My time at Pacific Project 2014 – by Alexandra Fuller
The 2014 Pacific Project was an incredibly eye-opening, humbling and truly unforgettable experience. A highlight of our time in Timor Leste, for me, was the community engagement phase of the program, during which we were fortunate enough to stay at the Encouragement House boarding house in Maliana. This allowed an opportunity to genuinely connect with Timorese students and to begin to understand their ambitions and challenges whilst engaging with Timorese life and culture. The open, honest and welcoming nature of those at Encouragement House was inspiring and encouraged reflection upon the Australian approach to community: how comparatively closed-off and individualistic our society can inadvertently become. We also spent time working with an amazing organisation called Science of Life Systems 24/7, commonly known as SOLS. We spent some time getting to know students, who had completed high school and were undertaking training in the English language, maths, computing and life skills through a two-year SOLS program. We spent some time tutoring English in the Maliana SOLS centre; however, we learnt more than we could ever teach by conversing with the incredibly committed, hard-working students and gaining insight into the operation of the organisation. Experiences and interactions saw us realise that local people almost always hold the knowledge to create solutions for the challenges that they face, often only needing the financial or logistical keys to unlock these. The second phase of the program built on this idea by allowing us to understand the goals and practical implementation of effective aid, which becomes sustainable, long-term by empowering local people and generating self-sufficiency. Discussing perceptions of aid assistance and the positive and negative impacts that it can have caused me to evaluate the direction of the impact I can have upon the world, in terms of ensuring that money and energy are offered appropriately, in a constructive and culturally sensitive manner. Overall, Timor made me honestly reflect upon the multitude of things we can take for granted: from clean water, to rubbish collection, to our ability to go to school and everything in between. It also made me realise that young people around the world really are the future leaders and can create real change, a large but exciting challenge for all of us! An emotive, enriching and empowering experience, the Pacific Project has contributed to the way I approach everyday activities, with heightened awareness and gratitude, and has helped to establish a future direction for myself, which I hope will encompass the principle of globally sustainable development. I will absolutely remain engaged with UN Youth and would strongly recommend their fantastic programs!