Friday, 6 December 2013
Description: SEEKING A FUTURE FREE OF PERSECUTION
Author: De La Salle
If you ever get the opportunity to meet Sr Colleen Jackson, you would probably think that she fits the “typical” religious profile. She is friendly, intelligent, caring, a good listener ... she ticks all of the boxes as a Sister of Charity. However, what you might not realise, and perhaps never know, is that beyond the surface of this kind and thoughtful Sister is a trained psychologist who has heard some of the most horrifying acts of abuse, violence and utter desperation that you could ever imagine.
Sr Colleen works in Dandenong (in outer Melbourne) as a torture and trauma counsellor with Foundation House. She is also a regular visitor to an Immigration Detention centre in Melbourne as a pastoral visitor. On a daily basis, she offers guidance, support and care to refugees and asylum seekers who are waiting on the Australian Government to assess their applications for asylum. Sr Colleen describes their situation as “quite terrifying because they don’t know if they will be approved to stay in Australia or sent back to a country where their lives are in real danger.” She also keeps in touch with many refugees who have been granted protection and refugee status and who are making the challenging adjustment to their new lives in Australia – often whilst still separated from their families.
Many of Sr Colleen’s clients knew that the journey to Australia in an overcrowded and unstable boat would be dangerous. The alternative? There simply wasn’t one. Sr Colleen says, “We are talking about victims of torture and extreme trauma. People who have watched as their mothers and fathers or children were killed. People who have survived bombings and gunfire. People who have suffered through unimaginable torture because they come from religious or ethnic minorities. These are people whose lives are at risk every day and their only option is to run.”
According to Sr Colleen, the vast majority of asylum seekers who reach Australian shores by boat are eventually found to be legitimate refugees who are in need of protection. She has heard asylum seekers speak in sheer terror of the journey to Australia in leaky boats. Some talk about the distress of falling overboard during the journey while others recount their experience on a sinking boat. For them, Sr Colleen can only hear their stories and work with them to help them manage their pain and anguish and hopefully give them the opportunity to lead better lives in Australia.
Sr Colleen says, “Despite what many of them have been through, all they really want is to move forward and make friends in Australia and become Australian citizens. They want to contribute to this country. They want to pay taxes and make a life for themselves here.”
In an effort to give some of her clients an opportunity to meet and engage with young Australians, La Salle Community Melbourne (a group of committed Lasallians), shared a bowling night with them in early November.
“The bowling night was a wonderful success. Four members of the La Salle group joined with five refugees in what emerged to be an evening of fun, laughter and friendship. Our group were so grateful to enjoy a rare opportunity to have some fun,” said Sr Colleen.
Friday, 6 December 2013
Description: PHILIPPINES APPEAL 2013
De La Salle Philippines (DLSP) has organised a disaster relief and rehabilitation operation called “One La Salle Relief Drive: Yolanda (Haiyan)”, in support of communities impacted by Typhoon Haiyan.
This year alone, the Philippines has experienced an unusually high number of typhoons (over 20) but days of preparation and massive evacuations could not prevent the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan’s strong winds and storm surges sweeping coastal towns of several islands. As survivors now struggle to rebuild their lives, it is estimated that the death toll from the storm is in the thousands. It is understood that hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless.
The location of the University of St La Salle is strategically placed given that the Sector’s priority areas for relief operations are Sagay and Cadiz in Negros Occidental, “Bantayan” in Cebu, and “Estancia” in Iloilo. These areas are not as publicised in the news as Tacloban City in Leyte and other parts of Samar but are equally in need of relief goods. Currently, DLSP is also coordinating with communities in Guiuan in Eastern Samar, the area where the typhoon first made landfall.
We have yet to receive more precise information as to how long relief will be needed. We expect that this will take some time since those drastically affected have lost their homes and that the evacuation centres will be their only refuge for now. For the rehabilitation phase, DLSP is looking at rebuilding the public schools in the affected areas in coordination with the Department of Education of the Philippines, the secretary (minister) of which is De La Salle Brother, Br Armin Luistro, who was appointed to this position by President Aquino in 2010.
The Lasallian Foundation is supporting the appeal and urges people to support the fundraising initiative, which will go a long way towards helping those who have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
“The global Lasallian community is joining together to offer assistance to people in the Philippines devastated in the wake of super Typhoon Haiyan. There is an urgent need for immediate support for food, water and basic supplies. One Lasalle Relief Drive is responding to these needs and we need your help. Every cent will count and help make a difference to those who have lost so much in this disaster,” said CEO of the Lasallian Foundation, Miranda Chow.
Friday, 6 December 2013
Description: FUTURE DIRECTIONS
Author: De La Salle
Deborah Gillis has been teaching at Oakhill College in Castle Hill Sydney for 22 years. After completing her Bachelor of Education in 1991, she immediately accepted a teaching position at Oakhill. During her time at the College, Deb has held a number of positions ranging from House Dean to High Support Coordinator, Senior Student Coordinator and Acting Assistant Principal, Pastoral Care.
“Through my interactions and relationships with the De La Salle Brothers, I have developed a strong commitment and belief in the Lasallian mission. I know that there are many people here in our District of Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea who share the same passion for the Lasallian tradition and who draw on Lasallian values. I believe that the three areas of vocation, formation and youth ministry are essential in ensuring the continued vitality of the charism, which is why I was excited to accept this position and to be given the opportunity to work with others to develop practical ways for people to deepen their commitment to the Lasallian mission.” Deb said.
Deb says that she will be working closely with others in the three areas of vocation, formation and youth ministry to develop programs and volunteer opportunities that will become the platform for people to live the Lasallian values of faith, service and community.
“For me, this role is about bringing people together and giving them opportunities to act out their values. It’s important to keep people actively engaged but also to broaden their experiences. Keeping people connected with the Lasallian mission is the ultimate goal for me. It’s about encouraging others to strengthen the practical elements of the mission. Volunteer, go on a retreat, run a retreat, learn how to act out the Lasallian values in your daily life, give of yourself for the benefit for others. That’s what we are about and what I will be working towards,” Deb expressed enthusiastically.
As a 300-year-old Order, some might say that the De La Salle Brothers are too traditional and that their way of life has become outdated. According to Deb, it is their values that are the key to ensuring the future success of their mission – to educate and care for the poor and marginalised.
Deb says, “The last thing we want to do is lose the Lasallian values and our Lasallian heritage. It’s about how we incorporate those values in the modern world. Contemporary society is changing and the fact that the Brothers have lasted for more than 300 years is proof that they are able to adapt to change and move with the times. They are all about helping our young people in need, and to do that successfully, you have to be able to change.”
Br Tony who is currently in charge of vocation promotion will be working closely with Deb. He says that her passion for the Lasallian mission and her commitment to acting out the Lasallian values in practical ways make her the perfect person to help direct the way in which the De La Salle Brothers move the mission forward.
“Deb has a real understanding of what it means to live the Lasallian values and she has her finger on the pulse in terms of what we need to offer others to keep them engaged in our mission. I’m looking forward to working with her.”
Deb says that when it comes to people that she admires, St Benildus is someone she regularly thinks about. “St Benildus’ motto was to do the ordinary things extraordinarily well. The aim is to do the ordinary things to the very best of our ability and if you can achieve that in life, then I think you’re doing pretty well.” Deb said.
Friday, 6 December 2013
Description: AN UPDATE FROM SOUTH SUDAN
Author: De La Salle
Solidarity with Southern Sudan is an initiative that was established in 2004 in response to the need to help improve health and education in the war torn country. With religious groups coming together to provide expertise in these areas, along with a genuine desire to make a difference, Orders around the globe were asked to assist by providing suitable personnel for this mission. The De La Salle Brothers in Australia posed the question of who would be able to contribute to this important mission. Without delay, Br Bill put up his hand and said, “I’ll go”. And his reason...“Because someone has to do it”.
If Br Bill weighed up the pros and cons of going to South Sudan, the answer would be simple. Don’t go! Instead, he was undaunted about what he was giving up to go there. All he thought about was the urgent need to help establish an education system that would give Sudanese children and families the chance to go to school and make better lives for themselves.
Br Bill’s extensive leadership and management experience made him the ideal candidate to help establish a teacher education program. After seeing him hard at work and appreciating the results he delivered, Solidarity with Southern Sudan offered Br Bill the role of Executive Director. If Br Bill weighed up his options, the easiest thing would be to return to Australia and the life he had here. He had done what he had initially set out to do in South Sudan and he struggled through extreme temperatures, rough living conditions, unpredictable environments and regular acts of violence. Opting instead for the road less travelled, Br Bill accepted the position and returned to South Sudan. Here is his latest instalment about life in this place where most people would choose to read about and few people would actually choose to be.
The Good, the Bad and the Hopeful
After a week in Malakal, where I spent my first year in South Sudan, I flew out to Juba via Maban, a refugee camp of more than 112,000 people. I was actually pleased to see Maban, if only briefly from the air, as Jesuit Refugee Services are discussing with us the possibility of Solidarity with South Sudan offering educational programs there.
Later in the week I did travel to Rumbek where the Loreto school was closing for the end of term. As always, I was made very welcome and we have put in place our plans for further teacher training to take place in January and February. While I was there, word was received that two boys and a girl were shot dead, around midnight, in one of the cattle camps, and several other people were in hospital. The next day, the UN personnel were told not to be on the streets but life seemed to be proceeding as usual for most when the Loreto Principal, Sr Orla, from Ireland took me to the airport. There will be some form of retribution for this violence between two tribes and some of the local people are understandably a little anxious; but mostly such events pass without any threats to missionary workers.
I found myself thinking that the Loreto girls are growing up in a very mixed environment. For some, it is a battle to get their families to let them finish school before being married off, traded for maybe 150 or 200 cows! Yet of the nine graduates last year, eight are now going to university. It is wonderful to witness the grace and poise developed in these girls: a transformation from a savage existence in tough conditions to confident women who will make a real difference in South Sudan. There is good, there is bad but there is hope as greater opportunity is offered to the young people of South Sudan.
Statistics recently published in a UN Humanitarian bulletin outline the desperate situation of many people in South Sudan and the efforts being made to give renewed hope. There have been 242 violent incidents since January 2013 and 70,120 people have been internally displaced by violence. There are 222,000 refugees living in South Sudan. Some 65 per cent of the road network across the country is currently impassable owing to heavy rains. In 2012 flooding affected more than 313,000 people in South Sudan. The UN comments: ‘In addition to causing displacement and increased risk of disease, flooding has a negative impact on farming with poorer harvests.’
I am told, however, 15 out of 30 NGOs in Maban are leaving as the situation there is no longer assessed as critical compared to other trouble spots in South Sudan and elsewhere. I have no real idea how one reaches such relative conclusions. In South Sudan, one looks to other nearby countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria as developed and successful yet each of those countries has needy people. Life in South Sudan is certainly not cosy for most but there are a lot of happy people here. Do we really need much to be happy?
Br Bill Firman
Friday, 12 July 2013
Description: SHARING IN THE MISSION
Author: De La Salle
Throughout Australia, many of our Indigenous people are trying hard to attain a level of education that will see them live a very different life from anything they could have ever imagined. While they may have come from disadvantaged families, many hope that one day they will be able to provide for themselves, their families and their communities. With the help of the Brothers and their Lasallian Partners in mission, with every passing year at school this hope is becoming a reality.
The Brothers have a long history in Middle Swan (WA). In 1954 they founded De La Salle College, a secondary school on the outskirts of Perth. Today, under the leadership of committed Lasallians, La Salle College caters to more than 1400 students. In 2011 the school officially started running a hostel for Indigenous children which now provides opportunities for 40 young people from different areas including Balgo, Ringer Soak, Tom Price, Derby, Onslow and various other communities.
Benjamin Calleja, Assistant Deputy Principal for Aboriginal Education & Boarding, oversees the hostel, also known as the boarding house. He says, “There is little doubt that the students who travel hundreds of kilometres each term from the remote desert or coastal communities are gaining significant education, social and health benefits. But it is also absolutely true that the wider La Salle community has been enriched by the welcoming of new cultures and people into the school.”
Stephen Charles, Madeleine Selvey and Samantha McLaughlin are currently volunteering at the hostel and at La Salle College through the Share the Mission volunteer program. They explain what drew them to the program and describe their experiences thus far…
Hey, my name is Stephen Charles. I’m 18 years old and I graduated from Oakhill College in Castle Hill (Sydney, NSW) last year.
I wanted to become a Share The Mission volunteer to give back to the Lasallian community, to learn and to grow, to understand more about Indigenous people but mostly to spend a year doing something that benefits others – not just myself. It’s such a rewarding feeling to know that I can impact someone else’s life for the better, no matter how insignificant my effort may seem to me. So far, this year has been such an amazing and eye-opening experience. Sure it comes with its many challenges but that’s all part of the job and, for me, the tough days are the days when I’m needed most. Initially, I had quite a strong perception of what this year would be like but I never could have anticipated how amazing, funny and caring the students I work and live with can be. I can only hope that the wonderful impact the students have had on me so far has been returned and that I have taught them something they will remember.
Hi, my name is Madeleine Selvey. I'm 18 years old and I graduated last year from O'Connor Catholic College in Armidale (NSW).
My decision to do Share The Mission was very sudden. This time, last year I never would have pictured myself in Perth working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids. But when the opportunity came up for me to become a volunteer, I jumped at it, as I saw it as a way for me to give back to my community, meet some awesome people and learn about Indigenous cultures.
My experience so far has been incredible! It comes with its highs and lows but it is so rewarding. It has been challenging to give up all of my time, and giving all of myself to the people I work with is really tiring, but I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. I love spending time with the kids and working with them.
I am Samantha McLaughlin (Sam). I’m 21 years old and I’m from England.
I chose Share The Mission because I’ve always wanted to work abroad in a position where I know that I will be educating and helping young people.
My experience so far has been fun and challenging. I didn’t know how it was going to be, especially being from another country I wasn’t sure how people would take to me. The best thing is the children have the best smiles which make you smile. The school and boarding house to me are fantastic places to be. The people have taken me under their wing and seem to be keen to allow me to help in certain areas. Yes, the children do have some difficulties but the most worthwhile thing is helping them as you get a sense of achievement. I'm not going to ‘sugar coat’ it – yes, I have had some bad moments, but I just remember that I’m here for them and that it's my job to help as best as I can.
Friday, 12 July 2013
Description: WELCOME BROTHER TONY CUMMINS
Author: De La Salle
A former student of De La Salle College in Malvern (VIC), after graduating from school Br Tony studied education at university and gained qualifications in Pastoral Counseling as well as Human and Spiritual Formation. Throughout his 30 years as a De La Salle Brother, he has taught in six Lasallian schools in Australia and New Zealand, worked in Campus Ministry and has been involved in programs with young people and adults across our District, as well as for the Pacific Asia Region over the last 10 years.
In talking about his new role as Director of Lasallian Vocations, Br Tony says, “This is a challenging role that I hope makes a difference in the lives of those who are involved in the Lasallian mission. In a word, my role in the district is all about 'accompaniment' - giving people access to opportunities to deepen their understanding of their vocation as Lasallians. Hopefully, this is a role that complements and enhances the great work being done in every place that prides itself in being Lasallian.”
Friday, 12 July 2013
Description: LASALLIAN FOUNDATION – SPOTLIGHT ON VIETNAM
Author: De La Salle
The main project supported by the Lasallian Foundation in Vietnam is the extension and development of a primary school in Pleiku. This school targets poor children from the local area, in particular those from ethnic minority tribes. It is in Pleiku where fighting between the Viet Cong troops and the allied forces first began in the Vietnam War.
The Brothers established Truong Vinh Ky Primary School in 2004. The school opened with a solitary student but numbers quickly grew with the children coming mainly from poor agricultural families.
Presently there are 200 students, 70 girls and 130 boys aged from 6 to 10 years. Besides, the primary school and hostel, Pleiku Primary School also has one tuition centre attended by 40 children all under 10 years of age. The tuition centre is staffed by local De La Salle Sisters. The Lasallian Foundation also supports an extremely poor village of 43 families whose elder citizens suffered from leprosy. All are cured from the disease however the effects and social stigma of the illness has impacted not only the older generation but also their children and grandchildren. The crippling loss of the use of their hands and feet has meant work was near impossible so their children had to work from an early age to help feed and support the family. Subsequently the majority of the children (now adults with their own families) are illiterate. The Lasallian Foundation is committed to a five-year nutrition program for this village. It is hoped that this program will allow the next generation (the grandchildren) to be able to attend school to gain knowledge and skills that will help lift their families out of the poverty cycle.
The Foundation also covers the cost of food, school packs, materials, equipment and volunteers for a camp held annually during the July/August period. The camp caters to 500 poor, indigenous primary and secondary students aged between 5 and 17 years. The camp is staffed by Lasallian volunteers, including 10 Vietnamese university students. Children engage in a variety of activities from academic (Maths, English, etc) to non-academic (sports and games). The camp aims to give the children not only extra tuition and physical activity but helps to build their self-esteem and confidence. The Foundation gives support for food, school packs, materials, equipment and volunteer costs.
Friday, 12 July 2013
Description: INTERNATIONAL HEAD OF THE BROTHERS TELLS IT LIKE IT IS
Author: Br John Pill
Having an opportunity to hear directly from our Superior General was truly an honour and a privilege. It was a great opportunity to gain some insight into his thoughts about contemporary education and the role that all Lasallians have in serving young people today. One aspect of his address that truly resonated with me was the fact that Brothers and Lasallian Partners fundamentally and primarily associate together because we want to be instruments of salvation for the young, especially the poor, the unloved, the confused, those who do not find meaning in their lives, those who have lost their way.
The Brothers and those who work alongside us all over the world share in the one same mission – to reach out to all those in our care, but particularly to the marginalized and vulnerable. All over the world there are young people who have lost their way, who need help, who have no one to rely on, who are lacking in direction. Our purpose is to help them find their way through various practical ways from teaching in a classroom to providing shelter, food, clothing, offering guidance and even simply showing that we care when it might seem to them that no one does.
In terms of defining those who are in need, people often question me about how we, the Brothers, do this. It was interesting to hear Br Álvaro address the same issue in this way…
“Personally, I believe that it is useless to ask the question ‘Who are the poor?’ All you have to do is open your eyes and see their growing number even in the so-called developed countries and the new kinds of poverty that we have to face today. My hope is that as Brothers, we will have the ability to identify those young people on the margin of society that have more problems and fewer solutions, and to discover and invent tailor-made programs for them that will help them live with hope and dignity.”
For me, this hit the nail on the head. The Brothers and the thousands who work with us across the globe in classrooms, hostels, boarding schools etc. are faced with problems each and every day to which we must find solutions. The problems are varied in more ways than you can imagine – from an orphaned child in Pakistan to a student who feels unloved in an affluent area of Melbourne. Our job is to find or create solutions to ensure their welfare.
Interestingly, Br Álvaro also commented on the how far and wide the Lasallian mission is and where our brand of education needs to be. I know that in our District of Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea, our brand of education is focused on helping each child realise their true potential.
Br Álvaro said, “Lasallian education has touched many generations. We know very well that educational systems tend to lean towards tradition rather than towards innovation. Today we need to overcome this tendency, giving more force to our capacity to invent, create and innovate because what is in play is the future survival of humankind. The first condition for innovation is getting to know and love the reality in which we live. This contact with reality should lead us to pass along a kind of knowledge that help the young find meaning in their lives rather than simply filling their heads with ideas; to have the ability to continue to learn, rather than knowing a lot. Finally, starting from a profound spirit of solidarity, we need to have the ingenuity to see that our students are committed to building a better world.
Our concern in thinking about and designing today's and tomorrow's education is realised by offering a community and personalised environment where each child or young person flourishes as human beings, where each is open to hope and has a positive sense of life.”
Thursday, 2 May 2013
Description: THE TIME FOR CHANGE IS NOW
Author: Br Mark McKeon
Late in the evening on New Years Eve 2012, I received an email from Br Ambrose Payne, outgoing Brother Visitor; it read “Over to you”. And with these three little words, my time as leader of the Brothers began.
On 1 January this year, I officially commenced my four-year term as the Brother Visitor (Provincial) for the De La Salle Brothers. This role sees me responsible for our operation in Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea. One of my principal roles is to be at the service of my Brothers and all those engaged in the Lasallian mission, ready to listen to them and make changes for the good of our mission to help those in need.
As you might imagine, there are diverse challenges faced by the four countries that combine to make up our District. In Pakistan the Brothers are part of the Christian minority in a Muslim country while in Papua New Guinea, the lack of educational opportunities for young people is a distressing situation that calls for an ongoing and urgent response. In Australia and New Zealand young people seek positive roles models to give their lives meaningful direction. But one thing that all countries have in common is the need for those engaged in our Lasallian mission to provide young people with a sense of hope – a sense of hope for the future, no matter what that future may entail. Whether we are supporting a Year 12 student as they make choices and prepare for the next chapter in their life (which can be quite daunting!) or we are in a remote community in Papua New Guinea educating a 12-year-old child, what we are always doing is offering a sense of hope.
The goal of all Jesus’ interactions with people was to ENGAGE them in a relationship with him that would then result in people involving themselves in his mission to build the Kingdom of God. The De La Salle Brothers are ENGAGED in a mission, as a part of the Church, to make Christ's presence a reality in the world of education. All baptised Christians are called to participate in the mission of the Church. Everyone has a vocation. I am convinced that God is still calling young men to become a De La Salle Brother and while I am hopeful that some will answer this call, I am also aware of the reality of our world today and the many choices young people must make. One of the main challenges facing the Brothers today is that we are relevant to the lives of young people. In this digital age where there are so many voices clamouring to engage the attention of young people, Brothers are called to be like a signpost that point people in the right direction.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Br Ambrose for his leadership of the District in the past eight years. During this time he has guided us through some truly challenging and testing times. The Brothers and the Lasallian family owe him a debt of gratitude for his selflessness in all he does as he continues to actively serve our Lasallian community.
It is important to build upon the good foundations that have been laid in previous years and continue looking for creative responses to situations of need, which we encounter. Over the past six months I have reflected often on the following words from the prophet Jeremiah (29:11). “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for you to prosper...giving you a future full of hope.” As we commence this new phase in our District’s history this verse from Jeremiah instills in me assurance and confidence that the best days are ahead of us. Brothers are called to be beacons of hope in an educational and welfare setting. These are exciting times. Volunteer opportunities for young people and others are increasing and in particular we intend to provide opportunities for young men to “test drive the Brother’s life.” Visit our website or pick up the next issue of ENGAGE to find out ways that you can get involved in the Lasallian mission and help young people in need.
Br Mark McKeon
Thursday, 2 May 2013
Description: THE BALGO EXPERIENCE
Author: Mitchell Marshall
Going Bush!!!!!! - 20 March 2013
So this week I am very lucky as I get to experience two bush trips. Today I went in the afternoon with Primary A, with a guest appearance from Chelsea, and we went out to Kearny Range, also known as bush camp, and took the kids out up the dune mountains to the lookout. Needless to say it was HOT!!!!!!!! I'm talking like 41 degrees in direct sun for most of the trip and I was also the human pack horse ferrying the kids up and down the sand dunes and back as the ground was burning their feet. So that made it about 10 degrees hotter for me but I didn't mind as it was good to see the kids out and having a fun time on their bush trip.
Tomorrow I will be going on another bush trip with my senior class. However, tomorrow’s adventure is a full day trip and we will be going out to Lake Gregory and hopefully participating in the event of getting 'mudded up', which is covered in the mud from the lake. This afternoon we had a big water balloon fight with kids vs teachers which was great fun for everyone and the kids really enjoyed the chance to throw stuff at us and get us all wet. So that has been a very exciting part of my week and I'm looking forward to tomorrow’s adventures. The first part of the week has been just the usual day-to-day life out in Balgo and we have started doing the bus run in the morning to round up all the kids for school. The weekend looks to be the same as well, but hey, that's how it is out here. Sometimes you just have to make your own fun. Stay tuned :)
Look Out Weekend Warriors About - 24 March 2013
This week again started off strong, but before I go into that I need to recap the events of my bush trip on Thursday to Lake Gregory. The drive in was a little bumpy and slightly uncomfortable and seemed like it was going forever but the scenery was amazing as we got to see heaps of wild horses, cows and a couple of fires. When we got there it was pretty much straight down to the water for Stephen myself and all the kids, and as I said, we got absolutely covered in the mud from the water and although it didn't smell all that great, it was definitely an experience that I won't soon forget. After that we pretty much just played around with the kids which was really fun and some good relationship building time. After our swim we were showed how to cook Kangaroo Tail (bush style!) and this was followed by the Dreaming stories of the lake. It was really interesting to hear how the land came to be from the Dreaming time. After our feed we started the long uncomfortable journey back to school. After just 20 minutes on the road we blew a tire, which was inconvenient. But in all it was a great day had by both the staff and students and I can definitely say that I came away from it having learnt something and having an awesome experience.
Now to our weekend; we attended the disco on Friday night that was held to raise money for the kids in primary D who are going to Melbourne on Tuesday. Needless to say we got down and boogied and they were impressed with our excellent dance moves throughout the night. The other half of the night was spent throwing the girls in my Primary A class into the air or letting them stand on my shoes and dance with me. Also I have now seen that as soon as the kids out here can walk they can hip shake like nothing I have ever seen before…
Share the Mission 2013 Volunteer (Balgo Hills)
Thursday, 2 May 2013
Description: EXPLORING A COUNTRY WHERE ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT ANYTIME
Author: Br Lewis Harwood
On New Year's Eve in 2012, I made my way from the summer heat of Sydney to the northern hemisphere for a winter mission exposure in Pakistan. Western media typically portrays Pakistan as a violent and dangerous travel destination with regular reports of bombs, terrorism, poverty and corruption. However, my main reservation in going to Pakistan was the fact that I was going to miss the annual Sydney cricket test match. As I soon discovered, this was of no concern as the passion for cricket of the Pakistani people creates a common language for all travellers.
On my connecting flight to Pakistan, I sat next to a stranger who engaged me in conversation. He delved into the topic of Islam, of which he was a proud believer. Then in a polite manner, he enquired as to why I was travelling to Pakistan. After conversing for some time, I decided to explain to him that I was a Brother working for the Church. He looked at me and said bluntly, "So you want to improve humanity?” After which he said, "I am with you there". With these words, we touched down at Lahore airport.
I spent the first week of my three-week experience adjusting to the huge culture shock as I explored the cities of Faisalabad and Multan. The school security team told me that anywhere, anyhow and at anytime something can happen. It appeared that these words were true with the sense of a constant fear among the people in Pakistan of what "could happen next" living day to day on the virtues of hope and patience.
It was fair to say that the roads and traffic in Pakistan can be seen as a metaphor for the country where traffic flows in all directions. The roads are crowded with thousands of cars, trucks, donkeys and bikes. In passing villages, it became more evident day by day of the poverty of people and their living conditions. The rubbish, the brokenness in infrastructure and the poor air quality added to a landscape of social dislocation. By the end of the trip, I had visited six schools and a Catechist Training Centre.
A wonderful part of being in Pakistan was living in community with other Brothers. In Multan, the community comprised of five Brothers including a Brother from Ireland. Each morning we started the day with prayer and meditation. I soon discovered that you do not need an alarm clock in the morning as the Islamic call to prayer at 4.30am can be heard as the sun rises. The majority of my time was spent at St Alban's academy, a small school for disadvantaged families in Multan. It was with great joy that visiting classes included the singing of Waltzing Matilda and the exchanging of cultural greetings. Day after day visiting schools and families of teachers, my presence was affirmed with life giving smiles and conversations about Steve Waugh, Mark "tubby" Taylor and Michael Clarke.
The experience of attending Sunday liturgy at the La Salle Catholic parish in Multan was a deep celebration of song, praise and worship. The Christian Church in Pakistan represents a minority where 97% of the 180 million people in the country are Islamic. Of significant concern is the controversial law in the country relating to the law of blasphemy, which has resulted in many false cases of injustice and persecution for many Christian communities. One major difficulty expressed to me numerous times was the threat of religious extremism by the Taliban. It was with profound sadness that one of the days we visited a parish Church where 16 people were murdered for their faith beliefs. The fog of oppression continues to hang over the country where inequality not only relates to education but also to the intolerance of religious freedom.
On reflection, visiting Pakistan strongly reinforced the notion of Jesus of the poor and the downtrodden for the last, the least and the forgotten. Our Lasallian world is indeed all around when we adopt the "eyes of faith" in our journey together and by association for the educational service of the poor. The presence of the Lasallian mission in Pakistan seems to thrive on faith, service and community giving hope to many oppressed and marginalised. The well-documented case of Malala, the young girl shot by the Taliban, brought the world’s attention to the right of every girl to have an education. The Lasallian schools in Pakistan offer this dream, this vision of harmony and inclusion. Our brand of education in Pakistan, just like cricket, becomes a common understanding and breathes a common humanity where all are welcome in peace, dignity and respect.
Br Lewis Harwood
Thursday, 15 November 2012
Description: REACHING OUT TO PNG'S POOREST YOUNG PEOPLE
Author: Br Gerry Buzolic
Sacred Heart Teachers College, Bomana, has been open since 2010. Last year we graduated our pioneer class, 89 students and many of them have returned to the remote villages they came from where they are now teaching primary school children.
There are no other teachers colleges for the whole Southern Region of Papua New Guinea besides ours. It was becoming increasingly difficult to get teachers from our region trained in colleges in other parts of the country as they are focused on training teachers for their own districts. So many schools are without teachers in remote parts of our region and in the Goilala district – half of the primary schools are closed due to a lack of teachers.
The students we accept are not those of the highest academic ability. We ask Catholic Education Secretaries to find candidates who are committed to working in remote places but many of them have not had much of a chance at an education themselves. Everyone comes with some experience of living in the village since leaving school. Lorraine, the oldest student in last year’s graduating class, is 42 years old. The rest of the students called her “Mums” as most students are in their twenties.
It's a big challenge to build up their basic skills – English and Mathematics. How good it would be to have volunteers to sit with students to let them practise reading aloud, or work with them on fractions, or help them with spelling and punctuation!
We are waiting on dorms to be finished for the men. The contractor promised us they would be ready by Easter…last year. The men had to shift out of two of the rooms they were using as dorms – crowded with double-decker bunks – to occupy a spare building at De La Salle High School down the road. We needed the rooms for classrooms. Ongoing trouble with the old water pipes has meant our principal, Br Bernie Cooper, is kept busy laying new ones, sleeves rolled up and students and some lecturers helping with the digging.
Each week the students practise teaching at one or two primary schools. They live in a remote school and teach there for four weeks. The stories could fill a book: Esther, who got sucked under a low concrete bridge while washing in a flooded river; Roselyn, evacuated with snakebite; villagers bringing greens from their gardens and cooked fish to help them with meals.
Ask our teacher students what they think of being a student and they will tell you they appreciate having been chosen. At community worship each Thursday afternoon in the hall you may hear prayers of gratitude. They are full of idealism. One student said, “ My people and my place need me to be a teacher, and that is what I want to do.” A first year lady, Yoren Francis, said, “There are not many teachers in my place. There are no stores. Some teachers have not stayed because they could not buy the food they want. I want to go back to teach, and I will stay”. They work hard at their assignments and studies, and we challenge them with many more units to study than they would receive at a university in a semester.
The graduates from our little college will spread to the remotest corners of Papua New Guinea, and the appreciation of God’s goodness and empowerment that comes through education will be passed on to many children in the poorest of places.
Br Gerry Buzolic
Thursday, 15 November 2012
Description: FROM RUINS TO A PLACE OF HOPE
Author: De La Salle
Papua New Guinea is known around the world for its beautiful landscape. However, its rugged mountains resulted in different population groups being established across PNG and being developed in virtual isolation. Each group developed its own language and its own tribal culture giving Papua New Guinea one of the world's most diverse and fascinating cultural landscapes. Many people still live in small villages and follow traditional tribal customs. In this nation where over 820 languages are spoken, there is a long and turbulent history of tribal friction.
In 2006 in Mt Hagen in the remote Western Highlands of PNG, there was an abandoned, dilapidated hall with no access to electricity or hot water. All the glass and fixtures had been either broken or stolen and many local people were too scared to travel to other places to meet, for education, or for training and development due to ongoing tribal tensions. Responding to the needs of local children and young people, the De La Salle Brothers along with the local Diocese resurrected the centre as a safe place to meet and learn and it wasn't long before Rebiamul Youth Centre (YC) was born.
The primary aim of the Rebiamul YC was to extend learning opportunities to the poor and marginalised, fostering cooperation, sharing and teamwork through a sports and games program (basketball, volleyball and other ball sports for up to 200 youngsters), building a sense of community, social awareness and responsibility, thereby overcoming deep-seated tribal tensions. The YC aimed to become a village hub and a safe place to meet, particularly for women and girls, and to provide for better social interaction between villages and settlements. A place where young people have an opportunity to talk about health issues, peace and justice, family planning, and family life.
For the youngest children in the community, the YC encourages their literacy and numeracy by providing a structured learning environment through the Child Jesus Preschool (also known as the Piccaninny Program) which offers free preschool and kindergarten education to 120 children. The classes are conducted in English and feedback from the families is that this offers their otherwise disadvantaged children a helping hand in achieving their primary education.
The YC welcomes all regardless of tribe, language, gender or status, and is ideally located to respond to the needs of the very poor as it is nearby to the settlements and near the city centre. The YC focuses on:
- Prep and kindergarten aged children
- children who don’t attend formal education
- children with disabilities or special needs
- the unemployed
- older youth
- school children
Though it was once simply an abandoned building, the YC has been transformed and today it is a beacon of hope and a place of safety and joy for these disadvantaged highland communities.
Thursday, 19 July 2012
Description: BROTHERS PREPARE FOR A NEW LEADER
Author: Br Mark McKeon
For the past eight years, Br Ambrose Payne has led the Lasallian family in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and more recently in Pakistan. During this time he has been someone who has truly led by example, which is something that has earned him great respect, not only locally but also by our wider international Lasallian family. In fact, his leadership style, talents, vision and ability have been recognised in his appointment to three international commissions of the De La Salle Brothers.
A highlight during his tenure as leader has been his facilitation of the restructuring of our own District, which resulted in Pakistan formally becoming part of our mission in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. This was a significant change for our District and resulted in a major shift in resources, both financial and personnel.
As leader, Br Ambrose has consistently reminded the Brothers that their primary call as Brothers is their call to holiness. His fidelity to prayer and community life and his commitment to the educational mission has been an inspiration to all who have worked under his guidance.
Reflecting on his role as leader for the past eight years he said, “The overwhelming sentiment of which I am conscious is my total gratitude to God for the opportunity to have served as leader. That opportunity has afforded me the immense privilege of coming to understand the dedication, frequently of heroic proportions, that Brothers and Lasallian Partners manifest consistently and unreservedly as they carry on the Lasallian mission in such scattered and diverse settings.”
Br Ambrose is a man who has a purpose behind every move and every decision he makes. When Br Ambrose chose me to be his Second-in-Charge during his final term as leader, he did so with the intention of preparing a new generation of Brothers for leadership positions in the District. I knew that at the time and felt honoured that he saw the potential in me to one day take on the most senior role within the Brothers. Little did I expect that his intention would become a reality so quickly.
When I first received word advising me of my appointment as leader of the Lasallian mission in this part of the world, it was initially a little overwhelming. However, over the past seven weeks, having had the opportunity to pray and reflect on the role, I am confident in my ability to lead the Lasallian mission in this District.
I am looking forward to all the opportunities that will come my way with a real sense of hope and enthusiasm. I appreciate the support I have received from many people as I strive to build upon the immense contribution of my predecessor, Br Ambrose.
During my time as coordinator of vocation promotions and youth ministry programs, I have seen first-hand the generosity of many young people and teachers. One continuing challenge will be to support, to encourage and to affirm all those engaged in our mission to educate and care for those young people who are most in need in our society.
I have been fortunate over the past few years to have travelled and worked in all four countries of our District. Each country is making its own unique response to the educational needs encountered in their diverse contexts. As leader, it will be necessary to work with people to ensure a prioritised and coordinated response to these needs.
What I want to be in this new role is a person of hope. I am convinced, as was St John Baptist de La Salle, that “God is so good.” So, as leader, I want to affirm the goodness in all people and encourage them to respond authentically to what God might be asking them to do with their lives.
Br Mark McKeon
Friday, 18 May 2012
Description: A BEACON OF HOPE IN BETHLEHEM
Author: Br Peter Bray
During Easter, it was indeed a privilege and an inspiration for me to walk the streets of the Old City and to reflect on what happened here some 2000 years ago.
I had the opportunity to gather with locals as well as many pilgrims to reflect and pray. However, it was distressing to realise that so many people I know at Bethlehem University could not join me in these ceremonies. They live only seven kilometres away but because they are Palestinian Christians, they could not get permission to come into the Old City to participate in the ceremonies.
The Israelis have a significant impact on the Palestinian Christians and restrict them in all sorts of ways, simply because they are Palestinian. If they live behind the Wall they need special permission to go into Jerusalem. Israel claims it gives thousands of permits to Christians for special feasts like Christmas and Easter. However, of the estimated 50,000 Christians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, only about 3,000 get these special permits. In speaking recently with one member of staff at Bethlehem University, I discovered that over the past two years she received permission to go into Jerusalem on two of the four times she applied. Her three daughters had also applied and received permission on two occasions. However, there was never an occasion when they were able to go and worship as a family, as there was always someone without permission.
Even those Christians with permits cannot always get through. On Palm Sunday groups of people trying to get to Jerusalem for the procession spent over two hours at checkpoints and so gave up and returned home because they would have missed the procession by the time they had eventually been allowed through.
This restriction on travel has an impact in many ways and on so many people. Further, the pressure placed on Christians who occupy land, which the Israelis want, is intense. For some, it has been a costly exercise to fight the Israeli government and military in the Israeli High Court to retain their own ancestral land. When the government and military can’t win in court they try restricting services to the properties including water, electricity, services, building permits and so on. Many people are not prepared to go to these lengths, so they give up and leave. The constant pressure on Christians is evident in restrictions, abuse at checkpoints, economic pressure, unemployment, unpredictable invasion of homes by Israeli military and insecurity. All these factors lead many of them to seek an alternative.
It is in the midst of this situation that Bethlehem University continues to reach out to Palestinians and particularly Palestinian Christians. In a country where less than 2% are Christian, Bethlehem University has a student population where some 30% are Christian. We are always looking for better ways to reach out and be supportive of them. There are many challenges facing us in doing this, but the resilience of the students is amazing and inspiring and makes the efforts involved so worthwhile.
For almost 40 years, Bethlehem University has been a place which provides educational opportunities; but this has not been without significant challenges along the way. During the time of the direct Israeli occupation, it was closed 12 times by the military. Since the military have withdrawn directly from Bethlehem the major challenge is now their control at the checkpoints of entry into and out of Bethlehem. Palestinians need special permission to go through the Wall and this is severely monitored by the Israeli military. It is this restriction on movement that is one of the major challenges Bethlehem University faces.
Over the past year or so I have been working with people to explore additional ways Bethlehem University could more effectively respond to the needs of the Palestinian people. At present we are in negotiations to purchase a property a few hundred metres from our present campus. However, finding around $19 million to establish the property is a big ask in the current international economic climate. But it is necessary for us to remain positive that raising the money is not an impossible task, as it is an important way forward in terms of further reaching out to the Palestinians.
Part of this challenge, and one of the most difficult aspects, is to keep hope alive in the midst of all that people face. Bethlehem University over the years has proved to be a beacon of hope for our students and we continue to reach out to find ever better ways to keep hope alive. It is this hope that enables us to live our lives in the midst of oppression and gives us the courage to face whatever comes with a confidence that arises from knowing that we continually live in the presence of our loving God.
Friday, 18 May 2012
Description: SO, WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH BR BILL AND BR DENIS IN SOUTH SUDAN?
Author: Br Denis Loft
Malakal is hot, hot, hot! The temperature rises to the high 40’s some days. The dust is persistent. The electricity is erratic, if it ever comes. The water is dirty. The diesel is scarce, as are fruit, vegies, and cold beer. There is no gas, so that means we are down to cooking on charcoal - not really a problem since we have plenty of dry things to start the fire as everything dies here through lack of water!
Despite the dry, we had two hours of rain one night. I went out in it, and enjoyed getting soaked – saved washing one set of clothes at least. The next morning, I managed to get bogged, despite being in 4-wheel drive, and at the main intersection in Malakal. I started walking back to the church, and managed a lift from the UN. The church has a tractor, which came to my rescue and freed me from the ditch I had ingloriously slid into. Only damage done was to my pride – I had always seen myself as an expert in 4-wheel drive survival in PNG, but the mud here is a real leveller. It took me a couple of days to recover.
The College we have been working to start up now has some full-time students training as teachers – aged 21 to 34 - sadly only 15 so far, as we insist on minimal English, and at least grade 10. The current grade 10 exams are on now. In the whole country of 10 million people, there are only 16,000 students this year, including just 400 girls (in comparison Victoria has 40,000 students sitting the VCE each year!). Of the 16,000, many have attempted the same exam for many years. Getting some of the better ones of this group to train as teachers is a task in itself – they all want to run the UN!
I recently experienced Palm Sunday Mass at the jail. Mass was attended by about 100 people including four women, and a six-month old baby. I looked around and noticed that 15 of the men were in shackles or leg-irons, which we were informed was a sign that they were awaiting execution after being given a death sentence. The jail itself was quite surprising to me. It was no big deal entering or leaving and the inmates were very welcoming and friendly. The Mass included a procession of palms through some of the men’s gardens, to the building used as a church. It was definitely a unique way to experience Mass.
The Current Conflict in South Sudan
Prior to 2005, Sudan was known internationally as a war torn country with a history of violence. As part of a peace treaty in 2005, South Sudan won independence from Sudan last year. However, it seems now that after much work has been done to generate peace within Sudan and South Sudan, the two countries could be just moments away from an all out war owing to unresolved issues of oil revenues and their disputed border.
In January, South Sudan shut down oil production and accused Sudan of stealing oil. Sudan responded by bombing the South's oil fields.
In April, South Sudan invaded the oil-rich town of Heglig – although it is controlled by Sudan, both countries claim it. According to a spokesman for the South Sudan government, troops from the south were withdrawn from Heglig, but Sudan continued with aerial bombardment of the south.
Let us keep Br Denis and Br Bill and all those who are working alongside them and especially the peoples of South Sudan and Sudan in our prayers.
Sunday, 22 April 2012
Description: First profession in Port Moresby
Author: Br Mark McKeon
Sunday April 22nd became a day of celebration for the Lasallian Community in Port Moresby. Br Bernard Cooper, Area Chairman, received the first profession vows of Francis who had completed the Lipa component of his Novitiates in January and has been subsequently under the care of Ignatius Kennedy in the Postulancy Community at Mt Hagen. The event was celebrated in truly P.N.G. style with many of the members of Francis’ village of Galeba both young and old making the challenging journey to ensure that the occasion was momentous for Francis. Also present was a strong contingent of the Port Moresby Lasallian Family. Francis has returned to Mt Hagen where he continues his studies with a view to upgrading his current teaching qualifications, accompanies the postulants and works from time to time in the Rebiamul Youth Centre. Francis has two sisters living in Moresby who are hugely supportive of him. One works as the secretary for the P.N.G. Bishop’s Conference.