With a large group of eager volunteers anticipating departure and even more partners eager to host and work with them, Palms’ staff undertook two field trips – Brendan to South Africa, Uganda and Kenya in May/June and Christine and Barry, shortly afterwards, through Timor-Leste.
Field Trips have two dimensions. Firstly, we visit volunteers and partners already working together, providing personal support and evaluating the effectiveness of the development work in which they are engaged.
While some volunteers are determinedly independent, and seek little support from Palms, all appreciate such a visit and it is a vital part of maintaining effective working relationships between Palms, our partners and our volunteers. Sometimes even the independent types are surprised by how much they benefit from a visit by someone who understands.
Secondly, Field Trips allow us to scope future opportunities for partnership, assessing requests for volunteers against Palms’ mission – what will a volunteer be able to achieve here? – and assessing the conditions in which a volunteer will have to live and work – will a volunteer feel secure enough to last a full placement term or build the close relationships necessary for skill exchange?
Seeing the assignment locations and meeting the partners firsthand allows Palms’ staff to make some difficult decisions when it comes to prioritising one placement over another when faced with limited numbers of volunteers or limited funds required to send them.
It is a difficult triage, when all of our partner organisations are so welcoming, often travelling out of their way to meet you, providing hospitality on arrival and sharing genuinely warm, human interactions. Never during our field trips did we feel anything but safe, such was the care provided by our hosts.
So while, sadly, some partner’s requests will remain unfulfilled for now, it is with pride that Palms is able to fill placements with Holy Family Care Centre in Ofcolaco, South Africa; the Archdiocese of Tororo and St Anthony’s Hospital in Tororo, Uganda; Dili Diocese, Ahisaun Foundation, Haburas Moris and Eskola Teknika Agrikola in East Timor.
These organisations all have a long history of working in their community and of hosting Palms’ volunteers. They have both the resources to ensure the volunteers can be safe and therefore effective, and the shared commitment to building their communities, while working with the most disadvantaged, whether they be HIV-positive children, youth with disabilities, women, rural communities, or simply those unable to afford medical care.