What do volunteers do?
Palms Australia volunteers are recruited to fulfil the requirements of requests from our partner communities overseas. Most of our volunteers are placed in health, education, trade or administration roles, but every placement is unique, depending on the needs of each community. Transferring skills in this way allows a community to become more self-sufficient and better able to determine their own future.
What countries are volunteers placed in?
Palms has placed volunteers in regional Australia and various countries in Africa, Asia, Central America and The Pacific. The countries we place volunteers vary from year to year, depending on the requests from our partner communities. To find out where we’re currently placing volunteers, visit our Projects page.
How long are our volunteer placements?
Palms Australia’s volunteer placements last from one to two years, and in some cases can be extended to 3 years. Most of our host organisations prefer long-term volunteer placements to short-term ones. The main reason for this is that it takes at least six months, if not a year, to build your own personal capacity to live and work effectively in a developing community.
While you’re settling into your role, you’re also spending the first year developing an understanding of the culture, learning a new language, and building a network. Once you’ve started to develop an understanding of your new community, you will have a better idea of how you can best use your skills to fulfil the mentoring component of your volunteer role.
Two-years may seem like a long time, but many of our volunteers find that the first year passes quickly, and it’s often not until the second year that they really make the most impact. Of course, Palms understands that not everyone can commit to two years, and so one year placements are possible where host organisations agree.
Is there any age restriction on who can volunteer?
Our volunteers provide training and mentoring in their volunteer roles, so they need to have a certain amount of experience and/or qualification in their specific field to be of real value to overseas communities.
Volunteering at any time can be rewarding and fulfilling, but our older volunteers (who are in good health) often find it provides a wonderful opportunity to share their vast experience and knowledge.
How much does it cost?
Palms Australia covers all costs of a placement with funds raised from individual donations, CommUNITY Partnerships and grants from affiliated organisations. The only expense we do not cover is the cost of pre-departure medical expenses. While some volunteers choose to cover a specific cost, such as airfares or insurance, this is not a requirement. Additional travel not associated with a placement or flights home prior to completion of a placement (two years) are not covered by Palms.
How do volunteers afford food and accommodation?
All volunteers going away for two years will receive a living allowance or stipend. It is generally equivalent to a local wage and provides enough to cover food and personal items. Accommodation is often provided by our host organisations and where it is not, a rental allowance is included with the living allowance. Accommodation varies depending on what is available in the location. In some locations volunteers will have their own house, in other locations they may share with a local family (with their own room) or community where meals can be shared or provided. Palms conducts an accommodation check prior to the volunteer’s arrival to ensure that your accommodation is safe and secure.
Can non-Australians volunteer?
We welcome non-Australian citizens currently living in Australia or New Zealand to apply to volunteer with Palms.
All applicants must be able to fund their own travel to our pre-departure Orientation Course. For this reason, individuals living overseas may wish to consider volunteer sending agencies in their home country.
What support does Palms give during the placement?
While Palms’ comprehensive pre-departure preparation training covers all the important issues, we’ve being doing this since 1961 and know not all needs can be anticipated prior to leaving home. At the heart of volunteer preparation is an eight day orientation course where you will meet fellow volunteers and the Palms team, who have travelled the road before you. Our team will link you up with returned volunteers who have either been in the same placement or location as yours, who will support you right throughout the placement, especially during the first six months when so much is new.
We prefer to cluster our volunteers so that there is always another Palms volunteer nearby. Our host organisations also provide a level of support when you first arrive and throughout the placement. They will nominate someone from their community to provide volunteer care and safety for the duration of your placement. Members of the Palms team will visit you at least once during your placement.
Does Palms keep in contact with you when you are overseas?
Palms keeps in regular contact with all of our volunteers. We are always on hand to provide support and guidance via email and phone when needed. All volunteers will have access to internet and be within mobile service range. We encourage volunteers to keep regular contact with us so we can discuss how they are transitioning on a professional and personal level.
Is volunteering safe and secure?
Development work of any kind cannot be provided unless there is a level of stability within the country. Palms has a comprehensive scoping process that we conduct as part of our risk management strategy to ensure there is an understanding of the security risks. Palms completes a locality risk assessment for every placement. We also connect with the country’s DFAT post to make sure they are aware of our volunteer and their placement objectives. All volunteers are registered with DFAT, and any updates that the Australian government provides regarding safety and security is passed on. Within the first few weeks of arrival, volunteers and their host organisation complete and a personal security plan. Of course, it’s not possible to remove every risk, but we do attempt to prepare and support our volunteers to the best of our ability.
Do volunteers get holidays?
Yes. The amount depends on the organisation you are working with. Teachers usually have school holidays similar to those in Australia. Most other positions receive around four to five weeks of annual leave per year.
How do volunteers stay healthy on their placements?
Palms provides a comprehensive health workshop during our orientation course, conducted by one of our tropical medicine practitioners. Our volunteers are also required to undertake a medical health check prior to accepting any placement, and are advised that specific health concerns should be discussed with a travel doctor or their general practitioner. Volunteers are also advised on particular health issues relevant to their placement location, and what measures they need to take to stay healthy.
What sort of support does Palms provide when volunteers return home?
Palms provides volunteers with post-placement resources about three months prior to their return home. These resources are designed to help volunteers reflect on their experience while they are still working. It also gives them the opportunity to discuss this preparation with Palms, and have any questions answered.
Once a volunteer returns home, Palms will provide an initial placement debrief and connect newly returned volunteers with other returned volunteers from the same area. A Re-Entry Workshop is scheduled each year, and returned volunteers are encouraged to participate. It provides an opportunity to hear the stories of other returned volunteers and to process their experience within a reflective framework. We often invite our returned volunteers to engage with the preparation of new volunteers, and to be involved in our wider network.
I’m not ready to volunteer right now. How else can I be involved?
Palms Australia relies strongly on community support and would welcome your assistance in a number of ways.
You can help by providing one-off or recurring donations to help us fund volunteers; starting a CommUNITY Partnership fundraising group in your area; or volunteer part-time in our Sydney office. If you’re interested in visiting some of our volunteers in the field and finding out more about development volunteering, you can join us on a short small group trip to Timor-Leste or Samoa with one of our Encounters. Contact Palms Australia for more information.