Unification News for February 2002

Leadership Training in the Oceania Region

by John Gehring

From January 13-21 the IIFWP help sponsor a special Leadership training program in the Sydney area which was soon followed by an international service project in the Aboriginal community of Nambucca Heads. This program brought representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Singapore, Samoa and the Soloman Islands in an effort to experience an interfaith model of Leadership training and service and pull together island nations through the practice of living for the sake of others.

This project had its roots in a December 2000 IIFWP meeting in Sydney where twenty of the participants meet and decided to go ahead and introduce the RYS to Australia by working with the Aboriginal community. Ambassador of Peace, Michael Jarrett a leader in the Aboriginal community of Nambucca Heads followed up on this request and helped organize the first Australian RYS project in January 2001 with his community. The initial project was a success and has since been followed up on with projects in April and the recent and largest project in January, 2002.

Sydney Training

Preceding the Ambassador for Peace RYS project a three day leadership training was held outside of Sydney in a Scouts Camp. It was only a few days before that wild fires had burned down large tracks of land around the camp and throughout the east coast Australia. The fires had damaged wildlife, destroyed homes and altered the landscape. Recent rains and the effort of nearly 15,000 volunteer firefighters had put out most of the fires and allowed us to safely begin our program.

Our training drew 36 participants and representatives from six island nations. Many of those involved would go on to attend the RYS in Nambucca, while others attended who had an interest in organizing local RYS. The training team consisted of Paul Saver of Australia, Professor Siti Hamidah, Singapore and John Gehring, USA . Presentations were focused on training in public service and character education and interfaith understanding.

During the program a local Ambassador for Peace (Muslim) whose daughter was a staff member, took us to Nan Tien Temple, the largest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere and sponsored our lunch. Participants enjoyed the tour, the meditative gardens and the many fascinating halls and temples. This was a special time of interfaith appreciation.

Nambacca RYS project

Following the training most of the group travel six hours to the Aboriginal settlement of Nambacca Heads for our 3rd RYS project in that community. Our RYS program included 55 participants and staff from ten nations and the local Aboriginal community. Members of the community who had worked with us in the past or just shared in the results of the past work at the park were extremely pleased to welcome us back. The community was proud of the work done last year by RYS and local participants and the murals remain graffiti free (a sign of respect).

This project was made possible because of the efforts of Ambassador of Peace, Michael Jarret who as a local Aboriginal leader went throughout the community and raised $ 3,000 to fund the equipment for the new playground which RYS would construct. RYS volunteers built two gazebos and repaired a community building while offering lots of hard work in leveling and landscaping the playground.

As a result of our three projects, the community now has a central point where all generations can gather, relax, talk and play. This is an especially important contribution to make for the understanding of community is a vital legacy the Aboriginal community has to offer Australia.

The concluding cultural program drew 250 community members who both shared and enjoyed a wide variety of local entertainment as along with RYS participants contributions. A time of great joy and healing, as one Aboriginal song sung shared "We will never forget your coming, we will always appreciate what you did".

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