I was fortunate enough to visit Timor-Leste (East Timor) in the July school holidays.
The program was run by Palms Australia. It is their vision at Palms to work towards achieving a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world free of poverty. Palms are determined to exchange knowledge and skills in order to meet the requests of local communities around the world who are seeking to reduce poverty by developing the capacities of their local people.
Much of the aid given by wealthy nations is spent on large infrastructure projects, expatriate salaries and short-term solutions. Volunteering, by contrast, is one of the most effective and sustainable methods for reducing poverty in disadvantaged communities.
Palms Volunteers stay for an average of two years, working side-by-side with local counterparts and sharing the skills that the communities themselves have identified they need.
Timor-Leste is located only an hours plane flight from Darwin. Although it is one of our closest neighbours, Timor-Leste is vastly different from Australia. It is a relatively new country, after an intense struggle for independence from Indonesia and prior to that, Portugal. I was amazed to learn that approximately 45% of the population are under 19, because so many people were killed during this brutal invasion.
During my time in Timor-Leste I travelled around the island to various places including Dili (the capital), Atauro Island, Atabae, Balibo and Maliana. I was able to engage with the beautiful locals and immerse myself in the local lifestyle.
My experience allowed me to appreciate how fortunate I am to live in a country such as Australia with running water, accessible food and education. I plan to reflect upon my experience and work with our school community, especially the students to assist the communities I visited in Timor-Leste in a meaningful way. I hope that the students I work with, as well as my colleagues, will benefit from my experience, helping them to become more aware of a new and different culture.
St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School