Friday, 13 June 2014
Description: FINDING INSPIRATION IN PO THUM
Author: Ashleigh van den Akker
The students are the reason we are here. 'We' includes 4 Kiwis and 10 Australians who have all come together under the guidance of Br Tony Cummins to work with the children and teachers of La Salle School Po Thum, Cambodia. It is for them that the Brothers have laid down roots and built not only a school, but a sanctuary. The local children come at all hours of the day and night to play, manoeuvring their way through locked gates if required. They’ll do anything to get attention, only because they are starving and desperate for some food. The lunch area doubles as a doctor’s surgery for the village and there is enough space to house 20 volunteers comfortably all with mats, blankets, pillows, bathrooms (including flushing toilets and running water).
Prior to our arrival, we began planning projects and gathering resources for our 10 days at La Salle school. Projects included painting murals on each fence, setting up a health check centre, teaching both teachers and students from the school, creating a pathways and a sandpit for the students to play in, and general tidying of the school grounds. As a group, we all worked together to ensure projects could be completed to a high standard in a short space of time. It is amazing what you can obtain when you ask a local to ring through an order for you. 500 bricks for 25 US dollars delivered in less than 30 minutes was one of the highlights.
Aside from the hands on practical projects, it is in the classroom and on the field with the students that you experience the strongest connection to Cambodia. I will never forget their daily classroom greeting: "Good afternoon teacher, thank you teacher" sung before every lesson with hands clasped together at chest height, eyes bright with anticipation. Nor will I forget washing about 30 children all of whom had been wearing the same clothes over the entire prior week, and then giving them new clothes, which had been donated. It was when the older girls started to get fussy as to what they would wear that I realised all children no matter their background are similar. I won’t forget the games, especially knucklebones with pieces of gravel, nor the laughter, which is contagious. Their smiles fill your heart completely with such a deep gratitude. It is a feeling I find hard to explain. They just live and breathe joy, even though they have nothing.
Volunteers were drawn to Cambodia for their own reasons. What drew me there was the need to reconnect with my own teaching. I wanted to experience working with students who cannot take education for granted and who absorb everything like sponges granting the teacher the utmost respect. There is always going to be a need for education, but there is something very special about working with those who really and truly appreciate life and learning and can’t afford to take anything for granted. Po Thum gave me inspiration, a renewed zest for life, a reminder to smile always, and a deep appreciation for every material object and opportunity I have enjoyed throughout my 24 years of life so far. It has been the most enriching and rewarding experience, which will impact my classroom for years to come.
Ashleigh van den
2014 La Salle Cambodia Volunteer
Friday, 13 June 2014
Description: AUSTRALIA'S CULTURE CAN BE ENHANCED BY THE U.S. PEACE CORPS MODEL
Author: Rhys Jack
Earlier this year, I returned home from a month of volunteer work in North Western Sri Lanka, an area devastated by 30 years of brutal civil war. There I spent time working to construct classrooms, painting, gardening and doing whatever we could to help rebuild homes and the local school for children who had lost one, and in some cases both, their parents in the war. Some of the kids we spent time with were even forced to fight in the war as child soldiers. It was really a world that could not have been further removed from my cosy reality here in Australia.
The experience opened my eyes as to just how lucky I am to have been raised in this country and the opportunities I have been given as an Australian citizen. That’s not to say that our nation is without its faults. We are far from perfect. But no matter what our individual history or heritage, we are all Australians and we all have the responsibility to contribute to a shared vision of what we stand for as a people and as a nation.
The ongoing spate of coward punches and alcohol fuelled street violence, particularly in Sydney, has been the focus of much public debate and soul searching, and these acts are in no way a reflection of what we seek to stand for as a fair and moral society. They are the result of mindless acts of violence committed by individuals detached from what it means to be a respectable and decent citizen. But rather than attacking the offenders who have committed these crimes, why don’t we instead put our energy into changing the culture that has created them? If we are to develop decent men and women as Australian citizens, and make real, lasting changes to prevent these acts, we must take action and engage our people to recognise the shared values that they are responsible for upholding. What we require is an Australian model committed to making lasting cultural change, a change for good, a change for peace and a stand against the destructive mentality that exists on our streets.
One idea that has been vocalized by many of our most prominent thinkers is the idea of an Australian program based on the values of the US Peace Corps. Upon completing a training program within the US, Peace Corps volunteers then dedicate two years to living and working alongside the people they serve in countries like Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. They work at the grassroots level toward sustainable change that lives on long after their service – at the same time becoming global citizens and serving their country. And when they return home, volunteers bring their knowledge and experiences – and a global outlook – that enriches the lives of those around them.
Currently in Australia, we have two Government-run programs allowing Australians to make a positive use of their time and skills in helping developing nations. These are the AYAD (Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development) and the ACC (Australian Civilian Corps). These programs are limited in their range, scope and outlook and don’t allow ordinary Australians without the required qualifications or experiences to take part. A new programme is needed that is accessible to all Australians, young and old, from the builder to the banker.
What we need is a program dedicated to promoting peace and smart diplomacy in our region, whilst also spreading Australian values, which improves our international relations and creates mutual understanding with developing countries. We need a program that produces pro-active cultural change rather than reactive legislation and terminology. A program committed to developing good citizens who value each other as much as they value themselves. One that is unconcerned with knowledge and experience but instead focuses on character and values. One which doesn’t require a master’s degree but rather a master’s mindset and one which can provide young Australians with a deeper understanding of their shared national identity and install a sense of national pride. I believe an independent, Government-run program based on the values of the US Peace Corps would have an enormous impact on our society and would contribute to a better world.
If my journey to Sri Lanka has taught me anything, it is that maintaining peace in our country is an outcome I want for my children and for all future generations of Australians. If an average Australian guy like me, who works, studies and enjoys a beer and a game of cricket with his mates can travel to a foreign country and find lasting benefits from it, then imagine what a program like this could do for others in a similar position or worse? To change the culture that has created the coward punch we need ideas and action. An Australian Peace Corps is one idea that will not just create better people, but a better Australia.
Rhys is a Macquarie University Business Graduate. He works in construction management and volunteers as a youth presenter with De La Salle Foundation and Black Dog Institute. Follow him on Twitter: @rjack888.
Friday, 13 June 2014
Description: QUESTION AND ANSWER WITH PHILIPPE DULAWAN
Author: Philippe Dulawan
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Philippe Dulawan and I am 25 years old. I graduated from Baulkham Hills High in 2006 and then completed a Bachelor of Commerce - Marketing Co-op Scholarship at the University of NSW in 2010. After a few years in the workforce, I attended Australian Catholic University in Strathfield NSW completing my Diploma of Education and Graduate Certificate in Religious Education last year.
Where have you worked recently?
I have had the privilege of experiencing a few varied work environments. Straight from university, I was a marketing graduate at MARS incorporated in Albury/Wodonga. I then transitioned to work for World Vision as a Sales and Youth Representative working in schools, prisons and shopping centres, on the 40-hour famine, the Global leaders’ convention and face to face sponsorship. Simultaneously, I have also passionately engrossed myself in St Patrick’s Blacktown as Parish Youth Coordinator facilitating Youth groups, running retreats and working to create engaging youth programs.
How did you come to accept the role of Lasallian Youth Ministry Coordinator with the De La Salle Brothers?
I felt this role aligned with my overall values and goals of making a positive and lasting impact on the lives of others, especially high school students, who are impressionable and often need that little bit of extra guidance and support. Additionally, I had loved my time as a youth ministry coordinator in my previous role and the opportunity to do this work full time on broader scale and in the Lasallian Charism was one I could not pass up. Moreover, I felt it allowed me the opportunity to express my sense of faith more overtly and provide a plethora of experiences unparalleled in the teaching world such as opportunities to travel to Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.
A large part of your role is to coordinate the long-term volunteer program, Share The Mission. In your own words, how would you summarise Share The Mission?
Share The Mission is a transformative and powerful encounter for anyone wishing to undertake a year of service. It is an opportunity to make a tangible contribution to the most marginalised in our society. The program equips participants with skills, adventures and a strong character, which lay solid foundations as they enter adulthood and become more certain of who they are and who they want to be as individuals. Ultimately, it is a year of service to a community and it is in this service that Share The Mission volunteers have an unforgettable experience, which fosters and shapes their lives.
Why do you think Share The Mission is a good volunteer opportunity?
Share The Mission is a great opportunity as it provides an environment for you to push the boundaries and really discover who you are as a person. The great thing about investing 10 months of your life in Share The Mission is witnessing the growth of those whom you serve and, in turn, seeing yourself grow. Shorter volunteer programs allow volunteers to see just the beginning of the progress. In contrast, over the 10 months program you journey with the students, teachers and mentors, you can truly witness tremendous growth and advancement. It is these human relationships and stories that Share The Mission volunteers enthusiastically expound once they return.
Having come from a non-Lasallian background, I also appreciate that most other volunteer programs require fundraising or funding and this can often be a deterrent for interested participants. However, Share The Mission is generous in providing training and covering many of the costs. And for someone who has lived the university and post-school lifestyle, this is a big consideration!
What are some of the challenges Share The Mission volunteers face?
One of the greatest lessons/characteristics Share The Mission volunteers learn is resilience, independence and interdependence. A major challenge is building a support network in the Share The Mission location, away from the normal support of friends and family. Building healthy connections with teachers, supervisors and community members who are able to support and guide the STM volunteers is the key to a vibrant year.
How do you hope to improve Share The Mission? What will make it a better volunteer program?
Share The Mission is a great program and one of the first things I would like to do is increase the awareness of the program in the Lasallian community and beyond.A second aspect would be to continue to build on the solid formation program present for the volunteers. This would include providing a broader scope and tailored formation and professional development for each volunteer. This will ensure that Share The Mission volunteers continuously improve and get the most out of this unique experience.
Friday, 13 June 2014
Description: INTRODUCING THE NEW SUPERIOR GENERAL
Author: De La Salle
The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools recently elected Br Robert Schieler as Superior General. He replaces Brother Alvaro Rodriguez who has served as Superior General for the past 14 years. We wish Brother Alvaro every blessing in the future and thank him for his wonderful leadership of the Lasallian Family.
Brother Robert Schieler was born in 1950 in Philadelphia, USA. He made his final profession in 1979. In his first year of ministry he served as a teacher in the United States and then spent 13 years as a missionary in the Philippines.
He studied Modern European History and has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration.
From 1991 to 1998 Brother Robert was Auxiliary Visitor of the District of Baltimore, and later he was appointed Visitor of his District from 2001 to 2007.
For the past seven years, Brother Robert has been General Councillor for the new Lasallian Region of RELAN (USA and Canada) residing in Washington, DC.
Brother Robert is the 27th successor of St. John Baptist de La Salle and will now lead the Brothers and Lasallian Partners who are present in 80 countries around the world as they continue in their mission to educate and care for youth, especially the poor and marginalised in society.
On behalf of the District of Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea, we offer Brother Robert our sincere congratulations and best wishes, and we ask God’s blessings on him in this important leadership role in the Lasallian Family.
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: 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.”
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