Palms’ mission clearly states that a volunteer placement is not solely about the volunteer exchanging skills with a global community. Volunteering also provides great opportunities “to engage Australian communities and partner communities through Global Volunteers so that each increases their awareness and enthusiasm to encourage just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful development.”
Palms’ CommUNITY initiative has connected many communities over the years and the Hale family’s story is indicative of how these partnerships occur.
Our journey began many years ago when Rob finished his plumbing trade and wanted to do something practical to help those in a developing country with his new skills. The opportunity had not presented itself until just recently. Rob first discovered Palms on the Internet in 2002. The journey began in earnest about 2 years ago when Roger O’Halloran gave a talk at St James’ parish church about Palms and their work. This struck a chord with Rob and reignited the desire to do something practical. The topic was discussed several times around our family dinner table and we all agreed it would be a great experience and an opportunity to live out our Catholic faith in a practical way.
We contacted Palms and they had a request for teachers in Samoa. Rob is a qualified teacher with many years of experience and a true love of helping students to learn. So he will be teaching business and economics. Although I (Bev) am not a qualified teacher, I have a sound knowledge of computers having come from an IT background and am familiar with many software packages commonly in use on most computers. So I will teach computers.
The Hale family belong to St. James parish in Glebe, providing a great opportunity to engage not only the church community, but also the primary school, which Nicholas and Clare attend. The parish and school also happen to be across the road from Palms’ office and were involved in providing support to our first Reverse Immersion last year. The wider Glebe community has become more aware of Palms’ work through the Fair Trade Coffee Company.
We have been very humbled by the support shown from St James’ Primary School. The school has been active in fundraising to assist with the cost of relocating the family to Samoa. The children (and subsequently the parents) of the school have been very generous and we thank them from the heart.
We have also had a great deal of support from the Parish Priest, Fr Colin Fowler and the parishioners of St James’ Parish. It is humbling to know that so many wish us well and want to follow our progress. Our heartfelt thanks also to the parishioners of St James’, St Bede’s and Fr Colin.
As Rob and Bev explain, there is still some room to educate people about volunteering and how it contributes to development.
When we first tell people that we are going to Samoa for 2 years to live and work most say “congratulations” like we’ve won the lottery. Rob and I both find this an interesting response. We are however, just an ordinary family in a position to be able to take on this opportunity.
Through local events prior to departure and ongoing CommUNITY updates over their two year placement, which will be anything but a holiday, the Hales share more broadly examples of how Australians can demonstrate solidarity with their neighbours and contribute to creating a just world.
We feel privileged to be able to go to Samoa. To learn their culture, philosophy and language and hopefully pass on some of our skills so that they may be in a better position in the future as their nation develops and plays a more significant role in the Pacific region.