A very special part of Christine O’Halloran’s role as Palms Australia’s Overseas Coordinator is visiting our partners and volunteers in the field. Here she sums up her recent trip to Kiribati.
Over the years Palms has sent over 70 volunteers to the Pacific athol nation of Kiribati, matching requests in education, administration, health and the trades.
During my recent trip to Kiribati I met with the current Director of the Kiribati Catholic Education Office, Br Donald Teixeira, a Marist Brother from NZ, whose vast educational experience spans across 50 years of service in the Pacific Islands. Over the last few years, in addition to his role as Director he has been responsible for coordinating the qualification upgrade of all I-Kiribati teachers working across the catholic schools. An incredible achievement!
Two of our most recent volunteers Helena Charlesworth and Sue Ryan have been working alongside I-Kiribati teachers providing on the job support and mentoring to complement the upgrading of qualifications.
Helena is completing her 10th year at Sacred Heart College. Over the ten years she has worked with tireless commitment and compassion to support Sacred Heart College students through the teaching of English (language of instruction), coordinating the DEAR reading program, setting up a Learning Library/Study Centre and working with staff to develop school policies/procedures whilst participating in the Board of Management.
The love and respect for Helena from staff and students is palpable. As one walks through the school it is clear from the way in which staff and students greet and talk with Helena that she has forged many meaningful relationships. Looking through her classroom window and noting the ready and enthusiastic attentiveness of her students and the well utilised Library and study space, highlight the contribution she has made.
Sue joined the Sacred Heart College three years ago supporting the Science faculty and Geography teachers with her vast knowledge and experience. For the last two years Sue has been mentoring the soon to be newly appointed Principal Tebwebwe.
Talking with Tebwebwe, he recounts the academic support that Palms volunteers have made available to him personally, and to catholic education in Kiribati. His own experience as a student at St Louis High School, where two of his teachers were Palms volunteers Annemeika Roper (2003-2004) and Jenni Murphy (2005-2006). The support has continued now in a professional capacity. Tebwebwe makes the point that he has “…been well guided by Sue and Helena”.
Marlene Rasmussen after 7 ½ years has completed her volunteer placement. During her placement Marlene has continuously maintained an energetic and enthusiastic commitment and dedication to the training of Diocesan staff and the coordination of the Diocesan projects on Tarawa and the outer islands of Kiribati.
Marlene has assisted many parishes with her valuable project management skills through mentoring staff to establish and maintain donor funding relationships and reporting processes. Since returning to Australia, Marlene has continued to support the Diocese staff in Tarawa through keeping the channels of communication open, providing support, when needed through email contact.
Bishop Paul Mea MSC recently commented that “….Marlene will be greatly missed by our people, more particularly the parishioners from the outer islands who she has supported in many ways, and the first words they will utter when they come to Tarawa will be – where is Marlene, we want to see her”.
A very, very fruitful and touching journey: One that proves there is always much hope, even in the world’s most threatened environment.