By Roger O’Halloran
I’ve been called to share Palms message in many different forums in the last month. It has taken me to a Knight’s of the Southern Cross meeting in Colac, Victoria, a meeting with Kadasig, a community group seeking an Australian nurse to assist a partner community in Cebu, Philippines, and a couple of meetings with Wollongong CEO Principals. I have also been asked to share Palms approach and ethics on an upcoming ABC Television investigation of Voluntourism.
Readers will know the essentials of what Palms does better than most of these audiences. Most realise that we recruit qualified and experienced Australians who volunteer to assist the growth of vital grass roots organisations by fostering the strengths of their people. Those who have returned from assignment and perhaps their families will know that we provide thorough preparation and support and we claim as our mission that any growth and development will and needs to be mutual.
Newer audiences don’t have to think too much to understand that it makes sense for those sent to provide training and mentoring to build local personnel capacities and organisational processes, thus improving opportunities for sustainable poverty reduction. If people think about international development they get that this is an important way by which development becomes sustainable. However, their thought is clearly interrupted when I start talking about mutual development.
Faces reveal questions and queries: How can it be “mutual”? Surely we have people with some of the greatest skill sets going around. What capacity does the community requesting our assistance have to help us?
Certainly in terms of Economic development we keep our growth pumping through an education system that prepares people to become cogs in the machine. Yet somehow we’re responsible for the planet being on the edge of destruction and an alienated populace self-destructing through food, drug, domestic abuse and suicide. Individualism triumphs over connection and community.
Sharing skills to build capacity relates to the second aim of Palms Mission and only goes part of the way to achieving Palms Vision. So how do I explain the other side of Palms mission? The other side recognises that all the mentoring from those with the greatest skill sets in the world amounts to nothing if other structural barriers prevent access to global resources.
My feeling is that Palms has not been so effective in achieving the first aim of our mission: “To advance the awareness, enthusiasm and involvement of Australian and international communities in shared action to achieve just, sustainable, and peaceful development.” I have been explaining to my audiences that I believe we can encourage that more if we see all living creatures as part of one body. It’s a message that people of faith understand, but it reaches beyond to other audiences.
It might help to consider ourselves as microcosms within an interdependent macrocosm. When we remember that the cosmos is boundless we begin to realise that the microcosm of our culture, religion, nationality, gender or class are relatively limited. Revelation happens when we go out with palms open, not just to offer assistance, but to break out of our limited microcosm. I think those who go out can assist to reveal the lessons of engaging other microcosms with those who supported their sending. They can assist to reveal the cosmos and to have all microcosms in this wonderful one body grow together.
In future Orientation Courses we will run sessions on the methodology behind the necessary Analysis, Advocacy and Activism. We will make a start at this year’s Solidarity Awards on July 14th, with the advice from our special guest speaker, Sr Pat Fox, an Australian missionary who was deported from the Philippines in 2018 following her arrest for political interference. Click here to find out more and buy tickets.