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I have just returned from a short visit to East Timor aimed at further strengthening the relationship between our two countries and fine tuning the focus of our fundraising efforts.
I would like to share some thoughts and facts about the gentle and peaceful people of this country.
East Timor is a developing country which has only recently become democratic. Before 1999, East Timor was occupied by Indonesian military, but in September that year a referendum was held for East Timorese independence, in which 78 per cent voted in favour of becoming an independent nation. Indonesia was forced to leave, but East Timor was left without any resources to move forward as a country. Because of this history and the sacrifices the people had to make in order to gain independence, the East Timorese are a very patriotic and a proud nation.
I have personally had the opportunity to visit our sister school in Hatolia with our Year 9 program on a number of occasions now and see firsthand the results of this remarkable program. Hatolia was rebuilt and is totally supported by fundraising. Another fantastic opportunity provided is to be able to offer scholarships for young girls to complete their education. We have had the privilege of giving 10 girls in Hatolia a full scholarship. Without our help, these girls wouldn’t be able to afford to finish their education and have no choice but to stay home and look after the family.
During our visits, when we arrive at one of the villages, the first ceremony is to be presented with a tais. A tais is a traditional handwoven cloth, which the Timorese give to people on special occasions. Through the medium of tais, women have the chance to improve their quality of life and uphold the customs and traditions that shape East Timorese identity. In East Timorese culture, cloth plays a key role in social and ritual life and also in assigning women’s standing in communities and is a symbolic bond from the person giving and receiving the scarf.
Here is an excerpt from one of the students’ diaries: “After a three hour hike through the mountain terrain to one of the other villages, we reached Data Rua, a tiny, two classroom school in the middle of nowhere. It was the smallest school in the district and they had no tables, chairs, blackboards or walls. We were all exhausted, our feet burned from the hot ground and we were thirsty. They talked to us about what they could do with our help and all they asked for was water. They told us how all the students have to walk several hours every morning and night to get to and from school and how dehydration is their biggest problem. It was a heartbreaking truth that each of us had to come to terms with that day and the journey back was far quieter than the way there as we were all trying to process what we had just witnessed”.
It has been gratifying to witness the developments of the infrastructure and educational advances through the generous donations of the staff and families of Beaconhills over the past 12 years. The people of the Hatolia district are truly grateful.
Campus Principal Berwick
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