World Day of Social Justice is recognised on February 20 each year.
We asked Palms Participants to contribute a few sentences of how their placement addressed issues of justice. Below are their responses:
Guida Cabrita, Primary School Teacher in Dili, Timor Leste 2014-2015
When I think of justice in terms of education, I think of those individuals with diverse needs or learning difficulties and their ability to access learning. In reality, the right to learn is something that is not always afforded to everyone. There are faces that will forever remain etched in my mind, and many of these are of those individuals I have met on placement and in my travels, who have been denied this right. Our placement in Dili, Timor Leste, saw us work alongside local teachers as they journeyed through new pedagogical practices in their bid to help educate the next generation. With each new strategy and reflective discussion, I saw the gateway to learning became more accessible to more students. New Palms volunteers and tertiary studies have helped this justice journey to continue. What will the future hold? May it hold everyone.
Antony & Elia Faa, Health Care Professionals in Kokopa, PNG 2002-2004
Being a volunteer with Palms in a developing country (PNG) allowed us to live in solidarity with those that are affected by the systemic injustice of the world. For a few years we could become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Suzanne Dooley, English Teacher in Pattaya, Thailand 1997-1998
Teaching English to physically handicapped adults who experience limited employment opportunities and life options contributes to a more just world. English language acquisition is transformative because of the opportunities it provides for the student. Living and working at school I ate with local staff, and spent recreation time with staff and students; divisions dropped away as Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Europeans, Asians, Americans, Canadians and an Australian facilitated learning opportunities with committed students, who were happy and grateful to experience this life changing education, for free.
Sam Haddin, Primary School Teacher in Bedois, Timor Leste 2013-2015
My placement as a mentor teacher with Palms addressed issues of justice by helping to provide a decent education to children regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds. It also provided opportunities for adults (the teachers I worked with) to expand their knowledge and experience of teaching, increasing their capacity to deliver this education to their community.
Colleen Keating, High School Science teacher in Madang, PNG 1967-1970
I saw it as an issue of Justice to bring education to the youth of Papua New Guinea and as a High School teacher I was a foundation member of the Divine Word High School which went on to become a University. We were the first Catholic Co-Educational High School having an intake of Year 7 girls from many diocese and equality was a justice issue to encourage the many villages to trust their girls to board with us in the city and get an education. We won over the villages and increased our intake of girls every year.
Adriana Volona, Health Professional in Tzaneen, South Africa 2002-2004
My placement in South Africa with Palms addressed issues of justice in three ways;
– solidarity with the disenfranchised- advocating for the needs of the voiceless and powerless
– provision of resources to those in need- affirming human rights for all
– promotion of equality amongst all people- working with people cooperatively, and collaboratively, offering respect and dignity where it was absent.
Colin and Kristina Small, Administrators in Baucau, Timor Leste 2003-2004
Oh! How privileged we were to see the absolute joy on the faces of our College administration staff when they attended our weekly meeting. 25 plus staff never needed to be hustled to be on time because each of them treasured the opportunity to stand up in front of the rest of us to tell us about their past week/future plans/concerns and to be ceremoniously clapped for their contribution. Four and a half centuries of repressive colonialism was cast aside at those meetings and people were allowed to have opinions and be heard. We thank God that we were able to provide the stage for their expressions.
Bridget Kennelly, High School Teacher in Taborio, Kiribati 2019-2021
A strong sense of social justice was what drew me towards volunteering in Kiribati. I saw from a brief visit to the country around 3 years prior to my placement the inequality of access to professional institutions for teacher training, which in turn, had a flow-on effect to the quality of education and future prospects of the iKiribati citizens. I feel the Palms values of contributing to community-driven, sustainable and meaningful development is striving for a more just world, firmly entrenched in the principles of Catholic social teaching.
Helena Charlesworth, High School Teacher in PNG, Tanzania, Kiribati & Samoa 1992-2018
At one place where I worked, public shaming and public corporal punishment were the norm, even for senior students on the verge of adulthood. When I queried it, the answer was always, “That’s our country’s custom. It’s no different from what parents do at home.” I was unable to stop it, but by my reaction to it and by the way I dealt with misbehaviour in my own classrooms, students and some colleagues came to realize there are other effective and more respectful ways of dealing with such problems.
Kevin Wilson, Community & Organisation Development in Bouganville, PNG 2009-2010 & Maliana, Timor Leste 2012-2013
While both my placements addressed issues of social justice – often referred to as the “cross-cutting issues” of a given project: youth and rural employment, women’s empowerment and respect, rehabilitation of combatants, etc, it was the Palms experience of living in community which revealed the reality of social justice issues. Many of us have come to Palms though a journey of social awareness and activism. As I first travelled to Bougainville, I understood in theory the justice of assisting a community recovering from civil war and environmental devastation. But now having seen coconut palms dropping into the sea every few weeks, having friends like Daniel who travel 6 hours by boat to supply his Carteret island community with food and water, that I consider as family Sam and Josie who fought the inequity and pollution of one the world’s richest mines, I am fortified in my passion for justice. I have ready answer to the dismissive.
John Grogan, High School Teacher in South Tarawa, Kiribati 1981-1983
Through education and faith, PALMS empowers egalitarianism and justice. As a Lay Catholic PALMS Missionary teaching in Kiribati during the early 1980s, I was Deputy Principal of the St Louis Post School Training (PST). At a time when only 5% of youth could access secondary education, my pastoral class had 96 students in a room with no toilets, the ground as the floor, no running water, no electricity and few books, but all were instilled with knowledge and hope towards a bright and just future.