East Timor visit forges a friendship

Students from East Timor and Blackwattle Bay Secondary College.

A visit to East Timor is proving to be an unforgettable experience for students from Sydney Secondary College, Blackwattle Bay campus.

"The visit helped our students develop a stronger understanding of a society that has endured so much during its recent history and appreciate very much the resilience and positive perspective of their East Timorese friends.

Although the students said they did not know what to expect before the trip, what they had brought away were some enriching friendships.

"We had so much in common," student Claudia Scandol said.

"When we were over there, we played a lot of sport together, including a great volleyball match.

"And they are all mad about Justin Bieber!"

Friends of Maliana

Principal Jill Collier, along with teacher Wayne Colcott, travelled to East Timor with the eight students during the July school holidays.

"We've had an association with Maliana in East Timor since 2005 when we joined the Friends of Maliana group," Ms Collier said.

"I was one of the Sydney Secondary College representatives who visited then and saw the specific needs of the local schools.

"We committed to being involved in a number of projects in Maliana and the surrounding Bobonaro district."

Sister-school relationship

The aim of the trip with the students this year was to develop a sister-school relationship with the Escola Secundaria No2 Yamato Maliana - the first such relationship between a NSW public school and an East Timorese school.

"The visit helped our students develop a stronger understanding of a society that has endured so much during its recent history and appreciate very much the resilience and positive perspective of their East Timorese friends," Ms Collier said.

Recently the Sydney Secondary College raised money to refurbish the Malibaca Yamato school toilets through the provision of town water and repairs to the toilet infrastructure.

"Everything was very different to how we live in Australia," student Gina Ricardo said.

"For instance Maliana only has power between about 6.30pm and 6am each day.

"Along with the Maliana students, we took this opportunity to charge our phones and cameras."

The students were overwhelmed by their welcome and had an unexpected meeting with politics when Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd and East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta flew into Maliana to inspect an Ausaid project, Seeds for Life.

"Through our local contact we were able to meet them - an exciting moment for all of us," Ms Collier said. "And we even made it on to YouTube."

The Blackwattle students donated six refurbished computers to the school and 50 English/Tetum dictionaries along with exercise books, pens, pencils and stationery.

Since returning to Australia the students had kept in contact with their new friends and were determined to visit again.

"We are now working towards a visit from the Maliana school teachers in 2012," Ms Collier said.

Photo: John Amphlett.

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