October 30 - November 5, 2011: Issue 30

Above: Father Abel and the children with new blankets during recent trip. Below: T-shirts from Avalon Red Cross Shop. 

Copyright Tamara Sloper Harding, 2011. All Rights Reserved. 

 Pittwater Friends of Soibada

by Tamara Sloper Harding, Pittwater Woman of the Year 2011 and Chairlady of PFOS

The Pittwater Community's commitment to assisting Timor Leste began a couple of years ago at Maria Regina Primary School. With the support of the local churches, community groups and that of Pittwater Council it has since grown to encompass the wider community.

Last year we formalized our friendship agreement with Soibada. It has been established in accordance with the Statement of Principles for Local Governments Working in Timor-Leste. Any projects to be implemented in Soibada will be determined by the Soibada community in communication with the Friends of Soibada project.

Soibada is 1.700m above sea level and covers an area of almost 130,000 square km. It comprised of 5 villages and 10 sub villages and has a population of about 3,000. The temperature is considered cool by Timorese standards, ranging between 20 to 29 degrees. Soibada is very remote, and breathtakingly beautiful, high in the mountains, it was originally built by the Portuguese. It has few resources and was devastated by past occupation by Indonesian and militia groups and subsequent turmoil following Independence. There are no bridges to Soibada, so during the rainy season the town is completely cut off.

During the 1999 Indonesian withdrawal from Timor-Leste 90% of the schools were destroyed. The one at Soibada, deemed the best in Timor and the place where President Jose Ramos Horta was educated.

Our vision is to forge a strong friendship between the two communities of Pittwater and Soibada; to help the people of Soibada increase their health, education and well-being; and to support projects in Soibada that will contribute to the community’s long term independence and sustainability.

The Pittwater Community, is supporting the PFOS in many varied ways. Not only have many shops and businesses generously donated items for raffle prizes but the picturesque little coffee shop, Panders and Pepperpots Art Café in Avalon has become a hub of activity in preparation for the many fundraising events. Last week members of the group met at “Panders” regularly to prepare the photo display for the Songs for Soibada Concert. PFOS can also be seen  crocheting, knitting and crafting in anticipation of Christmas fundraising stalls and Avalon Market Day.

The owners Jane and Andy Sutherland are very community minded and the café has a wonderful welcoming aura. Another implication of the Sutherlands support of the PFOS is that it has stirred the interest of the many youth in the vicinity. Alex Sutherland, who is busy with her HSC at the moment, has motivated many other students to get involved. It is fantastic in this very privileged part of the world to see young people with such a sense of social justice.

Every cent counts in the poverty stricken village in Timor Leste. It costs less than $20 a day to feed the 50 children that live in the orphanage. At Jane’s suggestion, the regular money raised by the cupcakes sold in the café is donated to Soibada.
This enthusiasm to reach out to others is becoming contagious through the cafes in Avalon.  John, at Luscious Café (near Woolies) is planning “Soibada fundraising breakfasts” in the near future. Avalon Red Cross Shop has sent t shirts for the orphans.

Our goal is not to make the change, but to facilitate the change so that it comes from within the Soibada community. We must enable the people to help themselves and restore the dignity that has been stolen from them during years of oppression. They need ownership of any project and the impetus for change must be internal.


Timor Leste Independence Day at Maria Regina School : a day to celebrate and be educated in  what children in their sister village, Soibada, experience.

Our Lady of Aitara, The Marian Shrine of the Timorese People by Tamara Sloper Harding 

Pictures  Lenda Lafaek    Timor: short history.

Pittwater Friends of Soibada Update from Tamara Sloper-Harding

Soibada Knitters Group: Avalon based Community 'hands on' project to keep children warm.