News: Director’s Report: Tenderness and Compassion

by Roger O'Halloran

Partnership to bring “tenderness and compassion to the entire human family”

Mission Month 2016 heralded the beginning of a partnership between Palms Australia and Catholic Mission, with great potential to underpin improved impacts in global mission and development.  The partnership anticipates the ongoing participation of the Australian Church in a mission that otherwise might have ended with the decline of available religious personnel.  An initial triumph of the new partnership has been the negotiation of a Project Agreement, which, for the first time, will combine our strengths in: “Responding to Mission and Development Volunteer requests in Global Communities.”

Catholic Mission will contribute $100,000 over 12 months, to which Palms will allocate around $140,000 of other donor contributions.  Yes, communities still need your support.   As well, up to $100,000 of in-kind support will be utilised by some of the receiving communities able to source funds in-country for volunteer living allowances and accommodation.  The partnership will enable requests to be met from Timor Leste and the Pacific for up to 12 communities seeking volunteer assistance to help develop their infrastructure and personnel.

The agreement will allow us to back the teachers, trades people, administration and accounting professionals who will make themselves available for placements after being prepared and commissioned at the Palms Orientation Course in January 2017.  Catholic Mission indicates that another $100,000, contingent on a joint review in August 2017, could be made available to allow the placements to continue into 2018.  This would be most welcome by host communities who tell us that the second year is when they get the best contributions from those who volunteer.

Personnel sent to assist develop organisational capacity do not have an immediate handle on culture, language and organisational relationships, nor immediately appreciate the strengths of existing processes and procedures.   By the second year the host organisation is better able to integrate the volunteer skills with other assets to achieve desired outcomes.  At this time they also might utilise the volunteer experience to improve connections with funding agencies and ensure more sustainable outcomes from program and project grants.

It’s a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  From program design, to implementation and outcomes the integration by an overseas partner of a Palms volunteer and Catholic Mission funds provides a greater chance of success.  With funding from other donor agencies managing grants for successful outcomes can depend on a couple of brief visits and a workshop by a trainer or programs officer who has much less appreciation of the cultural environment in which local organisations operate.

As well as assisting to reduce poverty the ongoing sending and returning of those who volunteer for longer-term global mission dynamically cultivates critical cross-cultural insight.  The stories of our volunteer pilgrims connect us and can prophetically assist invaluable cultural development in the sending community.  It is a mission that intentionally inspires relationships of understanding, acceptance and care, which are even more necessary today as cultures bump into one another in all parts of the globe.

There will be much work to do as we embark on this new relationship between Palms Australia and Catholic Mission.  Getting to know and working with each other’s strengths will take some time and trust.  Over time we can expect to be inspired by growing numbers of “people cooperating across cultures in order to achieve a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world free of poverty.”  A sustained partnership will certainly fortify the World Mission Sunday call of Pope Francis, “to ‘go out’ as missionary disciples, each generously offering their talents, creativity, wisdom and experience in order to bring the message of God’s tenderness and compassion to the entire human family.”

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Why you do speak so loud, I can’t hear what you are saying. - Bruno Hagspiel