A Look Back by Simon Carroll
I've been fortunate enough to go on several occasions and though the program is similar each year, the experience is always stunningly different. There are many reasons for this: we take different people on the trip; we meet and associate with different people along the way; occasionally we get to explore new places or opportunities that present once we are there and it is a new country so things change rapidly anyway.
It's never an easy trip but on balance it has always been a very positive one for me.
Although we did many amazing things, the highlight this year was again watching our young people immerse themselves in a community that is dominated, through weight of numbers, by other young people, that by and large have stories and lives that are poles apart from their own. Each of our intrepid young travellers do that differently and are struck by different things along the way, but I'm very sure all of them were significantly changed by their experiences.
On the whole, this was a pretty brave group. They rolled up their sleeves and committed themselves to their English classes, challenged themselves to participate in everything they could, even when at times some of them might have found it easier not to. They engaged in the recent stories of absolute horror and heartbreak that come with being a part of all communities in Timor Leste, and so much more. Watching and supporting all of that at close hand is a real privilege and provides many opportunities for personal growth, reflection and pride.
One of the biggest challenges for me is seeing so many outwardly happy, sociable and smart young people, who at the moment, regardless of education and desire, will probably not find meaningful work in the foreseeable future. The population growth is massive and the physical and social infrastructure to support that is a long way from being available.
I think this year’s immersion team (along with all that have gone before them), their families and the whole school community; who do so much each year to raise valuable funds should feel really proud about how much they actually do to support young people in Timor Leste.