May 30, 2024

Timor Tour – fundraising’s transformational impact

For the first time since the pandemic, students from St Paul’s Anglican Grammar School ventured to East Timor to immerse themselves into the life and traditions of the Timorese people over nine eventful days.

Accompanied by St Paul’s teachers, they visited the Ponilala Secondary School (partly funded by St Paul’s in 2007) and were welcomed with vibrant displays of traditional Timorese dancing and singing, showcasing the rich heritage and artistic talent of the community. Year 12 student Indi Van Berkel commented, “From the moment our group arrived, we were greeted with open arms by the friendly Timorese locals, …[they] remind you of what it means to be grateful and happy.”

Witnessing the disparity between the resources in Ponilala classrooms and those back home, students were amazed by the happiness and welcoming nature of the Timorese students. Year 12 student Ella May imparted, “Visiting Timor has been a life-changing experience. Getting to know the children at the schools we have supported has allowed me to put into perspective the reason we raise funds for these communities. It has made me more grateful for what I have at home and motivated me to raise further money for these schools so the children can receive the education they deserve.”

To make a tangible impact on the Timorese learning journey, the tour group delivered English/Tetun dictionaries donated by St Paul’s families, receiving overwhelming appreciation from the Timorese people.

Students and staff also visited the picturesque Malimea Village to celebrate the inauguration of the English Language Study Centre (ELSC). Attended by esteemed dignitaries, the St Paul’s group were honoured guests. They listened to speeches of gratitude for Team Timor’s support and delighted in the delicious food and joyful dancing. The St Paul’s Team Timor group raised over $25,000 between 2020 and 2022 for this ELSC and will continue to fundraise for the ongoing costs of wages, more teaching and technical resources and the maintenance of the building. St Paul’s educator, Andrea Heard expressed, “The opening of the ELSC not only signifies a new chapter in Malimea’s educational history but also embodies a shared vision of embracing language diversity and global connectivity. The whole day set the tone for a future filled with learning, collaboration, and cultural exchange.”

The transformative experience of the East Timor tour has left students with an appreciation of the simplicity and happiness in Timorese communities. Year 12 student Isobella Sellers revealed, [the experience has] “given me a new understanding of the privileges we get in Australia and how many things we have that we don’t need. This trip has meant a lot of changes in the way I view my life.” Year 12 student Sienna Smith said, “It showed me that you don’t need wealth to find happiness within a community [and] it displayed how much I don’t recognise all the things I have that others don’t.”

The East Timor Service Tour at St Paul’s empowers students to personalise their learning experience by making a global impact, nurturing compassion for developing communities and offering firsthand insights into the effects of their fundraising efforts. Moreover, students undergo personal growth through their service experiences. Beyond creating lifelong memories, the trip strengthens friendships among students and fosters new international connections. Year 12 student Sophia Hastie described the trip as “30 years of friendship in 9 days”. Year 10 student Asmi Pathania described the trip as one she will never forget. “The people I’ve made memories­ with, the Timorese and Aussies [fellow participants], will always be special to me,” she said.

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