When our first volunteers departed for the highlands of Papua New Guinea, they were often heading into the wild unknown. Boarding a boat and then a light plane to a place with limited power and even more limited communications, it would often be months between messages from home. Nowadays, even remote villages have been touched by technological advances, with mobile phones ubiquitous and Internet access steadily improving in urban centres. While still limited (remember the sound of a dial-up modem?), some volunteers have the luxury of reliable power, cheap text messaging and even occasional international calls via Skype.
Palms’ head office too benefits from these advances. Our two evacuations from East Timor—in 2006 and 2007—were possible because of mobile phones. Staff, volunteers, partners and government employees were able to stay informed of each other’s location and whether particular routes were safe. When our café closed, we were able to continue selling Fair Trade products online. Board meetings now include interstate Directors via Skype and, of course, email has made many aspects of our work quicker, easier and cheaper.
Our CommUNITY program, aimed at involving Australians in the work of our volunteers, predominantly operates online. Volunteer profiles are linked to their updates from the field. Palms Post is also available online. Donations can be made to Palms generally or to support a particular placement. Australian supporters can send a message directly from a volunteer’s profile and they will often receive it within a day or two. Most of our enquiries about volunteering now come via our website (though school and parish bulletins are still vital in getting people to visit our site).
We are now beginning to see the opportunities presented by social media. Over 600 individuals have connected with us on Facebook, with another 100 on Twitter. And the numbers are growing! Sceptics may decry the hype and the abundance of puerile content, as they did with the web 15 years ago, but the social web offers great possibilities for furthering Palms’ mission.
- Share stories on our page or add your own thoughts or questions to ours.
- Post photos from your time as a volunteer and tag Palms Australia.
- Connect us with people or articles of interest.
- Promote our work to your local MP, journalist, @AusAID or @KRuddMP.
- Subscribe to an individual volunteer’s updates or send them a message of support.
- Make a recurring donation to a placement.
- Buy Coffee, Hot Chocolate, Jubilee t-shirts or 2012 diaries as Christmas presents.