By Christine O’Halloran
“…I wake up to the sounds of crashing waves, roosters crowing, a baby cries, the pigs are rummaging for food, the church bell rings, and the geckos call – I am in Kiribati!”
An island nation that has become known more recently, through the climate change debate.
Palms Australia has three volunteers currently working in Kiribati. Theresa Murphy, at St Dominic’s Pre-School/Child-Care Centre ( Sacred Heart Parish, Teaoraereke), Marlene Rasmussen at the Diocese of Tarawa & Nauru office (Teaoraereke), and Helena Charlesworth at Sacred Heart High School (Bikenibeu).
Theresa has been in Kiribati for 12 months and during that time she has been engaged in assisting the I-Kiribati teachers with running programs for the pre-school children and helping with the development of the recently opened child-care centre.
The second year of Theresa’s placement will be spent assisting the pre-school teachers and parents in developing new policies for St Dominic’s as well as developing resources for the children.
Marlene has thoroughly embraced her training role in the Diocesan office (Tarawa & Nauru). The Administration Office was a buzz with activity, as visiting outer island Priests drop in to discuss their parish finances with the Diocesan staff, during their weeklong retreat.
Marlene has been assisting to build the capacity of the Diocesan office by working with staff to streamline some of the administrative and financial procedures, to further develop new skills and introduce some new practices.
Helena is in her fourth year with Sacred Heart High School. This year Helena has been teaching English to Forms 4 and 5 and Religious Education to Form 6. As National examinations are in English, there is a great need for the students to be proficient in English.
The length of time that Helena has been in Kiribati working with I-Kiribati students in class and at an individual level has provided her with much insight into the many challenges that students face from day to day.
Visiting Kiribati was an enjoyable experience, I was encouraged by the positive feedback from our partners about the worthwhile contribution that Palms volunteers have made in the past and continue to make now through the training and mentoring that they provide both to the staff they are working with, and to the students they are teaching.
I thank our partners, Bishop Paul Mea (Bishop of Tarawa & Nauru), Sr Tiura Kaiuea (Director of Catholic Education Office), Mrs Zita Teata (Principal of Sacred Heart High School, Bikenibeu), Fr Michael Mackenzie (Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Parish, Teaoraereke) and the OLSH Sisters (Teaoraereke) for their ongoing support of Palms volunteers as they adjust to a new culture and workplace.
Thanks also to our Kiribati Palms volunteers who work tirelessly and with such commitment. It was joy to spend time with you all, and visit your workplaces and homes.