Following independence the people of Timor-Leste quickly recognised that growth in education was key to the development of their communities and nation. Almost without exception, Timorese students express an insistent determination to learn and improve their English skills as an avenue to further education and employment. Heather Henderson, a teacher from Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, in the second year of her placement with the Atabae Community Education Program writes of students achieving their dream of learning and the opportunities it brings.
A dream realised is a dream shared and that is exactly what I am doing here in Atabae, a village of approximately 2,000 people situated 85km West of Dili but a 3 hour gruelling drive from that bustling centre.
I came to Atabae to see how I could help this village realise some of their dreams, building on the good work that was done before me by previous volunteers.
A Community English Program established 3 years ago is well attended by 170 students ranging in age from 10 – 18 years of age, all attending school in the village in the mornings. I am mentoring 4 Timorese Teacher Trainers – Maria, Jhon, Afon and Abel – who manage this program, helping students to realise their dreams of speaking English. Many Timorese see the ability of speaking English as the doorway to their futures. They study very hard and most never miss a class.
An extension to this program has been the establishment of a Library. This library began as an English library in the room in the front of my house. It now has its own home and contains books in English, Tetun (the traditional language of the Timorese) and Portuguese.
Since we opened the doors in the new building 2 weeks ago, we have gone from 10 children attending to up to 70 children attending each afternoon. These are children under 10 years of age who don’t attend English classes. Now, they come to the library for a half hour English class and to engage with books, drawing, puzzles and sporting equipment.
I cannot begin the say how privileged and honoured I am to have been invited into the lives of the people of this village to work beside them, teaching them new skills and showing them new ideas. The reward is the smiles on the faces of both children and proud parents who see the opportunities opening up for the village.
One of the greatest opportunities now coming to fruition is through the experience and further studies offered to the 4 Teacher Trainers. They now have a prospect of future employment in the schools in the village, as English Teachers.
Working as a volunteer at the grass roots level has counted as one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. It has changed my life and also the lives of the Timorese I work beside. This is a legacy I am proud to leave.
2015 Applicants needed now
Clearly work for Heather is rewarding and fulfilling. It represents the dream we all once had of a meaningful vocation. You too can have this experience. Palms Australia will prepare and guide you through every stage along the way.
Skilled and experienced Australians, who allow themselves a couple of years to live the dream and help shape the dreams of others, will have costs covered by donor contributions. Communities around the globe are asking us to find applicants now who can be available from the beginning of 2015.
If you are interested in realising the dreams of others please complete the application form on the palms website or contact Roger O’Halloran via email [email protected] or phone (02) 9518 9551.