It’s amazing what a little certainty can do.
Our 92nd Orientation (next page), was our largest since 2004. Combined with our January intake, this made 2011 our largest recruitment in over a decade.
When I finished my placement in Bougainville in 2004, Palms Australia had just learned it was not one of the three agencies awarded the newly tendered volunteer program. Until then, AusAID had provided about 50% of Palms’ income.
Six months later I began working for Palms, as three staff members moved on; long-time partners did what they could to cover some of the shortfall and members and returnees proved very generous in their commitment to see our work continue; plans for an income-generating Fair Trade café began; and we continued to recruit, prepare, send and support volunteers to work in our partner communities.
A greater emphasis on fundraising by volunteers’ communities was essential and some impressive efforts were made. One event raised over $25,000. One returnee gave $150,000 over three years.
Despite all these efforts, there was never certainty. Donors could drop off or focus instead on tsunamis, earthquakes, floods or bushfires; volunteers and partners could be lured by programs offering greater perks and less commitment (shorter terms, fancier conditions, no fundraising). The GFC came.
We switched to one-ply toilet paper.
With the contract which excluded us ending at the same time as the election of a new government, we began a campaign to highlight the value and importance of Palms’ volunteers.
Meetings with politicians; a review of the volunteer program, including a re-design aimed at including small nimble agencies; an application to be a “Core Partner”; submissions to a Senate Inquiry and the Aid Program review; and, finally, a successful application to the Volunteer Fund led to our first government paycheque since 2005.
While it came with conditions – 1-year maximum placements, enhanced security procedures- and no guarantee of further funding, finally we could concentrate on recruiting volunteers without stressing as much about funds …for now …sort of.
The funds we received have allowed us to take a breath – one we want our donors, partners, campaigners and fundraisers to share in. Pause, breathe in, and join us in enjoying the fact that our voices were heard. Thank you for the support.
We’re not ready to stand on an aircraft carrier declaring “Mission Accomplished” just yet.
At this stage, we have no certainty of funding beyond this round; AusAID have only agreed to cover 70% of the costs of certain placements; and placements in countries considered, by AusAID, to be too risky for Palms’ volunteers, such as PNG, Ethiopia and Uganda are not covered at all.
While a little certainty has certainly helped, it is as vital as ever that we do not put all our eggs in one basket. No one wants this – not our members, not AusAID, not our partners. A strong program will never be one dependent on a single source.
So, we will continue to seek recurring donations, host CommUNITY events, earn and every dollar and provide the best value aid program in Australia. Thank you again for your continued support.