The Volunteer Bug (New Placements)

The Volunteer Bug (New Placements)

In 2010, Palms Australia will place Peter and Elaine Smyth at Divine Word University in Madang, PNG. They will work as a Legal Advisor and Personnel Manager respectively, training local staff to implement new legal, administrative and personnel policies. Their work will increase DWU’s capacity in building effective global partnership, improving a greater standard of education, best practice governance and gender equality.

Given the importance Palms places on relationship, it is unsurprising that we were excited to receive an application from Peter and Elaine earlier this year.

Peter’s sister Rosaleen is currently volunteering at Ruaha University College in Tanzania and Peter’s parents, Jim and Kath, volunteered with Palms at Holy Trinity Teacher’s College in PNG in the early 1970s. Peter and Rosaleen have also volunteered previously through other organisations.

This is not Palms’ first multi-generational placement* but it does make one wonder, “how is ‘the volunteering bug’ instilled in a family?”

Rosaleen was the first to volunteer (in Samoa and Zambia) and was the catalyst for the family’s interest in volunteering; however, she identifies that her parents’ values may have inspired her initial desire to volunteer:

“One thing that does stick in my mind is that in the country towns where we grew up and later in Canberra they were always involved in working for the community.”

While Peter’s first placement was being organised, for Chimbu, PNG in 1973, Jim and Kath also contacted Palms. While Peter also gives some credit to his upbringing:

Rosaleen Smyth
Rosaleen Smyth

“My original interest was awakened by films shown at school of the Catholic missions at work in the Pacific.”

he also recognises the influence that Rosaleen’s early placements had on the family:

“On reflection, I believe it was the inspiration of Rosaleen’s work in Western Samoa and Zambia, that was the catalyst for both myself and my parents deciding to follow in her footsteps.”

Cases such as this demonstrate how close contact with volunteers can result in an increased interest in volunteering. When a volunteer’s stories are communicated passionately and in an engaging, interesting manner, the audience begins to understand what drives volunteers: the attraction of crossing cultures, the call to reduce poverty, the new friends gained and the new perspective with which to view the world.

To subscribe to Peter and Elaine’s newsletters from PNG, and perhaps get bitten by ‘the volunteering bug’, visit their commUNITY profile.

* Barry and Marilyn Hoare (PNG, 1960s) were followed by daughter Terri-Anne (Uganda 1998-2000); Christine and Roger O’Halloran and family (Samoa 93-94) were followed by Christine’s parents, Peter and Wilma Corser (PNG 96-97, Kiribati 99-2001). Palms has also sent numerous families and in some cases, volunteers have met their future partner at one of Palms’ courses or while in the field. There have even been children born in the field.