The Cardoner Project, mentoring movers and shakers for change
13 Aug 2019
Fr David Braithwaite SJ. has mobilised volunteers for social change through The Cardoner Project since 2010. The not-for-profit is a now a volunteer-focused hub that is changing lives around the world.
We do not offer ‘charity’; we seek solidarity through social enterprise.
(The Cardoner Project)
Father Braithwaite is familiar with the mindset and energy of the younger generation because he’s trained volunteers through the social enterprise called The Cardoner Project.
“Helping young adults to grow into leaders as agents of change is key to the success of the initiatives we develop to help communities in need,” explains Father Braithwaite.
The Two Wolves Abroad ‘immersions’ trips take young people as far away as Mexico or Zambia, and teaches them to work alongside communities on building projects or teaching English language skills.
“We want students, graduates, mentors, and aligned groups to share ideas about social innovation, and to incubate and accelerate businesses for social impact,” says Fr David.
“Our Project has a distinctively Jesuit and Catholic approach. To support leader development we now have The Jesuit Centre for Social Entrepreneurship that assists in helping communities to make their enterprises and projects investment ready and financially sustainable.”
CCI Risk Consultant Chris Hall says there are many benefits to training volunteers for trips abroad and has first-hand experience of volunteering abroad himself.
“I found volunteering to be a great experience that also supports others as they plan for their future. Yes it prepares young people to become leaders for social change more broadly. It teaches young people many ways of negotiating their way through challenges and finding solutions to problems. There are also financial benefits for anyone who is working with volunteers on social programs because so many of these might struggle to exist otherwise, due to lack of funding. We want to realise the benefits of volunteering abroad but keep everyone safe at the same time.”
Fr Braithwaite agrees that the monetary value of volunteering can mean the difference of a program moving forward or closing down.
“The total monetary value of volunteer hours donated in 2017 across Two Wolves Abroad and The Two Wolves Community Cantina was $1.18 million for The Cardoner Project,” according to Fr David.
As CCI’s Chris Hall explains, young people are embracing the opportunity to engage with different cultures through the Cardoner Volunteer Corps (CVC) Programme.
“It offers school-leavers immersion in the cultures of Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tonga, and Guatemala, for example. Who wouldn’t want that experience?”
The participation rate in the Cardoner Immersions project has grown consistently since 2010, and continues to rise, but there are risks to sending volunteers abroad and Hall outlines some of the key issues.
“It’s important to prepare and manage the risks associated with the activities that volunteers do. An organisation leading an overseas mission needs to complete a risk assessment of the locations and conditions of overseas sites, and conduct a review of how risks can be managed and determine controls that need to be implemented,” he says.
“Both the volunteer and the organisation need a clear understanding regarding the benefits as well as the risks. Volunteers and their organisation supervisors need to feel comfortable in realistically meeting the physical and mental requirements to achieve the project mission together.”
Hall notes those leading The Cardoner Project have been doing such work for many years and continue to build on the experience and knowledge of past projects.
“We are very lucky because this is a particular area of risk that the Catholic Church does very well. It has experience of managing risks of overseas missions by working together with local authorities, the Australian government including DFAT, other Dioceses and Orders, and also with us at CCI. The Cardoner Project has been going for a decade already, which means that their approach to risk management has developed and improved with each mission.”
But there other risks that apply to overseas travellers.
“Many countries do not have stringent health and safety practices as we do in Australia, and this can come as a surprise to those expecting a certain level of hygiene, safety or work regulatory measures. A risk-based approach to preparing for travel has to begin before volunteers leave Australia, and must also include a risk assessment of the tasks or work they will be undertaking and take into account fitness and health of individuals. Considering a range of risks associated with travelling abroad would require a close look at the travel safety risks that are practical, such as passport security and other aspects of personal safety.”
As the Cardoner Project evolves, challenges and risks increase in line with growing numbers of trainees going abroad.
Induction is critical to reduce the risk of exposure to common workplace hazards for volunteers. Projects that require manual labour tasks to be carried out are better being supervised by leaders, but other invisible risks such as changes to environments overseas, and susceptibility to disease means that investing time and resources into first aid training and safety are a key component of preparation for travel. This mitigates the risk factors when it comes to the practicalities of volunteers living overseas in basic conditions, and applies to physical safety, and mental health and wellbeing.
Unique to The Cardoner Project immersions abroad is the spiritual preparation for daily reflections and meditation for individuals and groups. These take the form of workshops, retreats and deeper conversations that allow volunteers to engage with their peers, with God, and with the world.
“Encouraging a deeper spiritual life builds confidence to ask questions about purpose", says Fr Braithwaite.
Fr David says that volunteer feedback is extremely encouraging at home as well as abroad.
“In Sydney, about 92% said that volunteering at the Cardoner Project’s Two Wolves Cantina restaurant provides them with skills that they can take to other jobs,” he says.
“There are plans to expand The Cardoner Project through ʻin-reachʼ programs so that those who are homeless can receive meals and support within The Two Wolves eatery as well. We donated 1,440 meals to homeless shelters in 2017. We can do more for the homeless in our communities.”
CCI’s Chris Hall describes Father Braithwaite as an early adopter of innovative thinking, and acknowledges the role of volunteers as critical to sustaining and growing similar initiatives elsewhere.
“Volunteers bring something else to a project. It’s a passion and a sense of purpose, and a belief that you can make a difference.”
The Cardoner Project is a movement taking on “an organic outgrowth of our volunteer community” and one that Fr David describes as, “frankly overdue”.
He describes it as “a chance for us to learn from the poor. We want to improve social inclusion and economic outcomes for disadvantaged and poor communities.”
About Fr David Braithwaite SJ.
Fr. David Braithwaite, SJ runs young-adult ministries for the Jesuits in Australia. He established a volunteering network for young people, both locally and overseas, which grew into The Cardoner Project. Fr David seeks to engage young people in a positive mission for the socially and economically disadvantaged, while integrating faith and reflective transformation. He is passionate about encouraging young people to have hope in a more just and better future.