Recruited in 2015, Philip spent two years in Timor-Leste with the Department of Education using his background in workforce planning to help develop organisation and information management systems. Sharing his professional knowledge helped strengthen the capacity of local staff to manage the education services across 74 schools in the Dili Diocese but Philip said he was the real winner, describing the experience as “life changing”.
“There is nothing more fulfilling than to give of yourself and especially your time,” he told The Southern Cross when he was back in Adelaide last month.
“You meet amazing people, build life-long friendships, help to break down the cycle of poverty and you will do all this while having a lot of fun!
“Palms were an amazing support at every step along the way and I now couldn’t imagine having undertaken this with anyone else.”
For more than 60 years Palms Australia has been preparing and assisting Australians to learn and pass on their skills to another culture.
Since the program began, 58 people, including 10 married couples, from the Adelaide Archdiocese have participated in the program in a range of professional roles such as education, health, agriculture, trades, finance, social work, law and administration. They have lived and worked in a variety of overseas countries including Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Samoa, Fiji, Cook Islands, South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia, while a handful served in remote areas of regional Australia.
Now with international borders open, Palms is renewing its call for Australian professionals to meet the current requests for overseas placements.
A former parishioner at Mary Help of Christians Church, Morphett Vale, Philip, 44, said he was drawn to the work of Palms because it allowed him to live the strong values of his Catholic faith.
“My faith is fundamental to my life, after converting in my mid 30s it has been a guiding force in how I live my life,” he explained.
“But I felt like something was missing in my life and decided that given how fortunate I had been that I should try to give back to those less fortunate.
“My time in Timor changed my life in so many ways, I will always feel a strong connection to the country that took me in with open arms, and especially my Timorese friends.
“It reinforced my faith and helped me to have a new perspective on faith and family that you just don’t see in Australia.”
A bonus from his time in Timor-Leste was meeting his wife, who was working for an international non-government organisation (NGO) there. The couple and their three year old daughter now live in Laos, where Philip works for a Christian NGO on projects that fall into three main categories: access to justice, villagers’ rights, and disability support.
Archbishop Patrick O’Regan said the Archdiocese would consider supporting locals signing up for Palms mission work by contributing to the costs of their preparation, orientation courses and re-entry workshops. Catholic Bishops also support a Lay Missionary Gratuity Fund that provides a payment of $2500 for each year a person is on this mission.
For more information about Palms and the current placements available go to www.palms.org.auJump to next article