Well, doesn’t time fly. We have been so busy lately with one thing or another that we haven’t had time to just sit and relax.
For those who don’t know, we are also on the committee for the East Timor Community Association for Brisbane and Gold Coast, which also takes up a lot of our time organising activities, BBQ’s, festivities etc. We also organise outings, with the students who come over from East Timor and study either in Brisbane or the Gold Coast, so that they can interact with other Timorese as well as locals. It helps them to feel at home as well as it is healthy to make new friends.
Just recently we organised a farewell BBQ for some of the students who have graduated and are now to return home as well as others who are moving north to further their studies.
We are also involved with other organisations, here on the Gold Coast as well as in Brisbane. We assist and help one another in many events, just recently we celebrated the Timor Leste Independence Day and during the celebration we had a family turn up with a promised gift of Soccer uniforms in Timorese colours and 2 balls for our community.
Some friends of Mario’s donated 3 pallets of toys which went to Timor Leste to be distributed to the children of East Timor. We also donated sent 14 mountain bikes, a electric keyboard to go to the school in Ossu, district of Viqueque, where Mario was born.
Our next plan is to see if any of the sponsors would like to join us on a trip to Timor Leste in May 2017. Our main objective of this trip is to do some maintenance of the Resource Room which we built in Salau for the children and Sisters of the Dominican orphanage. The maintenance consists of painting, carpentry and plumbing. If we do not get enough people to assist with this task we will employ tradespeople from Dili to complete these works. Our second objective is to travel extensively throughout the country on a photographic tour.
Anyone who is interested in either or both options please let us know ASAP so that we can organise suitable time for travelling.
One of our sponsors has just finished a stay with the Dominican Sisters and children in Dili. Following is a report and photos (in the gallery) from Janet about her stay. We would like to thank Janet for providing this report and the photos.
As I end my second week at Nicol Goni Dominican Orphanage in Dili, Timor Leste, I experience many emotions: I am sad to be leaving this small, harmonious community where I’ve grown very fond of everyone, the young children as well as the older students, the Sisters as well as the general staff. I leave also with a sense of guilt that I could have done more: the Sisters have to work incredibly hard, on duty 24/7, never seeming to tire. I am full of admiration for their superhuman efforts and their devotion to the children.
There are thirty students at the Orphanage in Bidau, ranging in age from 4 years old to almost 24 years old. Despite age differences, it seems to be one big happy family, all helping each other get by and obviously strengthened by deep religious faith. The students here are mostly girls, however two older boys help to maintain the flower garden and carry out general maintenance work in their spare time. They also help to keep the girls in order!
The girls’ ages extend from the very young toddler, to university students, who take a lead, helping to care for the younger ones, especially when the latter first arrive following the loss of one or both parents. The family rapport at the orphanage is excellent and despite a certain understandable reluctance to rise daily at 5am, there is a general atmosphere of love and caring for one another.
From before sunrise every day, the Sisters are on duty looking after the children, trying to fit in their own theological and linguistic studies, balancing a tight budget, providing emotional, physical and spiritual care for the students. They not only provide love and support, but they also give financial assistance for the university education of some of the older students. I have been astounded by the way in which the current director, Sister Mila, manages to budget for school uniforms, food, transport, and general material necessities, which daily increase. Sister Mila, herself from the Philippines, is an amazing woman with a great breadth of experience from places like Angola, Mozambique, Peru, India, Taiwan, Macau and Spain where she had a glimpse of their mission.
The daily routine for the Sisters makes our lives in Australia look very easy and privileged, if not indolent!
The lifestyle at the orphanage is simple and there is a carefully structured routine, with all students helping to maintain the garden and surroundings, to cook the food, to manage their own laundry (there are no washing machines most cooking is by wood stove, while washing is done manually.) Unless the orphanage receives more financial support from donors, it seems to me that it will be hard to maintain it at its current standard. With such demands to care for children and adolescents with a range of needs, one wonders where these women derive their commitment. I asked one of the Dominican Sisters where did she get her energy: “From God,” was the immediate reply.
My experience at the Bidau Orphanage has taught me many things and opened my eyes to what makes not only the orphanage, but Timor Leste a special place to be: it is solidarity, esprit de corps, a sense of community, love and respect for each other and, among the young, a genuine motivation to get ahead.
The Sisters at Bidau now have had rooms built which they rent out from time to time, to help boost their budget.
They also have a wonderful rural project being developed at Hera, about thirty minutes by road, away from the main orphanage. Hera is an extension of the Bidau orphanage and at Hera fifteen boys aged from 9-23 are living under the care of the sisters. It is hoped that produce raised at Hera will help balance the budget and make the orphanages more sustainable.
The boys at Hera self-manage and do their own cooking, with supplies and assistance provided daily from the Dominican orphanages at Bidau and Comoro. There is also transport and education provided for older boys who commute daily to Dili for their studies.
They have constructed irrigation schemes and terracing so that crops such as bokchoi, salad greens, tomatoes, and other vegetables can now be harvested.
Although Hera is not so far from Dili, the transport costs for running frequent supplies to the boys are becoming yet another financial burden: sometimes, up to five visits per week are necessary and these involve a driver, petrol and the cost of provisions.
Basic necessities like internet connection are ongoing costs, as are costs of water and electricity. Even the most basic things including blackboards and chalk are difficult to purchase and to maintain. We take for granted so many things in Australia like the provision of white boards and markers, overhead projectors, photocopiers and printers: the Dili Orphanage has none of these luxuries, in fact, the single blackboard on wheels which I used was very small, and one half was so worn that it was almost impossible to write on, while the few pieces of chalk were gradually being whittled away- a metaphor perhaps for the Orphanage itself, which, without more financial support, may soon be worn down.
As the photographs show, the gardens and surroundings are carefully and beautifully maintained by the sisters and the children, but costs are increasing annually, and one wonders how much longer they can be self-sustaining, particularly with the increasingly poor exchange rate and the discrepancy between the Australian and American dollar. I urge all donors to the East Timor Children’s Fund to give as little or as much as they can in order to keep providing healthy and worthwhile lives for the lovely children in the Dominican orphanages in Timor Leste.
What a busy three weeks we have just spent in Timor-Leste.
Before heading over we purchased a container and filled it up with toys, music instruments, desks, chairs, office equipment, furniture, clothes, shoes etc for delivery to the Dominican Sisters in Timor-Leste.
We were fortunate to be able to have the container delivered just prior to our arrival so that we could spend the three weeks in Timor-Leste unloading and distributing the goods to the various recipients. All was going well until the container was delayed and we didn’t get possession of the container until mid way through the second week of our trip.
Once we got the container it was full steam ahead emptying it out and transporting the goods to the Dominican Sisters place so that we could then distribute to the various recipients in Oecusse and Salau. We were lucky to have the help of Manuel and his friends to assist us with the unloading.
While we were waiting for the container to arrive we headed out to the mountain area of Salau to attend the official opening and blessing of our “Resource Room”. Everyone from the village turned out to witness the event and it turned into a real party. Sisters Rosario, Sabina and Ella all did a wonderful job organising everything for the day and Sister Sabina excelled on her cooking for the event. Fr Tiago conducted the Mass and blessing.
For the “Resource Room”, we gave Sr Rosario 2 new laptops, a new Casio Keyboard, general office supplies and 2 sets of 20 books written in the local language of Tetum. These books have just recently been published and are the only books the children have to read in their own language. Once the computers were set up the children showed us how quickly they got the hang of using computers. It is amazing how quickly they picked it up.
As well as helping the orphanage we also provided, for the local school, desks, filing cabinets, lockers, chairs, 2 x new desktop computers, a new printer and maps to assist them with the education of the children from the orphanage as well as the local village.
Fr Tiago invited us to visit his Parish in Soibada so while in Salau we headed across the river, no bridge, to visit him in Soibada. It was a bit scary crossing the river as it had been raining all day and the river was quite high, but with the help of the locals we managed to make it through. I can tell you I was holding my breath the whole way.
Once in Soibada Fr Tiago and the boys welcomed us with a song before showing us around. It wasn’t long before it was time to head back across the river to Salau for the night.
While we were in Timor-Leste they held their Independence Day Celebrations. Instead of staying in Dili, which was very hot, we headed out to the districts to see how they celebrated this day. It was amazing to see everyone dressed up in their traditional costumes, some of which were really elaborate.
All in all it was a very successful, though exhausting, trip with a lot accomplished. We can’t wait until our next visit to see how much the children have advanced with the computers and music instruments.
Please have a look at the photos in the gallery.
Well, what an exciting time of year it is.
We hope that Santa was good to you and that everyone has had a wonderful Christmas with their family and friensds.
Our construction of the “Resource Room” has been completed which is a nice Christmas present for all the children in the Orphanage. We have attached some of the photos of the construction taking place along with the finished construction (Please see the gallery for photos).
Also, we were very proud and honoured to win the annual Westpac CEO award in the Community and Environment category for the work that we have done for the communities in Timor-Leste (see attached). Along with the trophy comes $10,000 for the East Timor Childrens Fund. These funds will be used to send a container over to Timor-Leste with education materials, maps, desks, chairs, book shelves, sporting equipment, musical instruments, books, toys etc.
So if you have any musical instruments you don’t use that are in good working order we would be grateful to receive them.
The two boys, Joao and Profirio, we are putting through university are doing really well in their respective courses and have passed their first year exams. We are very proud of their achievements so far and look forward to helping them complete their studies.
We will be heading to Timor-Leste in May 2014 to check out the new “Resource Room” at the orphanage and at that time we will be having a celebration and Mass for the official opening of the room (better late than never). We are hoping to be able to have the container delivered while we are in Timor-Leste so that we can organise for the unloading and distribution of the items.
We hope you like and enjoy the photos of the “Resource Room”.
We would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and happy new year and to say thank you for all your continued support. Without all your support we would not have been able to help the children of Timor-Leste.
There has never been a dull moment whenever we visit Timor-Leste and this trip was no different.
Prior to our departure to Timor-Leste we felt that we were being fated to go to the enclave of Oecusse, which is situated within West Timor (Indonesia). Firstly, a Timorese Madre (Nun) requested that we have a look at a school in the mountains of Oecusse and secondly we read an article about an American Priest who was running an Orphanage there. We repeatedly tried to contact both the school and the orphanage but with no luck, we still felt the pull that we had to visit.
After arriving in Dili we made some enquiries and once again we were told about a Dominican Orphanage in Oecusse that required assistance. So we booked a ticket on the slow boat (12 hours overnight) to Oecusse. Let me tell you, it was a very long 12 hours. No one gives you enough information so we started queuing up at the entrance gate, along with everyone else, from 3pm in the sweltering heat of about 35 degrees until they finally opened the gates at 4.30 pm and everyone was pushing and shoving to get in so they could get the best position on the boat. When we finally got on the boat there were only a few seats but most of the people chose to sit outside on the floor of the deck because that is where they were going to sleep for the night. Luckily Mario speaks a bit of Tetum (Local language) and we managed to get a room with 2 beds. We found out later, to our surprise, that the room we had been given was the sick bay, but it was the only one available and with air conditioning so we thought that luck was on our side.
We arrived in Oecusse very early the next morning (5 am) and we rang the Sisters to let them know we had arrived so they could pick us up and after breakfast and a good shower (a bucket of cold water) and I have to say that after feeling so dirty from being on the boat it was the best (even though coldest) shower I have ever had, we were taken around the orphanage to see their fruit trees, vegetable garden, the animals as well as to see the future plans that the Sister has for the Orphanage. We were then taken to see the children before they went to school.
We were impressed with the whole Orphanage, how it was kept and run. We offered the Sister 4 new laptops, a new printer and consumables, all of which she gladly accepted. She was very thankful for our offer as her computer was very old, and by the time we had finished setting up the new computers the girls had arrived back from school and couldn’t wait to be the first ones to try them out. Even though they had not used computers before it did not take them long to work it out. It was then time for us to get back of the slow boat to Dili (another 12 hours overnight). After arriving back in Dili the next morning we headed straight to the hotel for a nice hot shower and to catch up on some of the sleep we lost on the boat.
So we rested for that day and worked on what we needed to do for the next morning. We had to meet with Fr Tiago, the new Priest of Soibada who replaced Fr Abel whom we previously worked with to establish a room where we supplied computers and education materials for the students and community of Soibada. Unfortunately we did not get to meet Fr Tiago as planned as being that it was the wet season and with no bridge the river was impassable (even by 4WD), so we couldn’t visit our resource room in Soibada but we were able to visit the Sisters and the children as they have moved to Salau about 2 hour drive from Soibada. They were all very happy and excited to see us and the children welcomed us with a smile and a song. It made the trip worthwhile and we forgot about the past 5 hours we had spent travelling on the worst roads you have ever seen, something like the tv show “the worlds most dangerous roads” never a dull moment. As they have just moved in, their new premises still needs a lot of work and the children do not have anywhere to study or do their homework.
So after talking to the Sisters we decided that our next project will be to construct a resource room where they can get access to computers, books, maps etc. everything they need to help them to study as at the moment, we noticed, they are trying to study anywhere and everywhere.
After returning to Dili we had a last meeting with the Sisters to get things underway (i.e. plans, quotes etc) so it was a very positive outcome from out visit.
We had a couple of days left to meet up with some of the students who had been studying on the Gold Coast. One of them took us to his farm (3 hours from Dili) to show us what he had learnt while in Australia. We were very impressed with what he has been able to achieve so far.
We were also taken to meet this incredible man, Dr Dan Murphy, who is doing an amazing job to help the sick and needy with medical attention (at no charge) that they would otherwise not be able to receive. He has set up a clinic in Dili and sees on average 300 people per day. We wished that we could help him at his clinic but our resources are for education only. If there is anyone out there who would like to help Dr Murphy please let us know. He certainly is a very remarkable and gracious man.
The Dominican Sisters asked us to say how extremely thankful they are for your support and generosity towards the education of the children of Timor-Leste.
Don’t forget to check out the new photos in the gallery.
Well, for those ones that know us personally or through work or through our website will know that the idea for East Timor Childrens Fund started in 2002 to help with the education and training of the communities of Timor-Leste.
We have finally been nominated for and have received an award from Westpac Gold Coast Small Business Awards in the Best Not For Profit segment. It was a well received award we only wish that we could have enjoyed that night with all of you who also deserve immense thanks for your kind generosity and support throughout these years. Without you kindness and your support it would have been a struggle. The photos attached are award, not only for us, but also for everyone who has supported us.
We will finish off with the words from Winston Churchill “we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”.
Once again, thank you all.