July 11, 2020

Dec 19/Jan 20 Trip Report

With a frantic Christmas push to see family and friends before I left and wrapping up work with a Christmas party on that same day I hadn’t really had the time to think about what I would expect from this trip. I knew what I needed to get done on the trip but not much more than that.

Landing in Dili, after a long layover in Darwin, I felt at home. Being greeted with my favourite ‘Timor noodles’ surrounded by my Timor family, I felt incredibly lucky and blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people. My Timor Dad Eddie (whom I’ve know and worked with since I was 14), his wife Mary (my big sister) and their kids Fatima (my goddaughter), Mario (my newphew) and Tati (my niece).

This trip it was the first I’ve had in the wet season, it was the first-time eating crab, first time lighting a firework, first time being in two places at once (on the boarder of Timor & Indonesia), first time driving in Timor and not to mention the first Christmas & New Year in Timor. The trip consisted of many adventures spending spending some time in Dili, Palaka, Maliana and Cailaco.

After my first visit to the community of Cailaco in June 2018 and seeing the state of living not to mention the education or lack of, it was like seeing Timor all over again.

Having first visited Timor in 2013 and supporting the development of the community in Letefoho, I have seen firsthand the power of education to transform a community. Not only in developing the school, students and teachers but the ripple effect created among the wider neighbouring communities as well. The school continues to flourish with increasing student population and 2 of the students being chosen as a group of 4 to represent their country in Japan. In sharing dinner with the leaders of the school this trip I am continually in awe of the work they have done and continue to do in transforming their community.

When returning to Cailaco in July 2019 and conducting a second lot of testing, we discovered the children to be over 5 years behind in curriculum. Not to mention if the students were to proceed with their education the students would need to drive 2.5 hours each way to get there.

With this and several other determining factors considered, over the past 18 months BETTER have been in discussion with the community. With the Timorese population over 97% Catholic and working in Timor for over 6 years we have experienced the progressive, non-political and transparent nature of these leaders in the community.

On the 3rd of January 2020 I had the honour of signing an agreement with the community in which BETTER Cailaco are officially entrusted a large block of land. With the community we will be creating our dream of free, quality education for Australia’s closest neighbours, the children of East Timor. As education is the key to a BETTER future, fighting poverty.

Having done a large amount of work, research and preparation over the past 18 months, it is still surreal that we have the enormous privilege to change thousands of lives through the power of education.

I distinctly recall at the age of 14 on my first trip speaking with my Timor dad on the balcony sharing how I didn’t think it was fair my Timorese peers weren’t able to receive the same education I was able to get.

A dream I had at the age of 14… became a reality. And to have my Timor dad by my side to guide and support us is something words cannot explain.

I cannot wait to share this next crazy adventure with you as BETTER prepare for their major fundraiser in 2020 and I prepare for the big move to Timor in May 2021.

If you or your business would like to support BETTER in their 2020 fundraiser, please get in touch.

We cannot wait to share more information with you in the coming month!

Thank you for taking the time to read this,

Ornella Byak