Our Volunteers: Mim and Damian volunteering in Timor-Leste

Hatubuilico Parish and Clinic

A Timorese mother and child
Hatubuilico is a small village located in the mountains south of Dili near Maubisse, one of Timor-Leste’s coffee growing regions.

Many local people rely on subsistance agriculture and the small income possible through involvement in coffee production.  In recent years, environmental degradation, including soil erosion, has proven to be a problem for the community of Hatubuilico.  A request was placed with Palms Australia for a volunteer to work with the local community to raise awareness of sustainable practices to preserve the environment and ensure the ongoing sustainability of their agricultural lifestyles.

Hatubuilico also hosts a small clinic, which provides health care to a population of about 6,000 people. At present the clinic is staffed by a single Timorese nurse. In rural areas such as this, communities are often unable to travel easily to major hospitals and are reliant on such clinics to provide a wide variety of health services. A volunteer nurse was sought to assist provide proper health care to the people and educating about health and hygiene.

Mim Buchhorn and Damian Rake

Palms Australia recruited Mim Buchhorn and Damian Rake to fill these positions and work with Timorese counterparts for the benefit of Hatubuilico community.

Mim Buchhorn is an experienced environmental engineer, who has worked on water management projects in the Newcastle and Hunter regions.  She also has significant experience in communicating about environmental issues in Australia.

Damian Rake is a registered nurse with a broad range of experience in urban and remote Australia and overseas.  Damian’s experience in remote Western Australia and Northern Territory, as well as Papua New Guinea, Peru and Bolivia, mean that he is well equipped to understand the specific needs of remote and developing communities.

Palms Australia and Hatubuilico community believe Mim and Damian will contribute to positive sustainable development for the services and people of the region.  You can help us achieve so much, by using the donation form for this project.


australianunity Palms Australia gratefully acknowledges the support of Australian Unity towards Damian Rake’s placement.

Creating a safe, sustainable environment

November 15, 2012

Domingus and Aderitu finish off the “tippy tap” handwashing station at the Community Centre.
Mim has been busy helping communities submit formal proposals for water supply and sanitation projects. This involves walking up to two hours through beautiful mountains; meeting community leaders in traditional homes; drinking coffee; and being invited to chew betelnut and talk water with village elders.

A group then gathers as she visits springs and measure dry season flow rates. This means that when budgets are available the community has data on the minimum amount of water that might be expected during the dry. There isn’t yet data to predict how water sources might be affected by climate change, El Nino droughts and the like.

The community also draws up simple maps to help us match water supply with demand. This prompts questions about where the requesting community ‘ends’ – not always an easy decision as settlement patterns in rural timor are dispersed and social groupings don’t necessarily follow catchment boundaries. So the proposals have asked for trained Timorese facilitators to help the communities come to their own agreements around what water sources they want to use and how they will contribute to the construction and maintenance of water systems.

In coming months AusAID’s water and sanitation program in Timor (“BESIK”) is focusing on rehabilitating existing systems, so Mim has worked with the local “community facilitator” to do rough condition assessments of a number of existing water supply systems. Many were built over 10 years ago, before BESIK introduced technical standards, and have had very little maintenance. For example, there are three schools in Hatobuilico but none of them have water supply connected to the toilets or handwashing facilities.

The Courema community have been progressing with their erosion control works to try and better protect their new water supply pipe bridge. Simple timber check dams keep appearing –‐ both up and down the creek – so it’s always a pleasure to revisit the site and see what new additions they have made.

Excluding cattle from the site remains an issue. Just like home, this has a social and economic dimension. After the wire from the initial trial fence was stolen our local coordinators have identified the need to formally sit with the elders to discuss the fence and grazing arrangements.

During the October Palms Encounter Barry Hinton, in-country coordinator, helped all interested test drive the new fencing pliers, donated by Rob Wesley‐Smith. (Senior Domingos is particularly excited about the wire cutting mechanism!) We feel confident that the new gear combined with this community’s proven ability to organise themselves, will help this project continue. Thanks to AusAID’s BESIK program for the small grant to buy the gear, kindly lorried up the hill by the Encounter groups!

Health in Hatobuilico

In September we had the very satisfying experience of running basic health training for local villagers. This was rewarding for us because the participants came with so much goodwill, laughter and enthusiasm.

Click here to read the full article

Volunteers speak from Timor-Leste

September 20, 2012

In our latest Youtube video, three Palms volunteers speak about why volunteering is important and why people should volunteer with Palms Australia.

Click here to read the full article

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Mim and Damian's placement has completed, but you can still help us provide volunteers to many other communities by using the form below.

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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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The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become. - Charles du Bois