News: Cheree and Michael’s letter from Ahisaun

The work of Cheree and Michael Flanagan at Ahisaun has been featured in earlier editions of Palms Post. Some of this update was part of a recent evaluation:

Hi all,
I hope that all is going well in the office. Sounds like you have a few different things on your plate at the moment. I don’t think life would ever be dull at PALMS.

We have been busy as well. During his 10-day visit to Timor Leste, Cardinal Pell came to visit Ahisaun. The Director of Ahisaun gave a brief history along with an explanation of the current programs. This was followed by a tour of the premises. The Ahisaun Community was delighted to receive a personal visit.

A formal meeting, commencing with a community dinner, was held on the 31st January for the ‘active’ members (the nine young men that live-in). This was an opportunity for the young people to give honest feedback and make suggestions about the organisation. Prior to the meeting the active members were given an anonymous survey to complete. The results of this survey were used to give structure for the meeting. The meeting addressed a number of issues that were of general concern to the group. A similar meeting will be held every three months.

The Manuleu crops have produced many vegetables for the community. Corn and pumpkin have been harvested providing a good source of food for the live-in members. One new Ahisaun member is also moving permanently into the house to help out on the farm. He is from Ermera and has a severe limb disability. He mobilises on one leg and one hand and is very capable and excited about the opportunity. In addition to the agriculture Ahisaun is attempting to set up a computer program at Manuleu to provide local people with the opportunity to learn new skills in this area. We are awaiting three-second hand computers to arrive from a Rotary Australia shipment.

Every Mon/Wed/Fri English classes continue to be run by Michael for the Ahisaun members. Michael commenced a month long CELTA course in Sydney on the 13th March to improve his teaching program. During his absence I am providing English revision classes twice per week.

Ahisaun has established a partnership with Arte Moris (a locally run art school). Weekly art classes run at Ahisaun by Arte Moris students create a multi-beneficial relationship between the two NGO’s. Ahisaun members get an opportunity to learn new art techniques and at the same time Arte Moris students have a teaching experience (a component of their course work).

Ahisaun held its first board meeting on 22 February. This has formed a platform for better direction, regulation and control of the organisation. Noel Pye (a member of the PALMS participant professional development group) has provided vital resources and advice in this process. The next board meeting will be held after a formal Business Planning Workshop is completed. Ahisaun is in the process of applying through Caritas to have this workshop funded and facilitated.

Mick flew out on Friday evening. He arrived safely and is having a great time. I am slowly getting into the swing of being on my own and making the most of it. Our 3rd wedding anniversary is on Wednesday so we’ll have a little chat on the phone then.

On Saturday morning I helped out at a trivia morning my Canossian volunteer friend was running for her English Class students. It was heaps of fun and took me back to our fundraising trivia night last year.

That evening I went to Louise’s for dinner. Louise’s flat mate had quite a few people over for dinner and they were all lovely people. Louise’s house is very modern and it felt like I was in the Inner West of Sydney. Afterwards we went to a Brazilian party and I got home in the early hours of the morning. Louise has a very different lifestyle to me and I enjoyed the opportunity and had some interesting conversations. Two Australian guys at the party working in the army/defence force were familiar with PALMS and said very positive things about the organisation. It’s cool to think how widely the message and work of PALMS has spread, not just because of the volunteers in country. It is the “Good News” really.

On Sunday we hired an Angguna (truck) and drove out to Ahisaun’s rural farm. I was amazed with how the crops had grown and what a difference finding underground water has made to the place. We also went to the beach in the afternoon and everyone went in for a swim. The water was beautiful! Next weekend I’m off to Baucau to visit Therese, an AVI volunteer. I’ll probably catch up with Greg too. Thankfully I don’t have to catch the bus, as I’m really not a good traveller at the best of times. I’m going to ask Santa for a new middle ear this year so I can do more adventurous things and not let motion sickness get in the way.

We have had an email from Daniel just asking generally about our experience here. I hope that we can be of some help to him. Fr Adrian is keen for him to come.

I hope that life is going peacefully for you. Please know if there is anything that we can do to help PALMS in its efforts, particularly to seek funds/support for its work we are happy to help out. Thanks for everything you do to make so much possible in the world.

Take care,
In peace,
Cheree

PS. Thanks for your sweet email that I received today. I will definitely greet David and Margaret at the airport and hopefully catch up with them for a coffee or something before they head to Atabae. Bet they are nervous. I remember that clearly the nerves and the excitement all mixed into a rich cocktail of emotions.

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Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. - Arundhati Roy