Solidarity amongst the community is huge in Timor-Leste. This is about deep concern or empathy for others. The children in the market places were unified. They would travel around in groups in order to protect each other. With no refrigeration the meat recently killed would not keep in the humidity. Families and neighbours shared meat that they had slaughtered in the early morning. Again solidarity. At the Alama Sisters in Dili there was a protective presence. Solidarity of the sisters in their service of children, including orphans, with disabilities was clear in their welcoming nature and in their thankfulness of our kind donations. At Ba Futuru (For the Future), there was a strong sense of justice in taking care of the beautiful children that are a part of their little community.
National solidarity is in evidence daily in Ainaro. At 6 o’clock, on the dot, the entire town of Ainaro stopped everything they were doing to turn in the direction of the police station. Whether it was playing soccer or chatting with friends, they would pause for the going down of the national flag. It was the most nationalist and unified occurrence of the trip for me.
Sustainable Cities and Communities – Timor Leste
Recently 18 Damascus College students and staff had a life changing experience in Timor-Leste. It was an immersion that opened our eyes to the danger and severity of poverty in developing countries. We went there to not only experience the culture and people, but to do something useful and help these wonderful people rebuild their lives. We had been fundraising for months in advance of the trip, and whilst in Timor, visited many organisations that tackle areas of need. Our donations will help them continue their amazing work within Timor-Leste. In Ainaro, we taught English to the Year 10, 11 and 12 students of Escola Santa Maria.
We now feel called to even do more. The villages and environments these people live in are unlike ours. At times they are unsafe and basic needs of human life not adequately provided for. Many homes are rubble and there is limited access to clean water and safe roads.
A simple donation to an organisation working within Timor-Leste, or even a visit to the country itself and working in the villages amongst the mountains are all forms of assistance that are possible. There is a lot to be done, and a lot to learn from these people. I have learned from their resilient character. I have learned about their lifestyle and how it differs to mine. Their villages and communities are struggling to be sustainable; perhaps together work on sustainability as a goal for ourselves and the people of Timor-Leste.
Before leaving to East Timor we were all asked to find one of the 17 sustainable development goals and research it. I chose 'no hunger' as something I had to focus on whilst being there. The way the Timorese people live, the food they eat and the size they are, all impact our knowledge of a developing country. We rarely saw people that were overweight or larger than average. Most of the little children were very skinny and small as well; not many people were tall. The food eaten there consisted of mainly rice, a little bit of meat and some veggies. Later in the trip we discovered that the locals usually only eat meat twice a week. They were giving it to us every single day, for lunch AND dinner. Their diet was very basic and did not allow them to gain the nutrition needed to live a healthy lifestyle.
A way to help with the amount of food over there would be to gather a large group of people to travel to the villages and more self-contained areas and teach them how to grow and maintain crops like vegetables and wheat and types of food that will help with their nutrition and also their knowledge of how important a balanced diet is. Perhaps make a community garden that anyone can gather food from when needed as long as they put in the effort of growing the food. If we educate as many people as we can about the importance of healthy eating then they will be able to pass it on to their children and then theirs and so on. Then hopefully we can eventually stop the food limit over there if everyone works together they will have lots of food to share and use if everyone maintains it. I hope, for the sake of Timor-Leste that something like this can happen so that hunger is not a problem in their country and I hope that people as lucky as us would be willing to make a change.
Freya Maude (Year 11)
16th June, 2016 was the beginning of a once in a life time experience for 14 Year 11 students from Damascus College. These students were off to Timor-Leste to visit Ballarat’s sister-city Ainaro and their sister school, Escola Secundra Santa Maria (Santa Maria Secondary School).
The students applied to be a part of the Timor Immersion team and spent most of the past 12 months fundraising for Santa Maria. The two main fundraising events this year were the Car Raffle and a Trivia night. All up the students raised between 18,000 and 20,000 dollars for Santa Maria and a number of organisations in the Capital, Dili.
The student’s first experience of Timor-Leste is the hot and humid capital city Dili. From here we travelled to Ainaro. The road to Ainaro is under reconstruction. The first 10 to 20 kilometres has been resurfaced. The staff from last year thought it might be a quick drive, however, the last 100 kilometres still took over six hours because of the state of the roads and the winding mountain passages.
Immediately upon our arrival in Ainaro the students connected with the students from the school. The students are very friendly and cheerful. They made us so welcome. Our first day included a Mass in Tetum with beautiful singing all led by the boys and girls of the school. Padre Joao (Fr John) then took us to visit a site called “Jakarta 2”. This site highlighted the consequences of the “occupation” of the Indonesians. The stories from this site shocked the students but it also made the students aware of the struggle the Timorese people have gone through to gain their independence. It also highlighted the happiness of the Timorese people. Regardless of their struggles they are always welcoming and positive. That’s why they are happy.
Over the course of the week the Damascus students took the Santa Maria students for English conversation classes. At the end of the classes the Santa Maria students interviewed the Damascus students as one of their tasks. When classes finished the students mixed and sang songs and played games. The teachers couldn’t drag the students away from each other because they were having such a fantastic time together.
The highlight of the week was definitely the St Luis Gonzaga night. This is a night that is a celebration of the boys’ pre-seminarian school. The boys and the girls put on acts for the audience. There was a shared meal for the guests and all the students, finished with singing and dancing. There was also an added significance this year - they celebrated Emma Sherritt and Phoebe Bentley’s birthdays with a magnificent cake and a rousing Timor rendition of Happy, Happy Birthday. The girls were very surprised.
Ordinary everyday tasks were suddenly an issue. Cold showers, no flushing toilets, bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth and food that was significantly different to our Australian/Western diet. This is one part of the Immersion that truly opens the eyes of the Damascus students.
The final goodbyes were very difficult, because the students made great friendships. There were lots of hugs and lots of tears.
Finally, the students spent the last two days in Dili visiting organisations that are in desperately need of support but are doing work to the best of their ability. The Damascus students support The Edmund Rice Foundation, Klibur Domin Hospital, The Alola Foundation, the Alma Sisters and our friend and guide Aje’s workplace - Ba Futuru. The students also visited the Tais market, Cristo Rei and Sebastian Gomez’ grave in the Santa Cruz Cemetery. What an experience!