Our Volunteers: Delma Durrant volunteering in Kiribati

Catholic Diocese of Tarawa and Nauru, Kiribati

Former Palms volunteer Shelley Price with students in Kiribati
The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiri-bahs) is made up of 33 low-lying coral atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, where the equator meets the date line.

Though the atolls have a combined area of just 811 sq. km., they are scattered over an ocean area of 3,000,000 sq. km. Only 21 of the 33 atolls are inhabited, with a population of 105,432 – that is over 130 people per square kilometre (more if the uninhabited and uninhabitable islands are excluded).

With most of that land less than 3 metres above sea level, the inhabitable area is greatly diminishing. Add to this the increasing pollution, overfishing and the lack of agriculture possible on coral atolls and the nation of Kiribati may soon be the source of a large number of environmental refugees. There is also a growing infection rate of HIV/AIDS, with risks of an epidemic.

The Catholic Diocese of Tarawa and Nauru provides services to over 50,000 Catholics and many non-Catholics, including secondary education, health care, family and youth support and other social services.

Bishop Paul Mea placed a request with Palms Australia for a Diocesan Project Officer to assist in the running of developmental and educational projects.

Delma Durrant

Delma DurrantDel Durrant, from Melbourne, will work as Diocesan Project Officer taking responsibility for a number of services provided by the Catholic Church in Kiribati.

Del will seek to establish sustainable systems for funding and running Church projects including the training of a local staff member to continue the work after her two years are concluded.

Del has previously worked as a teacher in a variety of schools around Melbourne. She has also tutored at University College, St Mary’s College and Newman College at the University of Melbourne and worked as a Counsellor, Coordinator and Liaison Officer in education, the arts, social welfare and travel.

Kiribati Field Trip

October 23, 2008

A Kiribati Sunset
At the end of July, 2008, I returned to the Republic of Kiribati for the first time since finishing my volunteer placement there in 2006. This was to be my first field trip as a Palms employee, and, for that reason, it was great to be going somewhere familiar. The loveliness of our current volunteers in Kiribati: Helena Charlesworth, Marietje Stuckey and Del Durrant, also made this visit particularly gratifying.

Helena Charlesworth has been working as a Form 4 English Teacher at Sacred Heart High School, Bikenibeu, since February 2007. During that time she has, in addition to her teaching load, been engaged in making improvements to the school library, helping other teachers, and introducing programmes such as D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) in order to increase English literacy standards at a number of schools in Tarawa.

Helena teaching English

Throughout her placement, Helena has also been involved in conducting workshops, focusing on professionalism and spoken English, for teachers from many schools throughout Kiribati; and,during 2008, she has played a key role as part of the Administration Team at Sacred Heart.

Marietje Stuckey has been working as the school nurse at Saint Joseph’s College, Tabwiroa, Abaiang since April 2007. During that time, as well as being involved in a number of health workshops, she has managed to obtain a major grant for the refurbishment of the clinic at the school; and has devoted a huge amount of effort and skill to these renovations.

This year, Marietje has also become very involved in the running of a Pre-School, which has become incorporated into Saint Joseph’s. She thoroughly enjoys this work; and it has helped her to build relationships with local families.

Marietje treating a sick student
The third current Palms participant in Kiribati is Del Durrant. She has been working as a Project Manager in the Diocesan Office in Teaoraereke, South Tarawa, since July 2007. Throughout this period, she also put a great deal of effort and time into bringing a large group of Ikiribati young people out to Australia for World Youth Day. During the trip itself, however, Del became seriously ill and had to be admitted to hospital. She was still recuperating in Australia when I made this field trip to Kiribati. Since then, however, she has come to visit us in the Palms office and is doing much better. Thank you for all the great work you have done in the Diocesan Office and in your WYD preparations, Del. It is very appreciated.

Overall, it was wonderful to see the great work being done by all our current Palms volunteers in Kiribati. Deepest thanks go to Sr Tiura and Bishop Paul, Zita Teata (Principal of Sacred Heart High School), Sr Martha (Principal of Saint Joseph’s College), Br Siouasi (Principal of Saint Louis High School) for meeting with me and for always looking after our volunteers so well. Thanks also to the OLSH Sisters, Marist Brothers and all the colleagues and friends of our volunteers who have gone to such effort to make them feel at home.

Finally, very deep thanks to all the Palms participants, partners and friends whose kindness and hospitality during my visit reminded me of everything I have missed about living in Kiribati.

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Population: 105,088

Area: 811 sq. km.

Median Age: 20.6

Literacy: 94 %

Languages: I-Kiribati, English

The Republic of Kiribati is an island nation located in the central Pacific Ocean. The country’s 33 atolls are scattered over 3,500,000 square kilometres. The isolation of Kiribati has led to a unique culture, rich in singing and dancing. Family and community are central to this traditional fishing society, but life does not always match […]

More on Kiribati

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