Heath Thompson: Taking your time works better in Timor-Leste

Zelia Ximenes Vital and Heath Thompson at Lafaek Diak
So just going over the 3 month mark now and I have learned a hell of a lot in that short time. I have found that development is a lot slower process than I ever imagined. This is because of multiple reasons that make everyday life that little bit harder when you are living in a developing country. This can be small things like electricity being sporadically available, or access to water is not as simple as turning on a tap, or being able to travel quickly over functional roads. But I think I have of become more aware of the importance of persisting with the slow development that is needed.

So far as a volunteer I have encountered many obstacles and many moments of frustration and difficulty that really cannot be explained in the Australian context. Things that you would not normally think are a problem can seem very very hard to achieve. But these can usually be explained by circumstances and previous problems that you only uncover after much examination.

There always are positive moments in the experience and the people make the problems that you face all the worth it. I think the PALMS motto of taking your time is an essential philosophy to take on board, not only for the benefit of the organization but also to temper your own expectations.

I have been fortunate enough to have a placement with an organization that has had previous experience with volunteers and I can work alongside some very promising individuals with meaningful objectives. This is not to say my task is an easy one and I hope that over my placement I can help these individuals develop their talents to push this organization forward and achieve much development within Timor-Leste.

Many of the most challenging aspects of the task are really about the cultural contexts and finding out the reasons certain things are done differently. It can be frustrating at times and often exhausting but working within that context is where you will achieve your best results.

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The end of extreme poverty is at hand, within our generation, but only if we grasp the historic opportunity in front of us. - Jeffrey Sachs