Our Volunteers: Sharon and Ian volunteering in Timor-Leste

Maria doing school assessmentsFriends and Partners with Australia (FPA), Timor-Leste

Located near the border of West Timor, in the Bobonaro district of East Timor, Atabae was one of many areas that felt the brunt of the 1999 destruction.

In the years since Timorese independence was granted, the Atabae community has made slow progress in its development. An ongoing partnership between Palms Australia, the Atabae community and Friends and Partners with East Timor (FPET, based in Brisbane) has led to a number of improvements in health, education, communications and community engagement in development projects. Local staff have been trained in basic health care and community management.

Recently the community established their own organisation, Friends and Partners with Australia (FPA), to manage their relationships with Australian groups such as FPET and Palms. This is part of community development – ensuring local ownership and control of development projects in the area, while maintaining strong relationships with partners in Timor-Leste and Australia.

In 2011, FPA placed a request with Palms Australia for two volunteers to work towards this localisation by providing further training and advice in management, IT and business skills, and preventative, maternal and child health.

Sharon Hearns and Ian Gray

Palms Australia recruited Sharon Hearns and Ian Gray, a nurse and IT expert respectively, to work with the community in Atabae.

Sharon has qualifications in nursing, midwifery, public health and health service management. She has a wealth of experience from clinical work to administration and has been recommended to Palms Australia as a clear leader with excellent management skills. Prior to taking up this position she visited Timor-Leste as part of a Palms Encounter.

Ian brings a wide array of skills and experience related to information technology and business management. His broad skills across technologies, combined with his ability to lead others and adapt to new environments, make him very well suited to FPA’s volunteer request.

Sharon and Ian’s placement costs are partially supported by AusAID’s volunteer fund, but Palms Australia needs your support to cover the remainder of the costs. Please use the donation tab above to contribute.

Soccer in Atabae

August 4, 2014

With the recent Soccer World Cup we have seen again much debate on the relationship between sport, commercialism and mass media. Many of us would like to get back to basics and just enjoy play for its own sake! Ian Gray, at IT professional recently returned from Atabae, Timor Leste, gives his report of such a game where sport is building the confidence and esteem of Timorese youth -helping them engage positively with each other and the world.

Most soccer games in Atabae are played on a Sunday and, as we had done several times before, everyone was gathered at the rendezvous with nervous laughter and butterflies in the tummy. I arrived on time with the ‘troopie’ but the boys from the local soccer team had been assembled for some time prior to me getting there. After making last minute checks to make sure everyone was there, all the boys climbed into the ‘troopie’ and we were off.

This was a discipline that had been developed and talked about by all concerned over several months.
When I first met the boys who were interested in forming a soccer side I was delighted and encouraged that there was so much enthusiasm. It was easy to see that there were a few rough edges to iron out but the important point was that they had made the effort to attend.

This was the setting for one of the most enjoyable times I had experienced in Atabae. I knew in myself that the key to the training sessions and the success of the team was trust, discipline and self belief.

The boys from the Atabae youth side. A great bunch of kids and a delight to coach and be asssociated with.

I think the most important of these three goals is trust. If everyone trusts one another then the discipline and self belief will follow suit. Because everyone is different the manner in which trust is developed lies within the individual. I personally liked to include jokes and laughter in training sessions and get reactions that break down the barriers that can so often hinder progress.

Regardless of how one achieves their objectives, sport, whatever code it is, plays a significant part in the development of comradeship.
The disciplines that participants learn from playing sport are immense and play an important role as they shape their lives. People meet people in sport and friendships are formed that can last a lifetime, not only at a local level but also internationally. Responsibilities are developed and timekeeping is honed as the individuals progress through their sporting programs.

And so the boys of Atabae played their Sunday afternoon game and came out victors. As I said to the boys on the day, it’s not whether you win or lose- it’s how you play the game. After the game there were smiles all around and an exchange of pats on the back from both sides. The score did not matter as both teams gained from the human interaction and the bonding that resulted.

And so it was back into the troopie and back to Atabae. There was singing and shouting and plenty of smiles. The boys unbeknown to them, had learned not only to compete in a fair manner but enjoy the interaction of a social encounter.

This is the way it should be done and the only way forward.


A Grassroots Approach to Development

August 10, 2012

Palms Australia continues to receive requests for volunteers from grass roots communities and organisations to assist build capacities across the health, education and agricultural sectors.

Click here to read the full article

Nursing in Atabae

The opportunity to take time out to volunteer was something we could not say no to. I had been part of an Encounter Group visit to Timor-Leste in 2010 and came home to Australia full of the possibilities. It was only a matter of time for all of the jigsaw pieces to fit together!

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

Don't listen to the World Bank. Listen to the people on the ground. They have all the solutions in the world. - Bunker Roy