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LEAVERS WEEK: It doesn’t have to be the way it is!

sstuwa-timor-leste-leaversThe media thrives on the traditional “Leavers Week” with stories of booze, drugs, sex and rock and roll - and to the untrained eye there seems to be very little alternative.

Sources close to the Police Department suggest that it also costs close to a million dollars to cover transport, overtime and all the rest of the outlays associated with keeping Rottenest, Dunsborough and Margaret River “under control”.

Then there are the social and financial costs of Bali!

But for an ever-growing group of students ending Year 12, there is a fantastic alternative.
Kalamunda Leavers Timor-Leste 2011 (KLTL11) provides an alternative leavers experience for young people in the Shire of Kalamunda making a difference in the lives of others by volunteering in Timor-Leste.

In November, instead of marking the end of secondary schooling at local “Leavers” celebrations 14 young people travelled to Timor-Leste to work alongside local people on community identified projects.

A group known as “Kalamunda Leavers Timor-Leste” funded and supported a major water project to improve access to clean water for a community of 1800 people and engaged with students learning English in local schools.

Since its inception in 2008 this incredible project has supported 66 local young people to develop their skills and leadership abilities, whilst making a contribution to communities in Timor-Leste.
In addition, outstanding participants are supported to take on the role of a Junior Team Leader in a future program.

Supported by a dedicated team of volunteers the group is supported by the Rotary Club of Kalamunda Inc. and is a Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) project.

Each year, volunteers raise approximately $60,000 through participant contributions, donations, and sponsorship and fundraising events to ensure the program's success.

So, how did students react to the experience provided by the Kalamunda group?

Caitlyn Pickles:

“In a country as rich in education as Australia we can become deluded into thinking that education is a given right provided to all human beings.

“Sadly, this is not the case. It is easy enough to read such a fact in a book or on the internet but to be confronted with such a thing is a different story.

“Visiting Timor-Leste and the incredible people that call it home, not only enabled us to help out but also reflect on just how lucky we are.

“Not only do we take simple aspects of education for granted such as paper and pens but also the priority that learning takes within our society.

“What we taught them in terms of English they taught us in life lessons, forming a connection that will always exist across the seas.”

Bonnie Waghorn:

“The people of East Timor are so lovely, and they are very driven by community and the need to help others, which is amazing.

“The children are so eager to learn, and we learnt that they are taught about motivation, so that they will have the motivation to pursue knowledge and eventually help the people of their country.

“That is in stark contrast to Australia, where we go to school with no thought as to what we want to do, and we take education for granted.

“This motivation and drive for learning is very inspirational, and I hope to take that drive with me into university.

“Going to East Timor was an amazing experience, one that I will not soon forget.”

Georgia Macleod;

“The amount of enthusiasm that the Timorese kids had, was incredibly inspiring.

“These two girls are examples of the kind of reaction we received as we drove by, waving.

“This kind of enthusiasm was also seen in the context of learning when we taught English to school children.

“I saw such a desire for knowledge and so much excitement at learning new phrases of the English language.

“I think better education is one of the most fundamental steps towards enhancing the lives of people, enabling them to make informed decisions and allow them to create goals for the future.”

Another group sharing similar experiences were the students from Margaret River.

The journey almost never got underway.

On the day before they flew out, the bushfires destroyed many homes in the Margaret River area including one belonging to a close friend of their group organiser Emma Campbell.

Emma had to stay behind, but the group was picked up by Rotary's Peter Snell who has worked tirelessly with the SSTUWA in delivering desks and chairs to schools in Timor Leste.

The Margaret River crew travelled to Atauro Island, just off the coast, and worked on sinking a bore to provide fresh water to the local school.

One of the group, Carly Williams, wrote:

“Probably the biggest highlight for me was working alongside the Timorese and experiencing their culture.

“That's something that we don't get to experience every day, and was a huge part of the trip.

“Along with swimming at beautiful beaches, and exploring East Timor and Atauro Island it was an amazing, life changing experience that not only gave me a new sense of perspective but inspiration for the future.”

Carly said that once on the island and at work, village elders came to join them and performed a welcoming ceremony and dance .. and then invited the students to join them.

The SSTUWA are continuing to work with Rotary International to provide desks and chairs for students in Timor Leste and still want to hear from schools that have surplus educational supplies and equipment that has been written off.

The Western Teacher will also continue to follow the Year 12 students across WA who have chosen their alternate leavers week.

Authorised by Tony Mullen, General Secretary SSTUWA

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