News: Letters from the Field

Baucau, East Timor

Monica with Ida Greenway (Palms’ volunteer in Fuiloro)
Monica Morrison, from Mollymook NSW, is working as a Professional Development Assistant at the Catholic Teachers’ College Baucau, Timor-Leste.
Yesterday, I gave my last lecture for this semester on Values Education using the latest Values Framework Report from Australia. We are fortunate that we do have access to the net unlike some other colleagues who are in more remote areas. Most of the Masters students are choosing Values Education for their essays so I worked hard on making it meaningful for them and in trying to relate it to the Timorese context. So far I have only seen three schools and I was saddened by their lack of resources and trained teachers. There is a long hard journey for these young future leaders in Education at Baucau to undertake.

Yesterday, I was determined to have some fun with them as a finale, and to see how many of the concepts of a “whole school approach” they had grasped over the weeks. I did a role-play with their pretending we were at an international conference on Values Ed and I was a TV journalist interviewing them as participants. Pedro was the Minster of Education, a role he undertook with great seriousness; Francelina was a Principal of a school; and Aurea was a teachers’ college lecturer and mother to be (both of which of she is in reality).

Monica with her Masters students

I was so very proud of them. Pedro answered curly questions from a hostile “studio audience” on funding and teachers’ salaries (same here as everywhere) and Francelina had all the latest programs and ideas operational in her school even saying she was “working on” parent involvement which, from my limited experience in schools, seems to be a non-event here. Aurea was convincing and was a great advocate for her College in Baucau in terms of the teaching of Values, and she is hopeful for the future of education in East Timor for her first child. All of this was extremely encouraging for us as sometimes we get a little ground down by it all and think we will never make an impression.

I hope all is well at Palms, and that you are continuing to find many new volunteers. I, for one, am so very grateful that I have had this opportunity, and only regret that I did not do it when younger. I guess I had other commitments then. One cannot begin to describe how much one learns from the experience of living in another culture. You learn about them but you also learn about yourself. East Timor seems like a second home now and I continue to be impressed by the many young volunteers who are filling various roles here in health, education, local government and community development. Their sincerity and commitment to social justice is very humbling.

Read Monica’s full CommUNITY News

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True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice. - Martin Luther King Jr