As a first term President I have been on a very steep learning curve and I thank you all for your patience and understanding as FPET continues to partner the people of East Timor / Timor Leste as they strive to build capacity and gain self-dependence.
As you are aware FPET has now been in existence for 11 years. Over these years FPET has provided emergency aid, equipment, health and nutrition care, education, financial support, to individuals and groups, scholarships for trainee teachers, supported Seminarians, apprentice training, built a Community Health centre, provided materials for classrooms and many other activities with the sole goal of building capacity for the people of Timor Leste to take control of their own lives. Many members have visited our neighbours in Atabae and Dili and other places and witnessed the impoverished conditions that the people endure. Despite very poor living standards and being classified as one of the poorest nations in the world, the people are warm, friendly and quick to smile.
2012 was the year of General Elections and from an outsiders view these elections were testament to the growth that the democratic process has made in the last decade in Timor Leste. There is still a long way to go and FPET will be required, I believe, to be a Partner with the people of Timor Leste for at least another 25 years.
2012 was also a stellar year for FPET and its relationship with the people of Atabae and the group known as Friends and Partners with Australia (FPA). Much credit must go to Jim Johnson (previous President) and his executive who, with Gary Stone, laid the foundation of the processes that have all the makings of increasing the ability of the people to take control and develop self-reliance. Sure, what we are seeing at this stage are baby steps and there is still a mountain of development work and educational support to be undertaken. But progress is being made!
Anne Chapman, a PALMS volunteer and supported by FPET, pioneered in 2011 an English Language Education Program (called The Community Education Program). Anne has worked tirelessly for the last 2 years in Atabae teaching ‘spoken’ English. Besides providing the opportunity and support to all students she has managed to produce two students who filled 1st and 2nd places in the Year 9 National English Exam in the region with 5000 students. Anne has achieved a 95% student retention rate and increased the number of students to over 100. The gift of education that Anne has provided with FPET’s assistance is gift that cannot be measured, or indeed taken back.
Anne has finished her term in Atabae now and is returning to Victoria to continue teaching in a Ladies College. I acknowledge the work Anne has done for the people of Atabae and on behalf of FPET I wish her all the best for the future. A very big thank you, Anne, from all of us here, and the people of Atabae. Anne will become a valued advisor and friend of FPET and the people of Timor Leste.
At this time we are hopeful of a replacement sooner, rather than later, to carry on the good work commenced by Anne. In the meantime Anne’s assistants will carry on the Education Program so the students will not be disadvantaged.
Following the departure of Dave & Margaret in late 2011 PALMS provided two new volunteers Sharon Hearns and Ian Gray. Sharon is skilled in Health Education/Administration and Ian has special skills in IT, general business and Soccer coaching. By all reports both Sharon and Ian have settled in well, are accepted by the community and are working hard to assist the community to achieve further self-reliance. Sharon and Ian are heavily engaged with the Community Health Care Centre and its activities.
FPET is now receiving comprehensive reports of activities from Sharon & Ian (as we also received on a monthly basis from Anne) which include details of the number of consultations, attendance at Mother & Child groups, village mobile clinics etc. The Community Health program is making a difference to over 400 people per month. In addition consultations between The Community Health Centre and the Government Health Clinic are growing. This co-operation will be hopefully one of the many steps required to integrate the Health Centre into the Timor Leste Government’s Health Program. It is still early days but progress is being made.
Ongoing children’s health assessment and remedial action is a priority for our Community Health Program.
A big news item for Atabae is that 24 hour power is now available. This will ease our expenses with diesel fuel and other generator costs. This will also enable other activities to take place with less difficulty – computer training, sewing classes etc.
Ian has been involved in conducting computer classes and supervision of various projects – eg Classroom construction (5 classrooms) and chapel completion. He is also a soccer coach and the youth of the Atabae Township have by all reports taken to his coaching like ‘ducks to water’.
During the year Eric Muir and Mike Dooley visited East Timor to follow up with various projects and Government officials. I thank them for their service and continuing interest in all things East Timor. Mike especially produces a daily Timor News which is invaluable if you wish to keep up with what is happening in East Timor. Deacon Gary Stone also visited East Timor (again) – is that 26th or 27th visit Gary?-and as usual provided us with quality reports and insights that will help guide FPET in the years ahead. Thank you Gary.
Gary was also very effective as the face of FPET in our annual Fundraising campaign. Without the support of our generous donors and you all here, FPET could not achieve the outcomes for the people of Timor Leste.
The Friends and Partners of Australia (FPA) continue to meet in Atabae and progress again is being made there. Sometimes it is slow but people are meeting to discuss issues and achieving outcomes. I understand that this group has been involved in the construction oversight of the classrooms and the chapel completion.
The Youth Group (OJC) continues to forge ahead and the visit of Jhon and Fortunata to Brisbane in October demonstrated to many people the value of the Education program and the continuance of support for the Youth group. The relationship that has been built with Mater Dei School through Tanya (APRE Mater Dei) and the efforts of Mary Hodge are a tribute to their commitment to the people of East Timor and Social Justice issues. The Mater Dei P & F has agreed to sponsor one Trainee Teacher at Baucau Teachers College for this year and the next 3 years. For this I thank the executive of the P&F and all the students of Mater Dei. A regular ‘pen pal’ program between students at Mater Dei and the students in Atabae has also flourished under Tanya’s and Mary’s patronage. FPET is losing Mary Hodge to Canberra next year. Thank You Mary for all your work and best wishes for the future. Just keep your FPET membership up – I know you will not lose interest in the people of East Timor.
Education of the people of Timor Leste, especially the youth, will continue to be priority for FPET.
Currently FPET is supporting many projects including
One priority for the New Year will be membership. I believe we need to promote membership of FPET so if you have friends who ask about FPET – invite them to become a member and make a difference to one of the poorest nations in the world.
Earlier this month Jose Asaca and Serv do Nascimento, who are 2 extremely likeable young men from East Timor, returned to Atabae after studying in Australia for several years. The improvement in their English and overall life skills during their time in Australia is remarkable. Jose & Serv are a credit to their country and, no doubt, will be community leaders in the future. It was a privilege to help them in a small way. I record our thanks to them with setting up FPA and their general support of FPET over the years. We wish them all the best for the future.
During the year Nick (and Von) Delaney continued to supply a Newsletter service and maintained the web site. Nick has a long history with FPET and his historical and practical insights have been invaluable. Thank you both.
As President my role has been made much easier and enjoyable with the able assistance and counsel from my fellow executive, Brendan Carroll as Vice President who capably steps in when I am not around, Eric Muir who counts the pennies and ensures (as much as humanly possible) that everything spent is documented and receipted and John O’Hara (the big guy) who keeps great minutes that I can read and is a wonderful ‘back up’ man.
I would also like to thank Fr Tuong for his support and for allowing FPET to conduct an appeal for funds in St John’s Wood/ The Gap parish. Father’s agreement to allow us to use these facilities that we meet in is also appreciated. Father is celebrating Mass for us shortly and for this I particularly wish to thank him.
Finally thank you all for your assistance and dedication to the people of East Timor – let us never lose sight of the fact that FPET exists to help those who are less fortunate than us. Our role is ‘not to forget them’.
10 December 2012