The Timor Team for 2018 spent several days visiting the remote community of Baguia in Timor Leste during the July school holidays, and returned with memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.
The welcome the students received in the small villages made an emotional impact. As one elder expressed: “We have nothing to offer you apart from our friendship, this song and our extreme gratitude and thanks for always visiting us”. It was apparent that these people have so little, but what the group gained from them was priceless. “To witness the energy and spirit the Timorese people have, despite their living conditions, was inspiring.”
Staying in the village of Baguia, with its limited resources, our students were able to get a real sense of the way of life in East Timor. They also became teachers in classrooms at the three Catholic primary schools in the region: St Joseph’s in Baguia and the two schools in Bubaha and Haeconi. The year 12 students stepped up to this challenge with a level of maturity and professionalism, preparing lesson plans and working hard to engage the Timorese students, that impressed the three staff members who accompanied them on their trip.
The nine students (Sophie Wilmot, Sam Tolley, Lili Renfrey, Ross Rann, Ned McMinigal, Tayla Jackson, Ethan Durrant, Sarah Court and Diwan Ackerman) started their journey back in September last year, when they applied and were selected to be a part of this life-changing trip. Since then they had been working tirelessly, together with their families, to raise a remarkable $50,000 - thanks to the support of many local businesses and individuals listed here.
The group also had a chance to visit the only secondary school in the region, run by the government. The difference in building, repairs and maintenance there brought home the impact the College’s support has brought these three small schools and their surrounding communities over the years, not just in assisting with teacher training and resources but also enabling more students to attend school in classrooms that have windows and watertight roofs.
Walking up and down the mountain several hours between the three schools helped the Year 12 students experience the lifestyle of local families, and provided time for them to process the unique and thought provoking experiences of their day. At each school, the students shared music, played soccer, taught English and enjoyed opportunities to practice Tetun (the local language) with the Timorese children.
When asked to describe their experience, one team member summed it up beautifully:
“If I could describe the Timor experience in one word it would be incredible. The people and events we experienced were unforgettable and we have returned from Timor with memories we will hold close to our hearts forever. We fell in love with the town of Baquia in an instant, and that feeling will never leave. We are so grateful for this amazing opportunity.”