The opportunity to take time out to volunteer was something we could not say no to. I had been part of an Encounter Group visit to Timor-Leste in 2010 and came home to Australia full of the possibilities. It was only a matter of time for all of the jigsaw pieces to fit together!
We are now living in Atabae which is on the North-West coast of Timor-Leste, 90 km from Dili. It is a subdistrict of Bobonaro district with a population of just over 11,000 people. I am working as a Nurse/Midwife and Ian is teaching computer skills, soccer and will also be looking to support the local community in some new business initiatives.
In Atabae health services are delivered through the Ministry of Health’s Centre with Health Posts in a number of the smaller villages. The Community Health Centre I am working in was established in partnership with the local community by Friends & Partners with East Timor (a friendship group based in Brisbane). Working with local government services in delivering health services to remote hill villages is one of the highlights for me as I settle into what is only week 11.
At Limanaro village the mobile clinic is operated in an open space and yesterday a herd of buffalo just sauntered on by! Where else can one get that sort of entertainment in their normal day job?
This is balanced against a great awareness at how little the Timorese people have – but they are always happy to chat, smile and share their good humour.
The other poignant moment for me was when, while undertaking a home visit of a Mother and her baby, I became aware that the infant was wrapped in what had started life as a cloth sack but had been lovingly unpicked and restitched to convert it into a wrap for her infant.
Ian’s joy comes from the local soccer team winning and then all piling in to the back of a truck for a victory drive around town! The other is the overwhelming enthusiasm of the students as they learn. For many it is a first step in developing the skills needed to secure a paid job in the future.
His frustration is our lack of knowledge of the local language Tetun. We are committed to learning but boy it’s been a while since we were both at school.
Sharon and Ian are the latest Palms volunteers to be placed in Atabae. This placement represents Palms’ commitment to continue sharing skills in response to the changing needs of our partners.