Our Volunteers: Linh Nguyen volunteering in Timor-Leste

Venilale Girls Vocational School, Timor-Leste

Former Palms volunteers in East Timor, Colin and Christina

In addition to the usual academic subjects, the Salesian Sisters’ Vocational High School offers courses in cooking, dressmaking and hygiene. In many ways vocational education is more appropriate for a newly-independent nation than the traditional high school system. Students are provided with job-related skills which will increase their employability and value to their village communities.

Previous graduates have already begun income-generating projects including a dress-making business which provides cheap clothes to the villagers and employment to a number of women.

Although Tetum, Portuguese and Bahasa are spoken, many Timorese have identified the importance of English in establishing an effective tourism industry. For the small, young nation the importance of international trade and aid has also increased the value of English to those seeking employment.

Palms Australia received a request for an English teacher to work in the school with students and teachers.

Linh Nguyen


Palms recruited Linh Nguyen to work with the Salesian Sisters to improve the employability of the girls of the region.

Linh has previously worked and volunteered at Lifeline, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, church youth groups and probation and parole.

She has developed a variety of skills in working with people of different cultures and social circumstances and has recently received her Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA).

A letter of recommendation for Linh states “Linh is empathetic, non-judgemental, perceptive and well-rounded. She also possesses strong training and education skills. ”

Linh’s placement will not be easy but with the assistance of CommUNITY Partners she can make a long-term difference for the people of Timor-Leste.”


June 23, 2009

Participants at Palms' Re-entry Weekend
During Palms’ Re-entry Weekend, 22nd — 24th May at The Hermitage Mittagong, one of the highlights is the opportunity for returned volunteers to share their stories with people with similar experiences.

One story this year especially highlighted the importance of a Community Development approach — that is, one which is driven by local initiative as much as possible.

“I’d been in placement for just under a year when I was asked to take some visiting Australians up to see a gravity fed water supply system that was not functioning.”

“They identified what they thought were the problems (some holes in the pipes), and promised to return in six months to patch the holes.”

“I found out later that they were totally inexperienced in working with gravity fed systems and didn’t understand the concepts, and that it was going to cost about $13,000 to send them up. I felt I had to challenge this approach.”

“I was able to convince the Australian partner organisation that a local Timorese company, with the appropriate expertise, could be employed without spending so much on flights.”

“We also employed a Timorese NGO (non-government organisation) to manage community expectations and understanding of the project and to provide education about the appropriate use of the system.”

“Doing it this way reduced the cost significantly. The skills of the local experts were respected and used. The project demonstrated the local capacity to solve local problems. Overall, the project this way has a good chance of being sustainable. My opinion is that sending Australian plumbers up to fix the system, at best, would have achieved nothing.”

Thank you to all the returnees for sharing their stories and to Sr Marlene Hixon, who once again facilitated the process.

Palms Australia welcomes Cardinal Pell…

March 23, 2009

As part of his visit to St James’ Parish, Archbishop of Sydney, George Cardinal Pell visited Palms Australia’s head office on Thursday 13th November 2008.

Click here to read the full article

Crossing cultures: there to here

October 23, 2008

With the suggestion of “reverse volunteering” already in mind, when Linh called Palms to enquire further about “hospitality internship”, the time seemed right to begin a pilot project.

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 […]

More on Timor-Leste

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands
to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. - Mohandas Gandhi