An Update From the Executive Director, Roger O’Halloran
On Monday April 13 Palms staff reflected on a need to replenish energy across the weekend that had just passed. The reason was clear from participant’s unsolicited comments during and after the Roundtable Conference held on Friday April 10, which indicated that our small team had managed an exceptionally informative event. It became manifest that our energy had been transferred as we had wished when one participant wrote later that he was “inspired and energised”.
“I was amazed at how much preparation and work went into organising such a productive day. I felt it was very professional and comprehensive … I find myself saying yes to every suggestion. Please let me know how I can help more”
Around the table were gathered representatives of volunteer requesting organisations, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, religious congregations with global programs and our two major overseas mission and development agencies, Catholic Mission and Caritas Australia. They came in response to an invitation with some very big aims including:
- Meet more of the many volunteer requests received from communities seeking their assistance to build individual and organisational skills in their communities;
- Achieve a scale of operation that lowers the cost of each volunteer placement;
- Create a more flexible framework for preparation and sending of those who volunteer;
- Improve program coherence between organisations and across the volunteer cycle;
- Improve networking between those who volunteer in similar fields or locations;
- Develop sufficient capacity to take up a contract for mobilising volunteers through the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program;
- Advocate program values that assist to reorient AVID volunteer practice to that which encourages mutuality and solidarity with communities seeking capacity building and
- Engage a critical mass of returned volunteers as humble prophets of love and justice in mission and development programs with Australian agencies and religious congregations.
Liz Stone [below] in the chair provided us with a seamless movement through questions that were organised into four phases across the day. First, Seeing, provided an understanding of the perspectives of the various stakeholders. In Phase two we reflected on shared principles to help us come to Judgement about how a Whole-of-Church volunteer program can best address and integrate the different perspectives.
After lunch four groups were formed to consider required processes and Action that could be taken at each stage of the volunteer cycle. One group focused on partner relationships and scoping volunteer requests; another on recruiting, preparing and supporting volunteers; a third on engaging the Australian community and the fourth on how to resource volunteering. The final phase of the day was devoted to identifying the next steps to be taken and it was pleasing to see significant support for advancing a collaborative approach.
We had the right people around the table to address the issues on 10 April and we were well rewarded with some great input. The questions we were asking about a whole-of-church approach to international mission and development volunteering had clearly resonated. A working group was established to plan a process for developing a shared Charter of Principles for inter-cultural volunteering and immersions and most participants indicated that they would be keen to come together for further discussions in July.
I thank our Palms staff for all of the effort they contributed to the conference and for the ongoing commitment they have added to their workload.