Executive Director’s Report

Open Hands Day

Community Relations Coordinator, Brendan Joyce possibly best communicates Palms message of “Opening Our Hands to the World” on www.palms.org.au. Have a look. It’s great! But also try this and feel it … turn your palms face up … widen your arms a little. As we open our hands and widen our arms we also open our hearts. You are ready to receive.

It’s the opposite of folded arms, a pointed finger or a closed fist. Opening our hands to the world is not about the flag waving, wearing, kissing or burning seen recently on our streets. It requires us to become vulnerable and prepared to welcome new ideas, which allows us to remove the ignorance that can lead to fear and prejudice and the consequent violence one might perceive is necessary to be protected from the other.

Brendan made the point recently that politicians in talking about multi-culturalism, especially since the Cronulla race riots, mostly speak of how migrants will come to appreciate and agree with our great Australian values. Little is said about what values migrants may bring that might improve Australian culture. Opening our hands to the world is surely about being as ready to receive the wisdom from the life experiences of others as it is about what we think we may be offering. We are likely to discover values without borders: shared human values.

Palms’ core activity is about responding to the requests of communities seeking qualified and experienced volunteers to reduce poverty through the skill development of their people. Palms’ Values Statement (also on the web) and volunteer preparation highlights “… a formation in solidarity and in readiness to offer others not simply material aid but their very selves.”[1] Indeed material aid often misses the point of open hands and can threaten the equality within relationships, making the reciprocity required for effective exchange between volunteer and community very difficult.

A partner in Africa recently spoke strongly to us about a volunteer (not Palms) assuming the power of the provider and “recreating a cargo cult mentality” by providing material resources with donations from home. It can “destroy the incentive of the people to find sustainable solutions, able to be maintained by their community” and full hands also deny growth in the volunteer as a humble guest open to the learning that encourages their own liberation. “Often during a day a language lesson would stop work on site while pronunciation and grammatical areas in my speech were addressed or a cultural importance taught. This always took priority over work and was a magical doorway into which I entered at every opportunity. Their patience and persistence once again gave me many insights into their life and cultural ways.”[2]

Like programs funded by the Australian Government Palms focus is on poverty reduction, but as an independent agency Palms now is free to prepare volunteers to prioritise the relationships without which skill development is unlikely to occur. Open Hands Day is about making it possible to continue sending volunteers with faith in equality and mutual exchange. “The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be.” [3]So prepared, Palms volunteers will also offer our peace to the world and return with their wisdom.

June 2nd this year will be our first Open Hands Day. Two simple activities to communicate the message could also be an opportunity to kick off a Palms CommUnity Partnership. It’s simply a matter of:

  1. selling our greeting palms (cards) that open to share the benefits of Opening Our Hands to the World; and
  2. getting your community to participate in our competition to design the most effective gold coin open hands in the country.

Both will help Palms to further support communities seeking volunteers prepared to give themselves to achieve the most worthy development outcomes for us all. Please complete the order form on the back of the enclosed flier.

[1] Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est. Sec. 30 b) 2006
[2] Letter from Barry Hinton, Palms volunteer, Nov. 2003
[3] Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est. Sec 35

When a poor man takes a few coconuts
from his rich neighbour’s land,
to feed his children who are in need,
that is ROBBERY,
according to the law.
He can be convicted, perhaps even jailed.
When a rich man lives in wanton luxury,
spends infinitely more than he needs
on food, clothes, amusements,
while others are starving, naked, wretched,
There is no law
to convict him.

Yohan Devananda

Poem found and submitted by a PALMS member. Others wishing to submit poems of similar length for future issues would be welcome.