Recognising the barriers we seek to reach beyond

Recognising the barriers we seek to reach beyond

By Roger O’Halloran

In November 2020 we branched out with our communications to include a Podcast.  We call it Reach Beyond. It is also the phrase with which the Palms’ Vision begins.

Each podcast asks a group of four or five how they feel about the opportunity Palms has given them to live the Palms’ Vision.  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.  In recent years, an addition was made to strengthen it.

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 more about the way we wanted to see the world than for how we wanted to see the organisation:

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

The more recent addition was added 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 the vision of the challenges of 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 also 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 just being comfortable in our limited assumptions and beliefs makes 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 acknowledging that reaching beyond will be uncomfortable, perhaps especially for those whose desire to “help”. For them the barriers can be dangerously invisible.

If we are to realise the vision of people cooperating to achieve a just, sustainable, interdependent, and peaceful world free of poverty we need to appropriately engage, both those who find the mission unthinkable, as well as those who have given the barriers little thought.  We need to challenge and reprogram both mind sets.  Palms’ preparation and support, evolving over 60 years, does this more comprehensively than any other Australian overseas service program. 

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

Of course, you do not have to go abroad to Reach Beyond.  You can register for the course here.