50 years of international volunteering was celebrated in January with the commissioning of a further 13 volunteers.
The 91st Orientation Course lasted 10 days and included units covering culture, development and health as well as a number of opportunities to meet with returned volunteers with specialist expertise on working cross-culturally.
Held at The Hermitage in Mittagong, the Palms Orientation Course builds upon correspondence units and individualised preparation to ensure volunteers are able to cope with the challenges inherent in living cross-culturally, contribute in sustainable ways to community development activities and ensure they do not repeat the mistakes of past volunteers, development workers, missionaries or colonisers.
On Sunday 16th January, returnees dating back to Palms’ founding years and other supporters came together to wish the newest group of volunteers well and reminisce about Palms’ long history beginning with the first placements in Papua New Guinea and eventually spanning 38 countries in Africa, Asia, South America and the Pacific.
Following the commissioning ceremony, celebrated by Fr Jack Evans SSC, a number of returnees were able to share what they considered the most significant change resulting from their time as a Palms Volunteer. Stories ranged from developmental outcomes in the field, personal growth, the establishment of ongoing relationships and inspiration to be more active in pursuing justice in Australia.
A video from Tunaniya Open Learning Centre in Bougainville featured Josie Sirivi-Kauona congratulating and thanking Palms for its partnership over the years and expressed her organisation’s desire to continue the partnership into the future.
Finally, participants and guests were stirred by Executive Director Roger O’Halloran’s address calling for action this Jubilee year to celebrate 50 years of Palms’ work and build the foundations of Palms’ future.