Warrambui Retreat and Conference Centre near Canberra has run a volunteer internship program for young people from around Australia for more than 30 years. But in 2023, the Lutheran camping ministry program became cross-cultural, welcoming its first participants from Papua New Guinea (PNG).
And the blessings have flowed both ways, says Centre Director Dean Salzke.
‘The first PNG interns have been a tremendous blessing to Warrambui, greatly enriching our community as they have shared their faith, joy and lives with us this year’, he said. ‘We have been incredibly privileged to learn more about their country and culture. As always, the interns will be greatly missed when they depart in mid-December.’
Rose Cajetan, one of the three young women from PNG who has served as an intern in 2023, said it had ‘been a blessing’ to be part of the program.
‘I thank God for this great experience’, she said. ‘I hope to take with me the lessons and skills I’ve acquired, and I know it will be of great help when I leave this place.’
Located in Murrumbateman, New South Wales, Warrambui has been the centre of the NSW and ACT District’s Lutheran camping ministry since the land was purchased by Lutheran youth in 1969. Since then, it has grown to a 212-bed facility hosting a range of church, youth, school and community groups.
The volunteer internship program was begun by then Warrambui managers Fred and Inta Gollasch in 1992 out of a desire to invest in and grow young people – particularly in their faith – through their living and serving in a Christian community.
Since its inception, the program has hosted more than 120 young people from around Australia, and occasionally New Zealand, for an internship year. Many former interns have gone on to serve the Lord in different ways, including through camping ministry leadership, congregational leadership, teaching in Christian schools and serving as pastors.
Under the Arise Volunteer Internship Program, as it is now known, young people volunteer to support camping ministry through service tasks including kitchen work and cleaning, leading activities with groups of school children, participating in camping ministry, undertaking ministry and theology study, engaging in team and individual growth opportunities, and live onsite in a Christian community.
The program’s extension to PNG applicants was initiated by Warrambui Board Member, Geoff Hartwig, who saw the potential benefits for young PNG women. Geoff is a member of Holy Cross congregation in Belconnen in the ACT, which has PNG members and supports the work of Meriday Health Education Services in PNG.
Young women are at a disadvantage in PNG, often missing out on opportunities and chances to use their skills, knowledge and gifts because of their gender. Families in PNG prioritise tertiary education for males when funds are limited and, despite being qualified, women are unlikely to get jobs if males apply.
Under Geoff’s leadership, Arise has been recognised as a ‘Special Program’ by the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs, enabling 12-month visas to be issued to young PNG women specifically for them to participate in the program.
Through Arise, the young women are given:
- an opportunity to travel to another country
- exposure to a new environment and culture
- a safe space to be comfortable to speak their voice
- opportunities to grow in self-confidence and leadership
- practical experience and training to strengthen their resumé and increase their opportunities for employment to support their tertiary studies
- theological training to confirm and grow their faith.
‘The aim of the program has always been that, while they volunteer to support camping ministry, the interns build their character, further discover their identity in Christ, and explore questions of faith in a supportive Christian environment’, Dean said. ‘All this aids in giving them a solid foundation for whatever lies ahead.’
When reflecting on his year at Warrambui, one former intern said he had expected God to show him ‘what’ he wanted him to be in terms of a career, but instead, God showed him ‘who’ he wanted him to be. He found this much more valuable, as the ‘what’ would likely change over the course of his life, but the ‘who’ would stay the same.
The application process for more young women from PNG to serve as interns next year is underway and applications are open until 26 November for interns from Australia and New Zealand to join the cross-cultural intern team in 2024.
For further information or details on how to apply, contact Warrambui on 02 6220 1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org