Our Volunteers: Des Hansen volunteering in Papua New Guinea

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Sacred Heart High School, Papua New Guinea

Tapini viewed from the air

Tapini, in Papua New Guinea’s Central Province, is located 180km from Port Moresby and is only accessible by small plane. As in many parts of PNG, Tapini’s isolation makes it difficult to develop adequate services and attract skilled professionals. Many of the staff at Sacred Heart High School, though qualified teachers, are younger and relatively inexperienced.

The community in Tapini and the surrounding Goilala region are significantly disadvantaged by their isolation. The lack of affordable transport has cut off a major source of income by placing Port Moresby’s markets out of reach for local producers. This has also led to an urban drift away from the area, creating many social problems. Sacred Heart High School is now aiming to provide vocational and practical skills in areas such as trades, agriculture and home economics, in order to develop skills which will remain useful in this rural setting. Such skills will provide more stability and sustainability for the communities in Goilala region.

Due to the difficulties associated with running a remote rural school with many inexperienced teachers Fr Brian Cahill MSC placed a request with Palms Australia for an experienced teacher to act in a teaching and mentoring role at the school.

Des Hansen

Des Hansen

Palms Australia recruited Des Hansen, a retired teacher to work in Tapini for two years. He will work closely with local staff, sharing skills and expertise and contributing to the long-term vocational and academic education development of Tapini.

Des has over 35 years experience teaching in rural schools in Victoria. He has taken leadership roles at a number of schools and has experience in mentoring and assisting colleagues.

In letters of recommendation, Des has been described as a “caring, compassionate and hardworking teacher, whose greatest satisfaction came from doing his job well…” Des’ positive example will complement the formal and informal mentoring he will provide.

Once more into the fray

December 9, 2011

Pedro, Monica, Mariano and Adison (front) at a graduation at CTC Baucau

Volunteering can be both a challenging and immensely rewarding experience. Few returnees would claim to remain unchanged by the experience. Some, such as Des Hansen, from Foster in Victoria, and Monica Morrison from Mollymook, NSW, value the experience so much that they return for another placement.  Each is well aware of the sorts of challenges they will face, though the specifics are different each time, but each can see that they again can be part of meaningful change by plunging in again.
Monica Morrison has previously volunteered with the Catholic Teachers College (CTC) in Baucau in Timor-Leste. While there she worked with trainee teachers and lecturers at the college, sharing her expertise in education and psychology and sharing in the expertise of her East Timorese colleagues in what works, or does not work, in East Timor.  Monica’s presence, guidance and enthusiasm was greatly appreciated by those with whom she worked.

Now Monica is readying herself for departure to work with Edmund Rice Sinon School (ERSS) in Arusha, Tanzania. Like CTC Baucau, Edmund Rice has a long history with Palms Australia and Monica will be the latest in a series of volunteers who have contributed to improved education for the children of Tanzania.  Interestingly, Monica will be joining two more “repeat” Palms volunteers in Arusha, Kathy Brick, also at ERSS and Jenny Ferris, at Food Water Shelter.

Des Hansen with student at Sacred Heart College, Tapini in his previous placement
Des Hansen, on the other hand, will be returning to Papua New Guinea, the country in which he volunteered in 2008-2010. Anyone who knows PNG will tell you, however, that different locations in PNG can be vastly different in culture, environment and development needs. This time, Des will be travelling to Kiunga in PNG’s Western Province to work at Emmaus Farm, a training centre for young men. Des, an ex-principal, will use his experience in education, leadership and agriculture to improve the capacity of Emmaus to provide its students with the skills required to maintain sustainable agricultural projects for their families and villages.

Des will be joining three other Palms volunteers in Kiunga, John Gartner, Paul Tan and Esther Sim, who are working on improving the programs of the Diocese of Daru-Kiunga, which include Emmaus Farm. Again, this is a long-term partner of Palms Australia, with numerous volunteers over the years responding to challenges in youth work, education and sustainable agriculture. Des will be a welcome addition to an ongoing partnership which is making a real, positive difference in people’s lives.

Des and Monica are not unique in returning to the field – there are over 100 volunteers who have done more than one placement with Palms Australia – but each time someone returns to volunteer again, we are excited to receive them.  Those who have volunteered before often have a headstart because while there may still be culture jolts, we know they have the tools to work through them. Provided they don’t expect each experience to be the same, they can be more effective in their work exchanging skills. Repeat volunteers are more likely to be motivated out of a sense of solidarity and enjoyment of other cultures, which appear to be more indicative than other motivations of effective cross-cultural engagement. Furthermore, the willingness of volunteers to return to Palms serves as an endorsement that, at least, we as an organisation are getting something right. Such feedback from our volunteers complements the positive feedback we receive from our partner agencies and encourages us that we are successful in achieving our three-point mission.

As always, we must remind our readers that our work relies on your support. While, Monica’s placement is largely funded (though not entirely) by AusAID and ERSS, we must cover the entire cost of Des’ placement from our own networks. The Diocese of Daru-Kiunga has agreed to provide accommodation and a modest living allowance to Des, but we still need assistance covering costs such as flights, insurance and support. By covering these small amounts, in 2012 we will provide a full year’s worth of expert labour to ERSS and Emmaus Farm.  You can donate directly to support our work in Tanzania or PNG by selecting Monica or Des from the drop-down list on our donation page.


Letters from the Field

June 23, 2009

Des with two students on the library steps

Of course the ute is totally clapped out – it whines like a Collingwood supporter – and there is no key for it, because the key is lost.

Click here to read the full article

Des Hansen’s CommUNITY News no. 1

May 12, 2009

Des Hansen with student at Sacred Heart College, Tapini in his previous placement

We did have phones at the school, but they blew up in June 2008 and we are still waiting for that connection with the world around us. Why I learnt how to send e-mails has got me beat. Deep down I can live without phones. I’ve always found them extremely aggravating and disruptive.

Click here to read the full article

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Papua New Guinea

PNG Flag

Population: 7,656,959

Area: 462,840 sq. km.

Median Age: 21.5

Literacy: 57.3 %

Languages: Tok Pisin (New Guinea Pidgin), English, Motu, c.820 indigenous languages

The terrain of Papua New Guinea varies from its rugged mountainous spine to its beautiful beaches to its volcanic islands to one of the world’s largest swamps and the large river systems of the Sepik and Fly rivers. These geographical differences have created a unique country with many diverse cultures. The ties within a family […]

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