by Liz Keating
I spent the school year of 2017 teaching English in a Hospitality Training College in Venilale, Timor Leste as a Palms volunteer.
Thinking about how I came to do this takes me back about 15 years when I decided to change careers from Human Resources to Teaching. I thought about what I wanted to achieve from changing careers and working in a developing country was one of my goals.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the one million people who listened to Pope Francis’s address in Poland in 2016 when he encouraged us to ‘get off the sofa’ and do something – to ‘leave a mark’ were his exact words. Hearing him say this stayed with me and I started investigating how I would ‘leave my mark’.
Why Timor Leste? Good question – it’s a country that is quite close to Australia geographically but very different in so many ways. I undertook a rural placement which was very different to my life in Sydney where I live very close to the city in an apartment.
Living in the mountains in Timor Leste was at times challenging – I was often the only ‘malae’ (foreigner) in the village – many of the things I did such as walking for exercise were looked upon as a little strange by the locals. There were many aspects of Timorese culture I found a little curious also. However I will say that the overall drive of the locals to improve their country is something I did understand. There are such hopes for the future and joy in having their independence after years of war and unbelievable hardship which took the lives of so many.
To be able to witness and share in this and feel in some way I was contributing, even in a tiny way, really made it such an amazing experience.