August 4 - 10, 2013: Issue 122

 Soibada Visit July 2013
by Tamara Sloper Harding

A group of volunteers from Pittwater Community, that included both our Local Member Rob Stokes and Mayor Jacqui Townsend, returned from an eight day visit to Pittwater’s sister village, Soibada in Timor Leste on Monday 29th of July, 2013.

The focus this trip was on the Suco (sub village) of Tasi Fatin in Soibada. In October last year Mr Joao King Ling da Conceicao (John King), the Chief de Suco requested assistance with several projects. It was wonderful to return to his village having moved forward on all of these requests.

Tasi Fatin is extremely isolated, about an hour and a half from the centre of Soibada along perilous mountain roads. From a distant hilltop we could see a small crowd of children gathered awaiting our arrival. It was so very humbling to realise that they rely heavily on our support – it really does make a difference to the community.

Our team was welcomed with a traditional dance from the children and a meranda (morning tea) consisting of cassava and taro. The sweet black locally grown coffee was served with heaps of sugar and warmed us in the cool breeze. Many villagers were wrapped in blankets donated by our community on earlier visits and babies were wearing the tiny jumpers knitted on Wednesdays at the “Soibada Knitters Group”. The Principal of the small school in Tasi Fatin was delighted to receive letters from Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Mona Vale. This new friendship relationship between the two schools is of great importance to the community of Tasi Fatin.

Members of the Australian Custard Apple Association met with Chief John to identify a suitable location in the village for a plantation to be developed. A presentation given to the community created excitement. Language differences were no barrier when Bee Keeping equipment complete with suits and smokers were set up and instruction given. Fortunately, a young Australian Army guy, Tom Potter, accompanied us and was able to assist with translations. He is in Timor with “Wild Timor Coffee” a company established by a group of ex soldiers to assist the Timorese to gain more from coffee production. They are embarking on a partnership with Friends of Soibada to help us with coffee production in Tasi Fatin.

Rob Romer of Bilgola Plateau installed the TankPro water sanitization unit into the school’s large tank that supplies the whole village. Peta Wise of Avalon conducted baby health checks. Ian Laidlaw of Scally’s in Avalon ran more hair cutting workshops and Ellen Hill showed the women how to make plastic bottle tops into beautiful beads that they will be able to sell. Jill Gavin of has remained in Soibada to teach English for the next few weeks.

The best news for Chief John was that our Songs for Soibada concert raised money to allow 15 villagers from Tasi Fatin to attend the HIAM Health Nutrition and Gardening courses in Dili. On return they will be assisted to construct the community garden in the village and will be provided with ongoing mentoring.

We have obtained funding from Rotary Croydon to renovate the small school. The requirements are modest – two more classrooms and an office. Brookvale Rotary are financing the construction of a toilet block. The community had one further request for the help - to build a small chapel in the village. The nearest church is an hour and a half away. Costs for this are estimated at around $5,000.

Over the next few weeks I will provide information about our individual projects in Soibada and profiles on the amazing eclectic group of volunteers that travelled with us.

I am sure there are many ways you can get involved to make a difference to lives of the people in our sister village. Just get in touch with me! We also have many fundraising activities coming up – for it is money that is needed to implement the education programs that will pave the way for development and self sufficiency.

Tamara Sloper Harding