Watching a Nation Grow: Pacific Project 2017
You watched it grow
Seeds sowed between the blood-stained soil
27 metres high
You watched it tend to itself
Empty water cans
Peelings band aids
Its detangled roots coughed itself back to life
You shook hands with its green thumbs
As it groomed brighter than the weeds outside
Bullets wrapped in thorns
In twisting vines
And see it was fine
The way you watched as it was plucked from its roots
You didn’t pull the trigger to shoot
But its petals slowly fell
Withered and you could tell
It still saw red within its tornadoes of warm wind
Reaching out to the sun
And you’re still watching
As it glows
Varsha is one of the 12 high school students that I, along with two other volunteers, took to Timor-Leste in July on Pacific Project. Travelling through this nation which was so recently ravaged by conflict we were amazed by the collective will to move forward. Our education theme was reconstruction and development of nations and we explored this not only through workshops but also through teaching English, engaging in the culture and consulting with diplomats, politicians and not-for-profits.
Matt and Corinda, the other two facilitators, had both been on the trip as delegates a few years back and so before I went I knew a bit about what to expect and yet there was still one thing that completely blindsided me. Before the trip, both Matt and Corinda had been talking about how they fell in love with Timor-Leste. I never expected it would happen to me too.
It is hard not to love a country when you see the determination of the people there to build a better life and a better country. We spent a week in Encouragement House which is a boarding house for the best students from mountain regions to stay at while they attend the only senior high school in the district. These students would otherwise have to walk four or more hours each way to attend school. And having met them, having seen their dedication to study, I have no doubt that many of them would have done just that. And I wasn’t the only one that felt this.
It’s hard to describe the impact that Timor had on me because it seems like every part of my life has been impacted. My general perspective has been changed from how I look at opportunities to how I interact with others. It’s hard to describe how much the warmth and love that people showed affected me. People who have so much less than me yet managed to greet me every morning, afternoon and evening and show me constant kindness. The way that they welcomed me into their lives when they had so many reasons not to is something that stood out to me. It’s hard to put everything in words because there’s so much from the trip that I could talk about but the pure happiness in being surrounded by people with all different types of personalities and experiences, both from Australia and Timor, has made me realise how amazing people can be and how able we are to achieve.
Something Corinda, Matt and I tried hard to achieve was a tour that was about mutual sharing. We didn’t go over to build a house or give gifts. The idea of the tour was to learn about how these people are helping themselves and the support that we can give. I could not have been prouder when a few weeks ago posts started popping up on my newsfeed about this not-for-profit.
edYOUTHcation is fundraising to help the people we met and the organisation we engaged with while in Timor-Leste. But their long term goals are to run their own programs for communities in need.
I think that is what this tour gives: the want to be involved with this extraordinary country, and the skills to be able to do this.
Applications are now open to join next year’s Pacific Project – you must be currently in Years 9-11 to apply.
Zoe Stawyskyj was Deputy Convenor of Pacific Project 2017. She is also President of UN Youth NSW and has been volunteering with UN Youth since 2014.