Maryborough teacher Julia Edwards visits a kindy at Atauro Island in East Timor.
Maryborough teacher Julia Edwards visits a kindy at Atauro Island in East Timor.

Timor visit an eye-opener

AS JULIA Edwards entered a schoolroom in East Timor, dozens of excited little faces surrounded her.

It’s just a couple of hours away by aeroplane but the huge difference between the education standards in Australia and East Timor became a stark reality for the Maryborough teacher when she visited the country recently.

“The average level of education in East Timor is about Year 3 or 4,” she said.

Julia visited the country as part of a Palms Australia immersion encounter, a short guided trip to show Aussies the culture, sustainable development and volunteer work happening in other countries.

Her first stop-off was the island of Atauro where she was met by the sight of grass huts on the beach.

She explored the village and drove into the mountains to visit a local market.

“Locals walk hours with bare feet to get to the market, but when we got there, there were just a few sunburnt vegies,” she said.

“They just make something out of nothing for every meal.”

After a few days Julie left the island and travelled to the village of Atabai, where she stayed with Palms volunteers who had helped set up a health clinic.

She visited clinics, a youth centre, a hospital and schools.

“One girl I met had never seen her own reflection so I showed her a photo I had taken of her on my camera.

“They don’t have mirrors. They live in grass huts with dirt floors.

“At one of the schools we went to, the bell was a WWII bombshell.

“At another school the students were provided with a funded lunch of green beans with salt and oil. They walk 14km to school and back home again every day on that sort of food.”

Anyone interested in joining a Palms Encounter next year can phone (02) 9518 9551.



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