I recently returned from Palms’ July Encounter to Timor-Leste. The Encounter was an amazing journey to a beautiful country with a great group of people! It was much more than a site-seeing trip. Palms volunteers placed in country and their local counterparts welcomed us to each community. The volunteers’ established relationships in community enabled us to participate in a variety of activities.
The journey began on Atauro Island where we visited local enterprises such as a women’s group producing dolls and embroidered textiles, and a foundry where old car parts were being hammered into knives and other tools. Participant Andrew Leong was taught how to heat up the metal and hammer it out into a new shape. We also visited women’s groups producing traditional Timorese woven textiles called “tais.” I was fascinated by the complexity, painstaking detail, and hours of effort in each piece.
For me, a highlight of the trip was our visit to Atabae. Upon arrival we were greeted by Palms volunteer Anne Chapman, her teaching counterparts, and their local students. The effectiveness of their teaching was evident—the students spoke to us confidently in English. We were all impressed by their enthusiasm for learning and by their English abilities, especially as many had only been studying English for a short time. The students escorted each of us on a tour of their village, pointing out the polling place for election day, their school, and the beach. During our time in Atabae, I stayed in the home of a local family. They welcomed me into their home, and on our final day in Atabae they gave me a tais as a farewell present. Having witnessed the effort and skill in each piece, I was especially touched by this gift.
To reserve your place on one of our 2013 Palms Encounters to Timor-Leste or Kiribati, visit www.palms.org.au/encounters/. A previous Encounter led to the placement of Sharon Hearns in Atabae. You can also read the perspectives of Ano and Joanito, two of Anne Chapman’s students.