Our Volunteers: Helena Charlesworth volunteering in Kiribati

Kernah with her Science StudentsSacred Heart High School, Kiribati

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 urban centres of the Republic of Kiribati are found in south Tarawa from Betio to Bonriki. Tarawa, like all the other islands, is a coral atoll and the majority of agriculture is made up of coconut trees, pandanus and breadfruit.

A recent study into Education in Kiribati, commissioned by Palms Australia and carried out by the Queensland Catholic Education Commission, identified a lack of confidence in English amongst teachers and students as a major reason for poor results and low numbers of tertiary entrants in Kiribati.

The Catholic Education Office of Kiribati has made requests to Palms Australia to provide experienced English teachers to help in mentoring and assisting local teachers in their schools.

Helena Charlesworth

helenaHelena Charlesworth, from Tasmania, has been teaching English to Form 5 and 6 students of Sacred Heart High School since 2007. She works closely with local teachers to develop their English and teaching skills.

Helena has previously volunteered through Palms Australia at Vunapope International Primary School, Papua New Guinea and Edmund Rice Sinon School, Tanzania. She has broad skills from classroom teaching, including teaching English as a Second Language, curriculum development and school administration.

With her long-term volunteering and cross-cultural experience, Helena has fitted in famously at Sacred Heart High School. Her professional input as well as her easy acceptance of a different cultural environment is an encouragement and inspiration to  the i-Kiribati staff and students. The community has a determination to grow in their knowledge and skills, increasing employment opportunity.

Greetings from Kiribati

January 19, 2015

Helena Charlesworth, volunteer at Sacred Heart High School, Tarawa, Kiribati, returns to her placement after Christmas in a very different place

She writes

It was lovely to be back in Australia, especially the week I spent in
my home town, Devonport (Tas.) which I hadn’t visited for the past
three years. Being with friends there and later meeting some more who
were visiting Melbourne was very encouraging as I felt surrounded by
their love and care.

Then I spent a very special time of six days on retreat at the Campion
Centre in Kew (Vic). That gave me a chance to look back over the past year, to put things to rights and to prepare, at least spiritually and
mentally, for the coming year which promises to be a challenge (as usual).

After that I felt very blessed to be able to stay with Good Samaritan
Sisters in Melbourne so that I could visit and spend Christmas with my
cousin who is in a nursing home.
How did it feel to be back in Australia? Wonderful!…for a short
period. I enjoyed the people, the climate, the FOOD! (oh, so
delicious, fresh and varied), the city with its music and buskers and
hustle and bustle and the goods in the stores. But it is an expensive
place to live!

I was away for six weeks and during the latter two or three weeks I
felt ready to return to Tarawa. In fact, by the last few days I
wished the day of travelling would hurry up. I tend to be uneasy when
packing and travelling, especially when doing so alone, so it was a
relief when the plane finally took off.

I had something to look forward to en route: Br. Don (CEO Director
from NZ), Br. Kevin (teacher at St Louis High School here on Tarawa,
also from NZ), Sue Ryan (Palms Volunteer and colleague at SHC), Kiyo (our school’s young Japanese volunteer teacher) and I were all booked on
the same plane from Nadi to Tarawa, so it was a happy reunion in Nadi
airport lounge. The sense of belonging was very special.

A pleasant surprise at Tarawa’s Bonriki airport where the service has
improved immeasurably and we were through Customs in no time at all-
and there was a welcome from our school nightwatchman who came to pick
up Sue, Kiyo and me.

Our homes had been cleaned -I hadn’t expected that- and flowers and a
welcoming card awaited us. None of our four cats had gone missing -in fact two surprised us with new kittens! That gives us the prospect
of plenty of entertainment as they find their legs and play and tumble
about. They tend to be better entertainment than a TV and since we
don’t have the latter we appreciate the former!

What does it feel like to be back? Wonderful! I’m really looking
forward to the new school year and its challenges because with our new
school administrative team I believe we can raise the school’s name in
the community by giving our students a good, holistic education. For
me, I have to be able to accept that there will be frustrations and
some things won’t change, and not get myself upset by that. That’s
where the retreat will be so helpful –it’s shown me the need to be
calmer and more accepting.

There have been welcoming hugs or handshakes from the few staff and
students/ex-students we’ve already met in the four days we’ve been
back, as well as from our parish priest who doesn’t really know us
well, having come to the parish only late last year,yet he
seemed really happy to see Sue and I after Mass this morning.

Being back in Australia was great; and being back now in Kiribati is
even better for there’s a challenge ahead, an exciting one which I
look forward to.


The value of a visit

November 25, 2011

Palms undertakes to visit each volunteer at least once during their placement. After each visit, the visiting representative writes a report for members, however this year we let the volunteers themselves report on the value of a Field Visit.

Click here to read the full article

Helena Charlesworth’s CommUNITY News no. 2

December 14, 2010

I have my favourite spot outside for my early morning cuppa, watching each new day light up. And the moon over the lagoon at night is a sight to behold. At low tide at night I see people out in the shallows with their torches, catching small octopus or digging up shellfish.

Click here to read the full article

More articles

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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

As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills. - Pope Francis (Joy of the Gospel 202)