Director’s Report: Celebrating Uncertainty

Palms is in the middle of celebrating many milestones. Last October, a couple of years late; we celebrated 50 years since the formation of our mother organisation, the Paulian Association. In June we come to the end of the Pauline year (see March PP). In July 2011 we will celebrate 50 years of the Palms Global Mission programme.

I have developed a sense that it is only worth celebrating the past if it helps us go forward. George Bernard Shaw once famously said, “The future belongs to the unreasonable ones, the ones who look forward, not backward, who are certain only of uncertainty…” As I look forward I can affirm that I am certain only of uncertainty.

I am fairly certain that Palms will still be here to celebrate 50 years of engagement in a development mission, but I have to admit that I’m uncertain that Palms’ work will continue much beyond that point. However, seeing beyond two or three years has never been a luxury enjoyed by Palms. Maybe it is this that keeps us in solidarity with most of the communities with whom we work.

Our foundation as a vulnerable lay organisation, rather than a religious order on the one hand, or a service provider that throws money at “volunteers” on the other, deepens the connection between volunteers and host communities. With much in common they develop together to tackle some of the human struggles we share. If this is what we celebrate in 2011 we will continue to look forward with humility, love and justice and bring grace to the mundane.

Potential Contribution Possible income sources Current status
$500,000 x 1 = $500,000 Government No such grant or donation
$50,000 x 5 = $250,000 Cafe, Church, Corporate 2 x $50,000 – 1 individual, 1 corporate
$5,000 x 50 = $250,000 Australian CommUNITY partners for 50 volunteers 15 individuals/communities/organisations donate from $3,000 to $20,000
$500 x 500 = $250,000 Membership drive 100 individual contributions: $40 – $1,000

As I write I am excited by the thought of next weekend’s Focus Workshop with 10 NSW/ACT applicants and a Re-entry to be attended by eight returned volunteers. Each provides an opportunity to enter one of Palms’ sacred spaces where volunteers, prospective or experienced, are encouraged to continually engage in development. I get the chance to witness again the realisation that development is about revealing strengths and encouraging interdependence, rather than that which is patronisingly about doing things for people.

It is a unique set of processes, refined over nearly 50 years that Palms employs to encourage equal relationships as the basis for advancing mutual development. As with any set of processes where so many of the beneficiaries experience material poverty, resources need to be sourced in communities with material wealth. The budget we are preparing now for next financial year will show another deficit, indicating that work needs to be done again to lift Palms’ income. The following table outlines targets we can aim to achieve by 2011-12.

Achieving a target of $1m by our next celebration will assist us to meet at least 50 requests from overseas communities. During the coming year Palms’ staff will invite you to participate in some enabling activities. We would like you to become one of Shaw’s “unreasonable ones”, so that when we celebrate 50 years of Palms Global Mission we can, with our partner communities, look forward, not backward, albeit still with uncertainty.