News: Social Capital: A Profile of Providers

The Director’s Report of this edition of Palms Post indicates how absolutely Palms Australia depends on social capital.  In previous writing and speeches I have named and thanked long lists of individuals and groups that provide it.  In this and future editions of Palms Post we plan to profile the contributors.  These are the people who inspire Palms employees and assist them to facilitate a program valued so much in host communities.

Profiling like this helps all to realise the incredible contributions being made to achieve our vision:  “To participate in and develop networks that link and engage people across cultures in order to cooperate in reducing poverty and achieve a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world.” It also helps us to further our mission, particularly: “To advance mutually enriching and challenging relationships of understanding, acceptance and care.”

The Barrett family, with others, at the 1990 Orientation Course
The Barretts don’t know and would not expect to be subjects of our first profile.  I first met Paul and Bridgette at the Palms Orientation course in 1993.  They came with children Julie, Michael, Patrick and Nicholas from the country town of Kadina in South Australia.

I don’t think anyone else has attempted a placement with four children, but undaunted by the then 20-day Orientation course, all set off for two years to Rabaul in PNG.  It took the volcanic eruption of nearby Mt Tavurvur in 1994 to bring home Bridgette and the children. “More to get out of the way and let Paul and the other medics get on with treatment of those suffering consequences.”

Volunteering for Palms did not stop when Bridgette returned and after settling the children back into school she was offering assistance again.  When Paul returned, the family had taken up residence in Adelaide and soon Bridgette was serving as Palms’ South Australian State representative.  State Representatives conduct interviews of applicants in their state, assist with running Information Sessions and Focus Workshops and make themselves available to newly returned volunteers.

Bridgette always does it well and always does more.  Most memorable for me was the Adelaide celebration of Palms’ 40th year in 2001.  100+ guests for a sit down dinner including the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer.  The Tuna steaks were secured as a donation and Paul donned the chef’s cap for the night.  Cooked to perfection.

Paul, Bridgette and Julie Barrett
Bridgette still serves as Palms’ State Representative, but the Barrett’s contribution has not stopped there.  Since 2005 Paul has served as a Director on the Board.  In his role he has, of his own volition and at his own cost, made the trip across to Sydney for AGMs.  It seems he likes the journey as he has also come across to the Orientation Course to do the Physical Health Session. Paul has also provided advice to Palms’ staff regarding our pre-departure medical procedures for volunteers.

The contribution of the Barretts never stops.  Palms’ staff have been collected from the Adelaide Airport on so many occasions.  Accommodation in Adelaide has never cost Palms a cent, but not only do they share their house they share their hearts and some great SA wine.  They are always exceptional and enthusiastic hosts willing to engage with open palms.

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True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice. - Martin Luther King Jr