Another year has passed, filled with building new relationships and further developing old ones. There are many people to thank for supporting Palms: the volunteers who willingly share their skills in a cross-cultural context, our overseas partners who continue to request Palms volunteers, highlighting the comprehensive preparation that our volunteers receive, and our Australian donors and supporters.
Nineteen volunteers participated in the January Orientation Course. Palms volunteers were joined by participants from the Parramatta Catholic Education Office, Townsville CEO, Christian Brothers and OLSH Sisters, all of whom went on to undertake development placements in various parts of the world. Thank you to all the Orientation Course facilitators who make themselves available, generally during their Christmas break, to assist in the preparation of Palms volunteers.
Thirty-Five Palms volunteers were in development placements over the year.
Whilst Palms recognises the importance of pre-departure preparation for volunteers, we are also very aware of the need for ongoing support of volunteers whilst they are in placement, and when they return from living and working overseas. Palms has conducted two Re-Entry Workshops, one in October 2005 in NSW (Mittagong) and the second in April 2006 in QLD (Redland Bay – photo at far right). Both re-entry workshops were facilitated by Marlene Hixon fmm who continues to assist Palms volunteers in the re-entry process using her wealth of experience and expertise.
One of the biggest challenges this year was the evacuation of Palms volunteers from Timor-Leste in late May and early June 2006. It was with deep regret and reluctance that volunteers left their placements, friends and colleagues in the midst of the political conflict and instability that engulfed Dili. Four of the six volunteers evacuated have since returned to their placements. But it is not possible for all to return, as some communities, particularly those based in Dili, are not in a position to continue hosting volunteers until the political situation has completely stabilised.
Michael and Cheree Flanagan, Palms volunteers working in Ahisaun, Dili have described their experience of being evacuated -see their report this issue.
We all look forward to the year ahead!
Country Program Coordinator
Being evacuated from our East Timor placement after 14 months in country was a devastating reality for us. After a month of uncertainty regarding the fate of the tiny newly-independent nation we boarded an evacuation flight on May 25. The support and assistance we received from Palms Australia and our Australian community during this time was overwhelming. Our hearts and prayers are with the beautiful people of East Timor as they attempt to rebuild their lives after yet another setback. We look forward to the future with anticipation and hope.