I did a volunteer placement at Klibur Domin of one month’s duration in 2010. Although I went as an English teacher the role ended up being a little more elastic, encompassing giving English classes to many of the staff, to helping devise and implement activities for the children who are long term residents. There was also an impromptu role as a recreation officer setting up diversional activities for short term patients, many of whom had travelled several days for surgery in Dili and were recuperating before beginning the arduous journey home. I definitely advise any prospective volunteer to pack craft supplies and simple games as these are extremely difficult to obtain.
And this brings me to one of the fabulous aspects of volunteering at Klibur Domin – the opportunity to hit the ground running and join in with the activities the moment you arrive. Opportunities to do things that interest you will present themselves again and again. You will most likely share your time with long term volunteers (I was with three long term volunteers during my stay) and it is great to learn about different fields of expertise and to work together and contribute to team efforts. Sharing the volunteer cottage and having fantastic support when and if some cultural shock or homesickness set in is a vital difference that I was missing from other overseas volunteer positions and made life so much easier in Klibur Domin.
The most incredible part of my time however was the people of Timor Leste! I can’t emphasise enough that I met so many beautiful and incredibly appreciative people, who were very patient with my appalling Tetum language skills. They really demonstrate a strength that belies the fragility of this new and emerging nation. I also need to mention that it became very clear to me that all over Dili the people share a bond with Australians due to the many different support and friendship groups active there, and appreciate our help. So even if you can’t make it over to Timor Leste, rest assured that any financial assistance will be looked on with gratitude and is so well utilised in many grass-roots organisations.