Volunteering can be both a challenging and immensely rewarding experience. Few returnees would claim to remain unchanged by the experience. Some, such as Des Hansen, from Foster in Victoria, and Monica Morrison from Mollymook, NSW, value the experience so much that they return for another placement. Each is well aware of the sorts of challenges they will face, though the specifics are different each time, but each can see that they again can be part of meaningful change by plunging in again.
Monica Morrison has previously volunteered with the Catholic Teachers College (CTC) in Baucau in Timor-Leste. While there she worked with trainee teachers and lecturers at the college, sharing her expertise in education and psychology and sharing in the expertise of her East Timorese colleagues in what works, or does not work, in East Timor. Monica’s presence, guidance and enthusiasm was greatly appreciated by those with whom she worked.
Now Monica is readying herself for departure to work with Edmund Rice Sinon School (ERSS) in Arusha, Tanzania. Like CTC Baucau, Edmund Rice has a long history with Palms Australia and Monica will be the latest in a series of volunteers who have contributed to improved education for the children of Tanzania. Interestingly, Monica will be joining two more “repeat” Palms volunteers in Arusha, Kathy Brick, also at ERSS and Jenny Ferris, at Food Water Shelter.
Des Hansen, on the other hand, will be returning to Papua New Guinea, the country in which he volunteered in 2008-2010. Anyone who knows PNG will tell you, however, that different locations in PNG can be vastly different in culture, environment and development needs. This time, Des will be travelling to Kiunga in PNG’s Western Province to work at Emmaus Farm, a training centre for young men. Des, an ex-principal, will use his experience in education, leadership and agriculture to improve the capacity of Emmaus to provide its students with the skills required to maintain sustainable agricultural projects for their families and villages.
Des will be joining three other Palms volunteers in Kiunga, John Gartner, Paul Tan and Esther Sim, who are working on improving the programs of the Diocese of Daru-Kiunga, which include Emmaus Farm. Again, this is a long-term partner of Palms Australia, with numerous volunteers over the years responding to challenges in youth work, education and sustainable agriculture. Des will be a welcome addition to an ongoing partnership which is making a real, positive difference in people’s lives.
Des and Monica are not unique in returning to the field – there are over 100 volunteers who have done more than one placement with Palms Australia – but each time someone returns to volunteer again, we are excited to receive them. Those who have volunteered before often have a headstart because while there may still be culture jolts, we know they have the tools to work through them. Provided they don’t expect each experience to be the same, they can be more effective in their work exchanging skills. Repeat volunteers are more likely to be motivated out of a sense of solidarity and enjoyment of other cultures, which appear to be more indicative than other motivations of effective cross-cultural engagement. Furthermore, the willingness of volunteers to return to Palms serves as an endorsement that, at least, we as an organisation are getting something right. Such feedback from our volunteers complements the positive feedback we receive from our partner agencies and encourages us that we are successful in achieving our three-point mission.
As always, we must remind our readers that our work relies on your support. While, Monica’s placement is largely funded (though not entirely) by AusAID and ERSS, we must cover the entire cost of Des’ placement from our own networks. The Diocese of Daru-Kiunga has agreed to provide accommodation and a modest living allowance to Des, but we still need assistance covering costs such as flights, insurance and support. By covering these small amounts, in 2012 we will provide a full year’s worth of expert labour to ERSS and Emmaus Farm. You can donate directly to support our work in Tanzania or PNG by selecting Monica or Des from the drop-down list on our donation page.