Our Volunteers: Thuy Nguyen volunteering in Timor-Leste

Lebos Village, Lolotoe, Timor-Leste

The Director of Education for Lolotoe, Lebos Village's Assistant Chief and Manager of Encouragement House
The remote villages of Lebos, Gildapil and Lontas are located high in the mountains of East Timor, close to the border with Indonesia. The challenges of rural life are many in Timor-Leste, with very limited services available to ensure people have access to rights such as quality education and health care. Young people can be particularly disadvantaged with pressures to work on the land or raise children making it difficult to complete their schooling. Encouragement House, based in the regional centre of Maliana and operated with support from Encouragement Foundation in Australia, aims to provide opportunities to rural youth to access education and improve their family’s and their community’s quality of life. ┬áThe education opportunities include a combination of both academic and vocational subjects to serve both those hoping for further studies or employment and those who will continue to work in their village. The Manager of Encouragement House, Mr Deolinda da Costa placed a request with Palms Australia for a volunteer to work in Youth Development and Library Development for the communities around Lebos Village.

Thuy Cecilia Nguyen

Palms Australia recruited Thuy Nguyen, a Social Worker and Community Development Worker from Adelaide, to fill the request placed by Encouragement House. Thuy has extensive experience in social work and community development with qualifications including a Masters in Education Studies in Guidance and Counselling and a Bachelor of Social Science. Thuy has demonstrated a strong life-long commitment to working for justice in the world, having previously worked and volunteered in Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, India and outback Australia. She is fluent in Vietnamese, English and Tok Pisin and has a grasp of a number of other languages. Palms Australia and Encouragement House are very confident that Thuy will contribute to improved opportunities for the people of Lebos.

A Grassroots Approach to Development

August 10, 2012

Palms staff Barry Hinton (left) and Christine (centre-right) with volunteer John Chang (centre-left), Fr Angelo (third from left), Sr Angelita (third from right) and other staff from Dili Diocese.
In Timor-Leste three-quarters of the population living below the poverty line reside in rural areas (Australia-Timor-Leste Country Strategy 2009 to 2014 p.3) 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.

During a recent trip to Timor-Leste, I met with the Teachers, Principals, Community Representatives, Parish Priests and Sisters in Uatacarabau, Natarbora, and Hatubuilico where volunteers have been requested to provide mentoring and training for English and Computer teachers at the primary and secondary schools and within the wider community. Whilst the teachers that we met strive to provide a comprehensive education for their students, they are often limited by the lack of resources, infrastructure and expertise in some areas.

Having the assistance of Palms volunteers will enable opportunities for new skills to be developed, both in schools and in the wider community, providing more inclusive development opportunities for women, young people and people with disabilities.

Further requests for volunteers to assist in training and mentoring in maternal health and dental programs have come from the districts of Ermera, Baucau and in Dili city.

The communities and organisations with whom Palms works with discern and identify their own needs and priorities. In partnering together, we are able to establish a common understanding of what can be achieved and how.

This year our volunteers in Timor-Leste have been training and mentoring in Maliana (Margaret Fogarty, Marilyn Tangey and Melissa Martin), Lolotoe (Thuy Nguyen), Atabae (Margaret and David Hall, Anne Chapman, Sharon Hearns and Ian Gray), Hatubuilico (Damian Rake and Miriam Buchhorn), Baucau (Heath Thompson) and Dili (Corinne and Tim Lawther and John Chang).

Palms hopes to continue responding to and supporting communities and organisations who are determining their own needs and sourcing solutions to build their own capacity relevant to their context.


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Thuy Nguyen'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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Timor-Leste

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

What a terrible thing, to have lived quite comfortably, with no suffering, not getting involved in problems, quite tranquil, quite settled,
with good connections politically, economically, socially, lacking nothing, having everything. - Oscar Romero