For two weeks over November and December eight graduated students from Kardinia volunteered with schools in Viqueque, East Timor. The trip is an alternative to schoolies for school leavers who are after a more worldly experience, and for its second year has been mentored by Rhys Carlson who went with us to Timor.
The trip isn’t a school trip, since we’ve graduated, and once we were in Timor we had the freedom to talk to locals and explore the main street of Viqueque. We met several Timorese in particular who were eager to practice their English, and told us about their ambitions of building tourism and youth engagement in Timor’s future. We found this sense of optimism everywhere we went, with school staff in Viqueque telling us that the Geelong Schools Viqueque Friendship Group held a lot of promise for Timor.
We volunteered at a pair of schools, Cabira and Viqueque 1, teaching English and painting classrooms. We also sorted and catalogued Viqueque 1’s limited school library, a task complicated by how most of the books were in Portuguese. We took over piles of storybooks, stationary and sports equipment for the students, who took to them with enthusiasm. Mariano Dasilva, a local schoolteacher whom we worked with had us around for dinner twice so we could find out more about Viqueque, as well as to break the lack of variation in our diet of rice, chicken and noodles.
There are a few nuggets of wisd
om to pass on to those going on the next Viqueque trip, first and foremost being that you should expect to sweat constantly. You should expect to bechallenged and you should expect to see things you weren’t expecting. You should expect a bus ride that makes you cherish solid ground, and you should expect a diet that varied only in whether or not you ordered the food you received. You should also expect to feel a closer engagement with the world. Talking to Timorese entrepreneurs and teachers, students and mothers, you should expect to see more clearly that all our fates are interconnected. Above all you should expect to expand your experience of the world outside our backyard, and come back more ready than ever to face uni and whatever challenges come after.