December 6, 2023

BETTER Timor Times: I’ve moved to Timor!

It feels somewhat strange to be writing this, but I can now officially say “I live in Timor.” In writing this, I was reminded of a trip report I wrote in July 2019 when I had planned to move to Timor in December 2020. Little did I know of this thing called Covid-19 that sadly, ended those plans.

More than 4 years later, BETTER is in a much stronger position. We have some incredible donors and supporters, an Australian team of over 45 volunteers and of course, our first school which is delivering BETTER’s education model including a custom curriculum and teacher support program.

Now, this time it’s official, official. I have sold my property in Sydney, all my possessions are sold and I’ve taken my two suitcases of luggage with me. People have often joked that I will become a nun, and reducing my possessions to all but a suitcase or two feels like I’m joining the order…

I was at the school for the first month after opening and although it was crazy, it was also such a special time. All the kids would call me “Amaa” in English translated to “Mum”. On my last day at the school two of the kids tried to marry me off to a Timorese to make sure I didn’t leave…how they were so strategic at 5 years old makes me scared to see what mischief they will get up to in their high school years!

This decision has not been made on a whim. After talking with our staff in Timor, parents, stakeholders and of course the Board and volunteer team it was decided that it was time for me to go. When returning from my last trip to Timor in late May, I struggled as I did not feel my mission was complete, in fact it was just getting started…

And what a start it is. I’ve hit the ground running having found a place to live in Same, organising graduation, completing new student enrolments, preparing for graduation, end of year reporting. It still hasn’t really hit me yet as nothing feels strange about it. In fact for some reason everyone keeps saying I’m happier, but how could you not be with 48 gorgeous kids, supportive staff and a school community around you – I feel so lucky!

If you would like to follow along on this adventure, I’ve made my Instagram public to share what’s happening on the ground @ornellabyak