Recognising the barriers, helps us to reach beyond

Recognising the barriers, helps us to reach beyond

By Roger O’Halloran

In November 2020 we branched out with our communications to include a Podcast.  Each podcast asks a group of four or five how they feel about the opportunity Palms has given them to live the Palms’ Vision.  We call it Reach Beyond’, the same phrase with which the Palms’ Vision begins.

On being elected to the Palms’ Board at the Palms AGM in October, Colin Small, now Palms’ Treasurer, indicated that he thought the Vision too long for people to take in.  Certainly, in recent years, an addition was made to strengthen it.  Did we sacrifice the ease of simplicity for something too complex?

After approving a new constitution in 2001 members synthesised the ‘Objects’ of the former Paulian Association and several aims of the Palms’ program into the then more vogue Vision and Mission statements.  The Vision was about the world we wanted to see as much as how we wanted to see the organisation:

“People cooperating to achieve a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world free of poverty.”

The recent addition comes at the beginning to read:

“People reaching beyond every barrier of culture, religion, nationality, gender, class, and individualism, to cooperate in achieving a just …” etc.

A Realistic Vision

There was a feeling that without the addition the statement omitted a vision of the barriers to cooperation, and as such was unrealistic.  Certainly, critical to the success of people cooperating to achieve these ideals we needed to be realistic about the ongoing struggle to break down barriers.  Human nature can make us all quick to erect and hide behind barriers.

Barriers, like Donald Trump’s wall are often to keep people away from sharing what one has, but they equally serve to hide the privileged from the pain and suffering of fellow human beings.  Barriers also prevent us from sharing in the rich understanding others have of how to live in the world.  Barriers can be insidiously reinforced by one’s culture, religion, national pride, gender, class, and (in a Western culture) relatively deep assumptions about the value of individualism.

Often barriers are not physical.  For some our limited assumptions and beliefs are so comfortable that they make unthinkable any transition to a cross-cultural mission as offered by overseas service organisations such as Palms. It is far easier to stay in one’s comfort zone than “Reach Beyond”. 

The Rewards

The upside is that all interviewed in our podcasts enthusiastically confirm that the more they identify and reach beyond the barriers the more they are rewarded.  All describe a deep and profound joy in better understanding the diversity of our humanity.  The first step is to acknowledge that reaching beyond will be uncomfortable.

As well as those who find the Palms mission unthinkable there are those whose desire to “help” can make such barriers dangerously invisible.  We need to challenge and reprogram the mind set of both.  A realistic vision is required to engage both, but it is not enough to highlight the barriers within the vision.  Palms’ preparation and support, evolving over 60 years, does this more comprehensively than any other Australian overseas service program. 

Much preparation is done online, but the genius of Palms preparation comes together at our eight-day residential orientation course.  In July (3rd – 11th) we will reboot the Palms program with our 104th course.  For those preparing for overseas assignments towards the end of this year, or the beginning of next, this magnificent retreat will provide an opportunity to identify, manage and reach beyond the barriers.

Of course, you do not have to go abroad to Reach Beyond.  Anyone wanting to do so can register for the course here.  Or, if you are not able to take that step you can support the reboot of the Palms’ program through the simple act of buying a Raffle ticket here and selling a few tickets by sharing this link with friends, family and colleagues.