Highlights From Our 96th Orientation Course

Highlights From Our 96th Orientation Course

Participants at our 96th Orientation have much to thank Palms intern Liesje Barratt for: Not only did she organise much of the event -in front and behind the scenes- but also introduced us to the game of  Kupps! Here Leisje gives her account of a most enjoyable and inspirational week.

From January 9th -17th Palms Australia held their 96th Orientation course in the beautiful southern highlands town of Bowral. This annual event is a crucial part of the excellent preparation that provides Palms volunteers with the necessary skills, values and understanding required to live and work within another culture. Covering themes such as health, language, personality, culture and development, this 9 day interactive course is challenging, engaging, reflective and fun.

As a current student of International Development at ACU and an Intern with Palms Australia, I was priviledged to help organise and participate in this year’s course. After months of contact via email, it was great to finally meet the diverse group of 11 participants who had traveled from SA, QLD, Port Stephens, the Entrance and even Papua New Guinea. Seeing them form friendships, engage in lively debate, reflect together, share food and stories, solve the development issues of a small Island nation and battle it out on the ‘Kupps’ court was both inspiring and heartwarming.

Liesje at the island simulation game
Liesje (seated) leads the Government of Dnasil in the Island simulation game.

A highlight among the many sessions that were enjoyed by all was the ‘field trip’ day. Small groups were selected and sent off (with only $5 and no mobile phones) to visit an unfamiliar cultural community. On their return all of groups had many fantastic positive stories to tell, interesting food to share and an enriched understanding of those who they had encountered. These are the stories that I would like to see on the news!

Without the help of our excellent presenters, returned volunteers and Father Jack, all who gave freely of their time, this course would not be possible. Many thanks too for the Palms staff, who as well as organising the event, led many of the presentations also. I know our participants found all the sessions informative and entertaining, in particular Graeme Mundine’s session on Indigenous Perspectives. Father Jack’s warmth, kindness and humour and the amazing food provided by the Sisters who live at Hartzer Park all helped to nourish our bodies and our souls.

The 9 days quickly passed and its conclusion was celebrated with a special Commissioning Ceremony (planned by the participants and attended by family, friends and Palms supporters), a delicious BBQ lunch, many hugs and promises to keep in touch. For some, this course marked the beginning of what will hopefully be a remarkable, rewarding and fruitful 2 year placement in communities in Samoa and Timor-Leste. For others, it provided a better understanding of Palms Australia and their value of working in solidarity with those less fortunate than others. For myself, it was a chance to meet and be inspired by a lovely group of human beings who hope, like myself, to one day see a just world free from poverty and exclusion.