Our Volunteers: Monica Morrison volunteering in Timor-Leste

Catholic Teachers’ College, Timor-Leste

Former Palms volunteers at CTC Baucau, Colin and Christina
With a 59% literacy rate in a country of 1.1 million people, Timor-Leste is working hard to redevelop and improve its education system. Under the often violent occupation, at the peak of the independence conflict, nearly 80% of its teachers left, and over 90% of its education infrastructure was destroyed.

In 2000, East Timor lacked a secondary education system as most of the country’s 140 secondary schools lay in ruins. Higher education in East Timor had effectively stopped, say UNICEF. But much has begun to change, and its education infrastructure and curriculum is beginning to take shape.

The Catholic Teachers’ College, Baucau was established in 2000 to train teachers to serve this 98% Catholic country. It operates as an outreach of the Melbourne province of the Marist Brothers, who have made a 10-year commitment to the College.CTC, with the people of East Timor, is working to develop quality professional teachers in the context of the Catholic faith and the culture of Timor-Leste. It is committed to advancing a quality East Timorese curriculum and a culture of leadership in the country.

The Director of CTC, Baucau has requested a skilled volunteer to work in Professional Development to strengthen skills and build capacity for teaching-staff undertaking their Master’s degree in Education from Australian Catholic University (ACU).

Monica Morrison

Monica MorrisonPalms Australia recruited Monica Morrison from Mollymook NSW, to work at Baucau, Timor-Leste for two years, she will be working hand-in-hand with local staff, sharing skills and expertise and contributing to long-term sustainable development.

Monica has worked for many years in the education sector and is also a registered psychologist who has many years of experience in counseling; she enjoys live music, theatre, the opera and reading, Monica also sings in a choir.

With her years of experience in the education system, she will be able offer her skills in language education to increase the capacity of current and future teachers to provide quality education and increased opportunities to Timor Leste’s youth for years to come.

Now is a vital time in Timor Leste’s history. If you can help Palms Australia send Monica, you can contribute to a more just and peaceful world.

Change can and does occur

August 14, 2013

Monica Morrison volunteered for 2 years at the Catholic Teachers’ College in Baucau, Timor-Leste. She returned for her former students’ graduation.

Having not been back to East Timor since leaving at the end of 2010, I wondered how much had changed and whether I would again be confronted by the poverty. Would I be accepted as a visitor this time? Back then I had been working with the staff towards gaining their Masters of Education degrees and now graduation was near and I had decided that I would like to be there to see them receive their awards.

Monica and Anche
From the moment I left the plane I felt as though I was returning home. Walking across the tarmac, the familiar heat hit me in the face and I saw the wide smile of Anche Cabral (left), one of my former students who now works for Air Timor. This amazing young woman, who represents East Timor in international cycling events, gave me a royal welcome, wrapping me in a warm hug and escorting me through customs and immigration. This visit was going to be wonderful!

My former colleagues, the Loreto sisters, drove me to Baucau. Baucau seemed different somehow and much quieter, perhaps due to the fact that the UN have now moved out. The downpour which met our arrival made everything look rather sad and a landslide had destroyed several of the roadside market stalls.

I was cheered next day by the return of the sun and of the many welcoming smiles of recognition I received and the general feeling of excitement in the air in preparation for the graduation the next day. Mops, brooms and banners were being carried down to the hall, speeches were being practiced and Marie Emmitt and Professor Jude Butcher from Australian Catholic University (ACU) arrived. Invitations for family “festas” were issued including one for me from Assis, and many joyful reunions occurred in the marketplace as former third year students, now all practising teachers, arrived from their villages for their graduation day.

The highlight for me was when my former students received their Masters of Education degrees. I could not stop the tears of pride and joy, and cannot imagine how their own parents felt. I recalled the earlier words to me of Cris, whose own mother died when he was a child: “My mother has come back for my graduation” he said with a hug. What better reward could a volunteer hope to receive than those precious words! I felt proud to represent all the Palms volunteers who have contributed to CTC, acknowledged by the Director Br Fons van Rooij in his welcome speech.

Perhaps more importantly on this occasion, I sat there reflecting that this day was evidence of tangible sustainability. For the first time, the students received their Bachelor of Teaching degrees from the fully accredited Institute itself with only the Masters Degrees for the staff being awarded by ACU. It has taken many years to reach this point—a Teachers’ College fully staffed by trained Timorese, and graduates fully employed in Timorese schools.

Monica (right) and Rebecca
Later, visiting Rebecca (right), a current Palms volunteer in Baucau district, I listened to some of her concerns. I was able to assure her that what she would do over the next two years was very significant indeed. Change can move so slowly when one is in the midst of volunteering. It almost seems imperceptible, but it can and does occur. My graduation visit was important for me not only to join in the celebration with my Timorese friends but to realise that the whole volunteer experience over those two years was all so worthwhile.

Monica will lead Palms Encounter East Timor in September 2013. Contact Palms immediately on encounter@palms.org.au or (02) 9518 9551 to reserve your space.

Once more into the fray

December 9, 2011

Volunteering can be both a challenging and immensely rewarding experience. Few returnees would claim to remain unchanged by the experience. Some, such as Des Hansen and Monica Morrison, value the experience so much that they return for another placement.

Click here to read the full article

Partner’s Perspective: Appreciation from Timor-Leste

December 3, 2010

We are most appreciative of the fact that you have been so wonderful in supporting us with the placement of Monica. She has been a fantastic support within the overall professional development program, especially at a time when we had so many of the staff who were engaged in the completion of their Masters in Education.

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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Our security does not lie in bigger and better bombs, bigger and better targeting or
surveillance systems. Our security lies in building better relationships. - Jim Dowling