Beyond July: What comes after World Youth Day?

Hundreds of thousands of young people are about to congregate in Sydney to express, explore and expand their faith by participating in the event that is World Youth Day. While the majority of pilgrims will be from Australia (100,000 registered), Europe (54,000) and North America (27,000), WYD organisers can be commended for their attempts at ensuring this is not simply an event for those wealthy enough to afford the plane fare. As the first World Youth Day in the Southern Hemisphere since the inaugural event in Buenos Aires 21 years ago, Australian Catholic dioceses, parishes, religious and lay groups have attempted to boost the number of participants from “developing” nations, most notably through sponsorship and billeting. The estimated number of pilgrims from Oceania currently stands at 10,000, equal to Asia and greater than New Zealand, Africa or South America.

Let us hope:

  • the opportunity to meet and interact with our neighbours will enhance Australia’s and the world’s understanding of the realities of culture, life and challenges in the Pacific.
  • greater solidarity, the key energising value of Palms Australia, is built and felt by all and we are able to move beyond simplistic stereotypes, ignorance and divisiveness.
  • this increased global understanding and solidarity extends beyond the short-term vitality and enthusiasm of World Youth Day, and that young and old continue to engage more deeply in matters of global concern.

Given that World Youth Day will be upon us very soon, now is a great time to consider how the experience will affect Australians beyond July 2008.

As life returns to “normal”, there will undoubtedly be mixed emotions among Australian pilgrims. While initially pilgrims will bring enthusiasm and energy home to their parish or school, many may fear that beyond the week-long celebration there will be little to excite young people and engage their sense of Christian purpose. While some will lose interest following the final Mass, others will seek something more. Palms Australia offers a variety of ways in which youth (and the youth in spirit) can continue their journey.

Those who have skills or qualifications which might benefit global communities can engage in Palms Australia’s volunteer program. Palms continues to receive many requests from partner communities seeking Australian volunteers for skill exchange. Palms had it origins in connecting young Australians to the world well before (since 1961) the first World Youth Day and will continue to do so for years to come. Palms’ pre-departure preparation and support in the field encourages volunteers to relate humbly to their counterparts, so that the exchange can be truly mutual, while working together for a just world.

Those who are still developing their skills or expertise or are otherwise unable to commit to an overseas placement can still be part of a meaningful relationship with a global community. Through a Palms CommUnity Partnership, Australians can support the skill exchange requested by our overseas partners, while at the same time furthering their own knowledge and understanding of different cultures, countries, ways of doing and ways of being. Such ongoing relationships epitomise solidarity, not just during the celebrations but also the difficult, challenging and unremarkable times, and enable movement towards a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world.

Palms Australia is pleased to continue its mission of increasing cross-cultural understanding, building mutual relationships and reducing poverty by exchanging skills, in ever new and exciting ways.

After the 100,000 WYD pilgrims depart Australia, Palms will bring two more to pilot a hospitality internship programme at The Fair Trade Coffee Company.

The two girls are students of Venilale Girls’ Vocational School, at which Palms volunteer Linh Nguyen has been teaching for the past two years. This programme will enhance the Hospitality and English skills of the girls.

Along with our ongoing volunteer skill exchange programme in Timor-Leste, Connect East Timor (featured last issue), our support of partnerships such as Friends and Partners with East Timor, and the sale of Timorese crafts and coffee at our café, this will add another dimension to the relationships between Palms Australia and Timor-Leste.