CHRISTMAS 2023 NEWSLETTER
MESSAGE FROM THE CEO
Stuart Salier – Exciting New Beginnings
Dear Friends of Cardoner,
I have loved my first 5 months since joining the Cardoner team! As you will read in the following articles, there is so much energy and so many happenings within Cardoner that it’s impossible not to be swept up in the joy of accompanying young adults as they love and serve those in need domestically and overseas.
Since our last Newsletter, the team has been busy building up our well-known ministries: Two Wolves Abroad, where at recent count we have around 25 long-term placements in 2024 and another 15 undertaking 3-week immersions; and Bellarmine House, where we’re growing our residential community and welcoming more young adults to share in a Sunday Community Night each month.
In 2024 we have ambitions to expand Cardoner’s presence in both Melbourne and Adelaide so that we really take on the proper form of a “Network”. We’ve already had a healthy number of students from Jesuit schools in those locations seizing placement opportunities for 2024 and we look forward to growing this interest.
I’m also very excited to be planning an alumni and donor get-together in May 2024. We will be in touch with you very soon with a date for your diary.
Please enjoy reading all the great updates and stories within!
With my very best wishes for a safe and holy Christmas season.
MESSAGE FROM THE RECTOR
Fr Ramesh Richards SJ –
Greetings from Thailand! I have been in the Land of Smiles this past week to accompany Xavier College, Melbourne Yr 11 students on an immersion, and to be in the company of Cardoner’s long term volunteers as they prepare to leave the community they have called home for the past year and return home, to Australia.
This past week, the long-term volunteers have been playing Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” on repeat, loudly, as they enjoy their breakfast. The following words from the song have been playing in my head, repeatedly, as I worked in the fields building green houses which will in the near future house vegetables to grow and feed the thousands of refugees at the border of Myanmar and Thailand:
“I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don’t care about the presents, underneath the Christmas tree…”
What is that one thing that we need? I believe it is joy! This year I have been blessed to see the many faces of joy, especially on the faces of young adults, in Thailand, and across Australia.
Recently, Fr John Dardis SJ, one of the Society of Jesus’ General Consultors (based in Rome) visited The Cardoner Network, where he celebrated Mass and Dinner. At the Mass, he shared that Jesus must have been a nice bloke that emanated joy, and that is surely why he was able to attract so many followers.
Maliwan Kasetsookjai, ‘mother’ to so many volunteers in Thailand over the past 12 years, shared with the volunteers this week, that we need to be grateful for the gifts that we have been given. Yes, there are challenges around us, but the gifts that we have are enough for us to do God’s will. Her wise words resounded: “Be grateful, share the gifts you have, hand the challenges you cannot control to God, and you will experience peace within you – joy.”
May the gift of Christmas, Jesus, who is everything you need, be also the source of joy for you and your family.
WHAT WERE OUR VOLUNTEERS UP TO THIS YEAR?
CVC PREPARATION AND FORMATION
BRENDAN KELL – Current Formation Coordinator at Cardoner; Thai Volunteer 2019
“Go forth and set the world on fire.”
In the Ignatian tradition, the concept of formation is conceptualised as an ongoing faith journey that informs one’s actions. In order to set the world on fire as St. Ignatius did, we must reflect on where we are and where we are going in order to answer the call of service.
As the year comes to a close, formation at Cardoner is present in different ways. For some, it is a new beginning with our upcoming 2024 Cardoner Volunteer Corps (CVC). With this new group of volunteers that will be serving domestically and overseas, their formation marks a time for them to reflect on their lives, meet and bond with other volunteers, and learn new skills in order to respond to the needs of their future communities.
Whilst others, who are actively continuing to be of service to their communities, are supported through check-up calls and continued conversations.
And for those that have returned and will be returning, there is ongoing formation in companionship and support back in Australia. Our third Sunday group (as the name suggests, it’s a group of young adults that meets during the evening of the third Sunday of every month), held in conjunction with Bellarmine residents, has been successful in bringing together young people involved with The Cardoner Network (TCN). It’s an opportunity to reconnect and foster a faith-based community of young people hoping to help others back in Australia. Our third Sunday groups will be continuing into next year, with hopes of expanding them to include retreats and more.
Michelle Hoffman – 6 Month Thailand CVC
My interest in volunteering in Sydney started while I was at a Cardoner Volunteer placement in Thailand, where I spent 6 months in 2023 working at a school teaching English. Towards the end of my placement in Thailand, I was very aware of how rewarding I found volunteer work, and hoped to continue it when I returned.
In my time in Thailand, us volunteers spent a lot of time with a family who were refugees, and we taught their three girls during our spare time, which made me realize I really want to work with children in a learning space. Upon realising this, I contacted Father Ramesh, the leading priest of Cardoner, to ask if he knew of any place where I could volunteer in Sydney. He suggested Redfern Jarjum College.
He explained that Jarjum was a primary school for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and that they had a large number of students who didn’t fit in to mainstream schools. My primary role would be working as a teacher’s aid of sorts, where I would teach a couple students at a time for specific subjects, so they would receive greater support than what the class teacher could, while teaching the whole class at once.
Initially I was a bit apprehensive about the idea of volunteering at Jarjum. Going from teaching three children in Thailand, to helping out in a whole class, made me feel very out of my depth and underqualified. Yet, from the very first day, the instant connection the students at Jarjum hope to have with any person, and their welcoming and inclusive nature, made me realise that Jarjum had a truly special group of students, and I was immediately drawn in. The kids are some of the loveliest children I have ever met, and never fail to express their gratitude at the end of the day with a big hug. It has been a truly amazing experience.
Anyone who is interested in this sort of work, should definitely come to Jarjum.
Interested in volunteering? Click HERE for more information.
THAILAND – 2023
Transport Yourselves to Thailand – Incredible Thailand Videos!
The Cardoner Network is very grateful to Geoff Anderson of Sonic Sight, for the fantastic video footage he has provided us of our volunteers experiences in Thailand. Geoff’s son is a CVC based in Huay Tong. These videos provide great insight into the experiences of our Thailand volunteers and communities they serve. These videos are a great showcase of what life is really like as a CVC. See below, Harry’s reflection of his experience.
Harry Salier – Thailand CVC
As our yearly Thailand placement comes to an end, Harry Salier, a CVC at Bankad Wittayakom School, along with his fellow volunteer Nick Hyde, each wrote a speech to be spoken in Thai in front of their school. We were so fortunate to be sent Harry’s original Thai speech, translated into English, which tells of his self-discovery as he shares such an inspiring journey of unexpected connections, personal growth, and the profound impact of the students. Although this is Harry’s personal reflection, we know that this is a shared experiences amongst our volunteers.
Over this year, I’ve had the chance to talk to all of you, and you’ve all asked me a lot of questions. For example, “Harry, which football team do you like?”, “Harry, do people have kangaroo pets in Australia?”, or my favourite, “Harry, how are you so handsome?”. But of all these questions, there was one that I got asked a few times which always made my heart drop. “Harry, why did you come to Thailand?” I could never answer that question. Because the truth is I didn’t have an answer, I didn’t have a “why”. When I decided to come, I didn’t know about Thailand, about Ban Kad, about teaching, about you students, about even myself. Aren’t I crazy? Well, let me tell you this. Coming to Thailand was the best decision I have ever made in my life. And that’s because of you students. When I enter the school in the morning, in every class, walk through the corridors, at lunch, and when we leave to walk home, at every moment, I am greeted by the warmth of all of your smiles. Always. Every day has been filled with beautiful, special memories of your laughter, your chatter, your joy. You have all tried so hard and gone so far out of your comfort zone to talk to us, interact with us. Every time you asked me to play sport with you, to sit down and eat with you, to help you with work, you filled my heart with happiness. And every time I look at what class I am about to teach, I am filled with happiness from all the memories we have made so far, and excitement at the idea of making more. I have grown to care so much about how all of you are. My past-self cannot answer the question “Why did you come to Thailand”? But my present self can. The answer is all of you. And my greatest hope is that all of you got something out of Nick and I being here. It’s been almost one year since Nick and I arrived. In this time, we’ve watched you grow up from seeds into beautiful flowers. I can only wish you the best for the future. Keep growing, keep smiling, keep laughing, keep doing what you love. I’ll miss you all, and remember you all forever. Goodbye.
ในปีนี้ ผมได้มีโอกาสพูดคุยกับพวกคุณหลายๆคน และพวกคุณก็มีคำถามมากมายถามผมเช่น “แฮรี่ คุณชอบทีมฟุตบอลทีมไหน” “ผู้คนที่ออสเตรเลียเลี้ยงจิงโจ้ไหม” และคำถามที่ถามบ่อยที่สุด คือ “แฮรี่ ทำไมคุณหล่อจัง”
แต่กลับมีคำถามหนึ่งที่เวลาถูกถามแล้วผมจะรู้สึกชะงักไปชั่วขณะ นั่นก็คือ “แฮรี่ ทำไมคุณถึงมาที่ประเทศไทย”
ผมไม่ได้ตอบคำถาม เพราะความจริงคือผมไม่มีคำตอบ ตอนที่ผมตัดสินใจมาที่นี่ ผมไม่รู้อะไรเกี่ยวกับประเทศไทย ไม่รู้เกี่ยวกับบ้านกาด ไม่รู้วิธีการสอน ไม่รู้เกี่ยวกับนักเรียน และไม่รู้ แม้กระทั่งเกี่ยวกับตัวผมเองด้วยซ้ำ มันบ้ามากๆเลยคุณว่าไหม?
เอาล่ะ ผมจะบอกคุณว่าทำไม การมาที่ไทยเป็นการตัดสินใจที่ดีที่สุดในชีวิตของผม เพราะพวกคุณทุกคน
เมื่อผมเดินเข้าโรงเรียนในตอนเช้า, เดินเข้าห้องเรียน, เดินผ่านห้องเรียน , กินข้าวเที่ยง หรือเดินกลับบ้าน ผมจะได้รับการทักทายด้วยรอยยิ้มอันอบอุ่นจากทุกคนเสมอ
ในทุกวันเต็มไปด้วยความทรงจำที่พิเศษ ไม่ว่าจะเป็นเสียงหัวเราะ การพูดคุยกัน และความสนุกสนานจากทุกคน พวกคุณพยายามอย่างหนักเพื่อที่จะพูดคุย ใช้เวลากับเรา
ทุกครั้งที่คุณชวนผมเล่นกีฬา ชวนผมนั่งกินข้าวด้วยกัน ให้ผมช่วยการบ้าน มันทำให้ผมมีความสุขมาก
และทุกครั้งที่ผมดูตารางเรียนว่าต้องสอนห้องไหน ทำให้ผมนึกถึงความทรงจำดีๆที่เราได้ทำร่วมกันในห้องเรียน และตื่นเต้นที่จะได้สร้างความทรงที่ดีใหม่ๆด้วยกัน ผมตื่นเต้นที่จะได้เห็นว่าพวกคุณจะเป็นยังไง รู้สึกแบบไหน
ผมในอดีตไม่สามารถตอบคำถามว่าทำไมถึงมาไทย แต่ผมในตอนนี้ตอบได้ คำตอบก็คือเพราะพวกคุณจริงๆความหวังสูงสุดของผมก็คือ คุณจะได้เรียนรู้บางอย่างจากพวกเรา
เป็นเวลาเกือบ1ปีแล้วที่ผมและนิคมาอยู่ที่ไทย ในปีนี้พวกเราได้เห็นพวกคุณเติบโตขึ้น เหมือนกับเมล็ดเล็กๆเติบโตขึ้นมาเป็นดอกไม้ที่สวยงาม ขอให้ทุกคนโชคดีในอนาคต อย่าหยุดที่จะเติบโต อย่าหยุดที่จะยิ้ม, หัวเราะ , อย่าหยุดทำในสิ่งที่ชอบ. ผมจะคิดถึงทุกคนและจะจดจำทุกคนตลอดไป
INTERESTED IN SERVING ABROAD OR DOMESTICALLY?
2024 opportunities still available! Make the most of your mid semester break or take a semester off for a break away from the bubble!
WHAT ARE OUR VOLUNTEERS UP TO NOW?
Henri King – Ex Bellarmine Resident
I graduated from Riverview in 2014. It was an interesting place to be brought up, with a lot of wealth and a lot of heart. After graduating, I remained closely connected to the school and the Jesuits. I picked up part time work as a tutor and a debating coach. I moved into Bellarmine House and worked with Fr Gerald Brennan SJ for one day a week.
I had ample opportunities for formation, for which I’m grateful. Despite the wash of adolescence and money that was being a teenage boy on the north shore of Sydney, the school maintained a thorough line of core principles. Service was paramount. Opportunities for reflection on your faith life were there if you wanted them – my experiences on Kairos retreats still resonate.
Bellarmine House was another stroke of luck. Those first years out of school can be very challenging, if you’ve lived a sheltered life like I had. Fr Dave Braithwaite SJ was a huge support, as were the other people I lived with. I remember our masses in the basement, deep in the concrete beneath the rumble of traffic down Broadway. That’s where I learned to sing Salve Regina.
We were all aware of it at the time – the friendships I made then, with Fr Dave and the other people in the house, were very special. We shared a very close bond. It’s an exciting thing to be young and surrounded by like-minded friends and role models. We were having fun, and we felt like the project we were working on (The Two Wolves) was worthwhile. When things were bad – a death in the family, or a mental breakdown – we supported each other. I moved out of Bellarmine House after three semesters and have remained close my house mates ever since.
I left Sydney in 2020, and ended up in Darwin. I was eager for a challenge, and took on a few roles working with vulnerable young people, and working in remote areas. I feel like my motivation was very similar to the young people at Cardoner who sign on for a service year. It’s a sense of, I’ve had it so good, for so long. Is there some way I can give back? Is there something I can do that’s good, unequivocally good? Please make it hard, and please make it worthwhile.
This year I began a program called Teach For Australia, which is a pathway into secondary teaching. I’ve been working at Xavier Catholic College, Wurrumiyanga. It’s a community of 1500 people, on the Tiwi Islands off the coast of Darwin.
I was lucky to be placed here – it was just one of the teaching vacancies that became available. But it’s a little bit like coming back home, too. It’s a Catholic community, with a strong connection to Riverview through Sr Anne Gardiner. It’s a parish with a strong faith life.
Sometimes I wonder whether my own faith life is circumstantial. Before eating a meal in public I make the sign of the cross, very surreptitiously, almost like I’m scratching myself, hoping no one will see. Would I go to mass if was living somewhere else? I didn’t in Darwin. But whenever life curves back around to what I know, I find myself thinking of the basement at Bellarmine House, the hum of the traffic, and the singing. Maybe that is enough to build an inner life on. I’m not sure, but I hope so.
One of the teachers here is a Canossian Sister. Sometimes I worry about money, or my own priorities in life. I’m fortunate in that I have her example near at hand to follow, that a life lived selflessly and generously is worthwhile.
In the meantime, I’ll be staying on at Xavier for the next few years. Best wishes to everyone at Cardoner, and to all the young people out on service placements. Have a safe and blessed Christmas.
PLEASE CONSIDER DONATING, SO THAT WE CAN GROW THIS IMPORTANT YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY
We are extremely grateful for your support of our Mission: to nurture and accompany young adults as they love and serve those in need domestically and overseas.
The Cardoner team is a small group of dedicated people: our Rector, plus 3 full-time employed staff, and 3 part-time Uni student interns. All of us are passionate about Cardoner’s Mission, and want to offer life-changing experiences to as many young adults as possible, as they serve communities in need.
Your financial support makes a significant impact in growing our programmes and supporting our partner communities.