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.