Our Volunteers: Guida Cabrita volunteering in Timor-Leste

Quase Paroquia St Teresinha do Menino Jesus Bedois

Fr Graciano - Escola Primaria SabracalaranQuase Paroquia St Teresinha of Bedois has requested two primary trained teachers to work together across two catholic primary schools – Escola Primaria Sabracalaran & Escola Primaria Bedois of approximately 1200 children, aged 4 – 13 years old.

The schools are located in an outer suburb of Dili – Bedois.   Currently the primary schools are staffed by mostly local volunteers, with a few government paid staff.

The Palms’ Volunteers work with the ‘voluntary’ teachers to motivate and help them to develop teaching skills that will enable more educational opportunities for children, staff and parents.


Guida Cabrita

Guida Cabrita a primary school teacher from Brisbane, Queensland, was recruited by Palms in January 2014 to work as part of a team across the two primary schools.

Guida has worked for more than 6 years, planning, teaching and assessing in Religious Education, English, Mathematics, Science, History and Visual Arts. Guida has been described as “a very dedicated and highly motivated teacher. She is a very gentle, patient teacher and children are genuinely drawn to her.” Guida has also volunteered with other Australian charity organisations as well as volunteering in South Africa and Swaziland.

In her time at Bedois Guida used English classes as a form of cultural exchange which increases the ability of both staff and students, while also increasing Guida’s  own abilities in Tetun (the local language). This exchange has also strengthened other institutions in the schools and community.

Guida completed her placement at Bedois in December and is now reconnecting with her Australian community.

Palms is currently recruiting for a new volunteer to continue Guida’s work and help students and teachers in Bedois to progress towards quality education for all. Please email Christine or call 02 9518 9551 for details.

Returning to another Home

January 13, 2015

Palms volunteer Guida Cabrita writes of the excitement in returning home for Christmas, and finds the same excitement when heading back to her host community in Dili, Timor Leste-

When most people think of Christmas, they think of spending time with their family.

Family is really important in Timor Leste and the extended family is very tight knit, to the point where children call their aunts and uncles (depending on whether they are older or younger than their parents) big mum/dad (amaa/apaa boot) and little mum/dad (amaa/apaa kiik). Every time I go anywhere with anyone from Timor Leste, it is commonplace for them to pass by several cousins along the journey. I have to travel the globe to achieve a similar result.

So, when I let my community in Bedois, Dili know that I would be going back to Australia to spend Christmas with my family, they completely understood.

Back at home, after the initial jitters of driving at 100kms/h on a highway (you are hard pressed to drive past 40kms/h in Timor) and the sudden impulse to drink water straight out of the kitchen tap (running, drinkable water is not available where I live), I seemed to slot into Brisbane life as if I had never left.

I dressed in all my old clothes, went to all my old places, saw all my old friends and reconnected with family. I was run off my feet, but I wanted everyone to know that even though I live far away, I still think of them and that they are important to me and I wanted to tell that to them in person. I started a hug bank and every hug I received has been stored for use in difficult times!

Re-entering Western society wasn’t as confronting as I thought, although every now and then I did find myself marvelling at the small things such as running water, the seamlessness of our traffic systems and the sheer variety of things we can get our hands on.

Timor Leste and my community literally seemed a world away.

That is what startled me.

If life is going along ok, it is so easy to forget our neighbours, whether we are talking about our global neighbours or the ones next door. Getting out of our comfort zones seems to be the hardest thing to do, but it is what we all need to do if we want to see positive change.

In turn, when life is getting too hard, it is so easy to lose sight of the bigger picture – everyone is going along this road called life and trying to get by too.

Whilst I was home two tragedies befell Australia, the siege at Martin Place in Sydney and the multiple homicides in Cairns. That these tragic events occurred over the Christmas season, highlighted how precious the moments are that we have with our loved ones.

Coming back to Timor Leste, was also not the struggle I had envisioned.

On my way back in Hilly, the old Hilux donated by USAID, driven expertly by my fellow Palms’ volunteer Sam Haddin,  I passed my friend Stacey. She was walking along the road and we shared a smile as we both recognized each other (I had met her at a friend’s farewell party). It was then I realised that is really what feeling ‘at home’ is about -the small ways (like smiles) we let people around us know that we are all in this together.

Guida drops into the Palms office during her Christmas break. L-R Christine, Guida, Madi and Roger

Guida drops into the Palms office during her Christmas break. L-R: Christine, Guida, Madi and Roger

When I arrived back, to a much greener and vibrant Bedois (thanks to the rain) there were more hugs for my hug bank and heartfelt welcomes everywhere. This place felt like home too.

Before I left, someone very dear to me, who lives with mental illness told me something simple, but profound, she said, ‘Thank you for being my friend in this crazy world.’

Wishing all readers and fellow travellers on this bumpy road called life, a year of reaching out in friendship and solidarity and hoping you all in turn receive the very best in 2015.

I am looking forward to a year of working together with the Bedois community to improve education outcomes. If you would like to support my placement, please visit the Volunteer page



Meet our 10 newest volunteers

November 29, 2013

We have another wonderful group of volunteers, ready to depart for Timor-Leste, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and South Africa.

Click here to read the full article

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Population: 1,292,755

Area: 15,007 sq. km.

Median Age: 21.5

Literacy: 58.6 %

Languages: Tetum, Portuguese, Indonesian, about 16 indigenous languages

A brief history of independence. mid 1500s – Timor colonised by Portugal 1859 – Portugal cedes West Timor to the Dutch 1942-1945 – Japan occupies East Timor 28 November 1975 – East Timor declared independent from Portugal 7 December 1975 – invaded and occupied by Indonesia. It is estimated that 100,000 to 250,000 were killed […]

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Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural.
It is man made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. - Nelson Mandela