Papua New Guinea Field Trip

Papua New Guinea Field Trip

A recent trip to Madang and Kiunga provided many insights into the importance of our volunteers and our approach to volunteering.

In Madang, at Divine Word University, Peter and Elaine Smyth are volunteering their skills to improve the quality of tertiary education in PNG. Neither is lecturing, but each is contributing their own expertise to strengthen the systems of the university. Fr Jan Czuba, the principal of DWU, expressed his gratitude for Peter’s legal advice and Elaine’s human resources skills, highlighting that each was essential in overcoming the peculiar challenges which often face organisations in this country.

At the Diocese of Daru-Kiunga, Paul Tan, Esther Sim and John Gartner are sharing their skills in human resources, finance and project
management, respectively, to build the programs and the capacity of local staff. The nearby Ok Tedi mine and Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) projects assist a small handful of people, while inflating local prices beyond the reach of others, but the programs of the Diocese reach into the community and address the education, health, economic, social and spiritual needs of the people.

In both Madang and Kiunga, some key principles of Palms Australia’s approach were re-inforced:

  • Ongoing partnerships between Palms Australia and our partners allow volunteers to build on the work of each other.
  • Clustering volunteers, particularly where their skills complement each other, can increase their effectiveness, not just their  security.
  • Volunteers must bring useful professional skills, requested by the host community, but also a willingness to be flexible, open to their own learning and cooperative.
  • Volunteers who engage in the community fully are more able to build relationships which both make them more effective in their work and increase their safety in their new environment.
  • Our partner organisations, who bring years of experience on the ground, are very capable of caring for volunteers and driving their own development.
  • By the end of the first year, the volunteer is ready to be truly useful to their host community.

As we have long said, relationships are central to our approach to volunteering – not just for their own sake, though they are intrinsically valuable, but also because they enable all other aspects of our mission.