There currently exist many other “Immersion” or “Exposure” programs run by a variety of religious, academic, development, mission and community organisations. Palms’ staff have always been wary of initiating such a program, aware that a poorly-run program can have adverse effects on host communities, program participants and sending communities. Often such programs, or the “short-term volunteering” alternatives to what Palms offers, can be self-serving, designed only to make the relatively wealthy participants feel good about themselves.
While such programs can serve as part of an individual formation process, it is important to consider that they do occur cross-culturally and in a development context. If a program does not take into account these three aspects – participant change, cross-cultural relationships and the developmental needs of each community – its stands to fail in all three.
Conversely, a short-term visit which understands its place in a wider social context, can serve to develop “mutually enriching and challenging relationships of acceptance, understanding and care” while engaging “Australian communities and partner communities… so that each increases their awareness and enthusiasm to encourage just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful development.”
With many enquiries and urging from various partners and friends, and with even more internal dialogue and discernment, Palms’ team feels confident, ready and well-placed to serve that need for those who are genuine about bringing authentic change to the world, even for those that could only have a shorter period of experience through a Palms’ Encounter.
Embedded within the Palms CommUNITY initiative, Palms’ Cross-Cultural Encounter Program will offer something quite different, indeed unique, as it is about engaging not just participants, but about growth for communities on the sending and hosting end as well.
Palms’ 47 years of full-time experience in preparation, formation and support of over 1400 skilled volunteers in 39 countries, prepares those who participate in a Palms Encounter to engage in development beyond their short overseas experience.
Like the posture of open palms, Palms’ Encounters are open to all groups, organizations, schools, communities and individuals. With an open posture, Palms’ Encounters will complement the vision, mission and unique charisms of groups, organisations, schools, communities and individuals alike.
Palms’ Encounters will consist of a five-day ‘Encounter Course’ followed by an ‘Encounter Visit’. The Encounter Visit is enhanced by the firm foundation of cross-cultural and developmental theory which is built during the course. The course will allow the sharing of experiences and building of relationships with Palms’ volunteers, such that a more meaningful Encounter can take place. Of course, family and friends of participants are welcome to join in the Encounter Course.
As with Palms’ Global Volunteer program, participants in a Palms’ Encounter will continue to be well supported and given the opportunity to develop themselves beyond the ‘Encounter’ itself through the Post-Encounter process developed by Palms.
Places are available now in Palms’ Encounter Course to be held from the 12th-16th July 2009. Please contact Benjamin Oh from the Palms Australia team for any further enquiries:
Telephone +61 2 9518 9551, Fax +61 2 95189550 or email Benjamin Oh.