With the pressure of VCE, social media and the big question of “what’s next” looming over them, 18 students in year 11 at Sacred Heart College have turned to their neighbours for some perspective.
Leaving behind their family, Facebook and even their phones, the young women embarked on an 11-day program in Timor with local social enterprise Destination Dreaming in its sixth successive year of engagement between Sacred Heart and Centro Treinamenu Intergral e Desenvolvimento (CTID) Canossian College in Baucau.
The program focused on being an exchange of learning and life experiences with the female students at CTID and provided a variety of practical opportunities for the SHC students. They visited development projects in the region, including the women’s kitchen that was established by Sacred Heart, and a range of significant historic sites such as the Santa Cruz cemetery and Chega prison museum.
Destination Dreaming programs are designed to help develop conscientious global citizens rather than a tourist experience. Group discussions and personal reflection the program brought the young women:
- Increased awareness of their rights and responsibilities as a global citizen.
- Increased interpersonal capacity, self-awareness and critical thinking skills through challenging experiences in a remote environment.
- Contribution to another community through skill sharing, intercultural engagement and educational resources.
Sacred Heart teacher, Jessica, found that a noticeable change in the students was their approach to materialism, particularly reflecting on a student’s newfound desire to “give more and want less”.
Not only engaging with Timor’s rich history, the Sacred Heart students quickly found there was even more to learn from their engagement with their hosts, guides and locals. On her return, like many of the students, Kiara reflected on how she’d changed in such a short time.
“I was able to appreciate what I have and stop taking the little things in life for granted. I’ve also learnt to take my time when talking to someone because relationships are the most important thing. I need to appreciate my family and friends more after spending the week with the girls at CTID in Baucau and discovering how genuine and happy they are.”
The students helped grow Sacred Heart’s relationship with CTID by collaborating on creative arts and English language projects. Even the culture night, in which students trade songs, stories and dance from their cultures, brought a new perspective. For Georgia, it was appreciation.
“Appreciating things in life such as singing, dancing, living in the moment and making the most of situations even if they are bad and being open to new opportunities.”
But when it came down to it, it was the challenges of the program that brought the most rewards, found Lucy. “It was an amazing experience that was challenging but eye opening. It was a reality check in so many ways and I can only explain it by telling you that you need to go to East Timor yourself.”
Director of Mission and Social Justice
Sacred Heart College. Geelong.