass-roots oriented connection, that facilitates sound and fulfilling community-to-community relationship based development, rather than an administratively heavy organisation attempting to control the development outcomes for communities. Our experience combined with a volunteer on the ground can assist your community to avoid the mistakes often made by well-intentioned, but poorly planned, assistance that can produce dependency in the recipients and disenchantment in the donor.
If you are interested in bringing the inspiration of Palms CommUNITY to your community contact me and I will be only too happy to arrange a meeting with you. I will be visiting Brisbane in March, Adelaide in April, Melbourne in May and otherwise available in Sydney. I would be happy to speak to any community leaders before that and arrange to bring a volunteer to meet with them if you thought it may be an appropriate way to proceed.
A CommUNITY success story
Before departing for Lusaka, Zambia, Emma and Stephen Yates (pictured with their sons Brendan and Damon) engaged their commUNITY through a sending ceremony in their home parish (the Anglican parish of Warwick) and a dinner with friends organised by Palms’ returnees Antony and Elia Faa. Consequently, their parish and a dozen of their friends have signed up to be part of their CommUNITY, sharing in their journey and supporting their work at Zambia Episcopal Conference and Cardinal Adam Memorial Hospital.
The contributions made through CommUNITY have reached almost half of our two-year fundraising target of $24,700, essentially providing Zambia with a doctor and a lawyer for 12 months, valued at over $150,000.
This CommUNITY will benefit from personalised updates about the development outcomes being achieved and the knowledge that Emma and Stephen will be terrific assets to their Zambian hosts.