Dianne Woo, two months into her placement at Atabae, pays a touching tribute to Heather Henderson who is now moving on from one Palms placement to another.
“Teacher Heather” has guided the village’s English programme for the past two years, building on the strong foundation established by previous Palms’ volunteer, Anne Chapman. The programme has become a source of civic pride for Atabae, as the acquisition of English is regarded as a pathway to a better future.
In thanking Heather for her dedicated work, the President of Friends and Partners with Australia, Senyor Alfredo, told a crowd of about 150 local dignitaries and young students: “Many older people lament the lost opportunity to study. If you have English, you have an opportunity to go out into the world!”
It was an emotional farewell for Palms’ volunteer, Heather Henderson, when she attended the latest English language graduation ceremony in Atabae, East Timor.
Friends and Partners with Australia (FPA) is the local Timorese association which works with Brisbane-based Friends and Partners of East Timor (FPET) and Palms Australia to improve aspects of community life in Atabae, located about three hours’ by vehicle from Dili.
At the ceremony, many people paid tribute to Heather’s work, kindness to others and commitment to Atabae. She received many personalised tais, which are hand-woven pieces of fabric symbolising honour and respect.
In response, “Teacher Heather” praised Atabae’s English language teaching team for their hard work and their achievements. She said that she was very proud of them and that she would take in her heart “the love and smiles” of all the people in the community.
Heather’s next posting, as a Palms’ volunteer, is in Nairobi, Kenya, where she will work as Academic Coordinator for the Ruben Centre in the Mukuru community.
Are you able to volunteer in Timor Leste like Heather and Dianne? Communities there are requesting qualified educators, administrators and tradespeople to pass on skills. Please call Christine on 02 9560 5333 for details or email [email protected]