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No. 34 • January - June 2002 • Page 133
 •  Initiatives

Alice Springs, Australia. Desert work camp

Last January a group of young men from Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle spent two weeks at the Mission of St. Teresa, near Alice Springs, Australia, repairing and painting the mission church.

The cost to the students was considerable: two weeks of vacation, quite a few dollars, and probably five or ten pounds of weight. But these losses were quickly converted into valuable benefits, and not only for the mission people. Once again, the paradox of volunteer work was proven true: by fostering their generosity, it is the volunteers themselves who gain the most.

Dartbrook Study Center has been organizing volunteer projects for high school and college students for the last fifteen years. The sites for the projects have ranged from islands in the South Pacific (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa), to Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea and less-developed areas in Australia itself. This year the goal of the volunteer expedition was the desert district in the heart of Australia.

The first two days involved washing, sanding, and preparing the church roof, hidden under a dark coating formed over the years. Once this phase was finished, they began painting. While not trying to emulate Michelangelo, the work camp participants strove to do a good professional job. They worked as though they were being paid, although they themselves had to cover the expenses and even provide the paint and brushes.

The work schedule was demanding, with their work day beginning at 7:15 a.m. After two weeks of hard work, the students returned home with a sense of satisfaction at a job well done.

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