The Mansfield Friends of Venilale, FoV, were delighted to welcome Joni, our Tourist Guide in Venilale, to Mansfield just in time for the Ridgeline Walk and later for the November Bush Market. Many volunteers have been busy putting into action ideas and programs which will make the connection between our sister town stronger. Some of the highlights of 2014 will be the visit of Georgina Sarmento, our Venilale Liaison Officer, to Mansfield in January and the Australia Timor Leste Friendship Network Conference in March.
The Ridge Line Walk
Thanks to the landholders for allowing access to and through their properties, the participants were able to take advantage of this rare opportunity to walk from Glenroy, across Mt Terry and Mt Battery and return to the Mansfield Botanical Gardens. The day started with a glorious blue sky and gentle sunshine although cloud developed quickly. The wafting aroma of a BBQ hastened everyone’s steps. Lo
and behold out in the middle of nowhere (actually it was the Old Tolmie Road) there was a little Rotary van with their volunteers cooking up delicious sausages and burgers for the intrepid walkers. Thanks, Rotary!
Having driven all the way from Geelong, Leon Potriadis arrived with Joni in time for him to complete the second half of the walk. Joni ran across the hills to view the magnificent vistas so reminiscent of Venilale scenery. Luckily the rain held off and due to the well organised signposting and placement of fence stiles by Helen and Andrew Crockett everyone finished the course. Kath Davey’s efficient organisation and accounting was another essential component of this wonderful day which raised $1000 for the scholarship program which enables students in Venilale to continue their education. Activities like this are also allowing for an extension to this program in the form of trade and medical scholarships.
Joni Sarmento Visit
Maggie and Leon Potriadis and their family befriended Joni when he studied in Viqueque, becoming a close friend of their son, Lance. They live in Ocean Grove and are connected with Geelong’s Friendship group, Friends of Viqueque. Viqueque is a district capital south of Venilale. Maggie and Leon have sponsored and hosted Joni’s trips to Australia. Attending Lance’s wedding was the special purpose of this visit. Therefore FoV was very grateful to the family for taking the time to bring Joni up to Mansfield for his first visit. As well as participating in the Ridge Line Walk, a return trip in November enabled Joni to enjoy the fireworks display and help out at the bush market stall. Seeing how FoV members raise money for FoM projects was a very valuable experience. It is through the generosity of families like this one that connections at an individual level really strengthen the bond between Timor Leste and Australia. Joni will be back in Oz in 2014,
NEWS FLASH: Arriving at midnight on January 21st
Georgina Sarmento, the Friendship Liaison Officer in Venilale, is coming to Mansfield. She is employed by FoV to run the Community Centre, work with the local weaving and sewing groups, organise community activities and the scholarship process, head the sub committee Friends of Mansfield which reports to her sub district administration and much more. Added to this she has six beautiful children and is studying for a Sociology degree. Much to the delight of FoV members her husband, Carlos, who visited Mansfield in 2010 and is currently the co-ordinator of FoM, has generously agreed to hold the fort while Georgina visits Australia for two months.
The goals for this visit include improving English language skills so that reports back to Mansfield and conversations with tourists to Venilale are improved, developing an understanding of our town which will further our mutual understanding and increasing skills and awareness of tourist possibilities through visits to local enterprises. Her visit will be concluded by attendance with local members of FoV at the ’Working Together for Timor Leste Conference’ in Melbourne in March. This is an opportunity for the many ‘Friends of ’ groups throughout Australia to meet and learn from each other. Joni will be there too.
Come and meet Georgina at a special welcome in Mansfield on 22 January.
While Joni and Georgina are visiting Australia their jobs are being done by Julieta Ines da Costa. We first met Julieta in 2009 when she was the assistant to the first Australian volunteer, Kirra. Julieta was a very shy but charming 19 year old who lived with her family in Venilale. With her excellent personal sewing skills she helped the first Venilale women’s groups to make tais products for sale to tourists as well as locals. She is now a wife and mother and keen to learn new skills. Facebook, email, twitter and mobile phones have all become available since she last worked for FoM but she is loving the challenge.
Donations from local organisations Mansfield Junior Football League and Rotary
Zoe Doubas visited Timor Leste in July 2013, with her mother, Judy. They were inspired by their friend, Michelle Harmer, one of Mansfield’s dedicated FoV members. Michelle first travelled to Timor Leste with Anne Brogan and soon became powerfully committed to improving living conditions particularly for women. She even volunteered as an election observer in 2012 along with Rachel Meadows. Michelle and her partner Graeme accompanied Judy and Zoe, with Michelle’s expertise in the local language helping enormously.
The following is a report from Zoe:
I knew about its recent political history before visiting, about the poverty that currently exists there and also how close it is to Australia geographically and its ties with Australia during WWII.
These things all made it very important for me to visit Timor Leste. It is a place that a lot more Australians should know about and be involved in, offering assistance in their development. I studied International Development a few years ago and I’ve wanted to be involved in doing some development work for a long time. So when the opportunity to go along with Michelle came up I jumped at it.
I too found the people to be some of the most genuine and sweet that I have encountered. And yes courageous. Highlights for me were getting to know some of the people, being invited into their homes, sharing meals with them and getting to play with the kids. I was also lucky enough to be invited into a classroom to do an hour’s teaching. The students were male and female from
12 to 16. So many of them were excited and eager to learn. They were gorgeous!
FoV funds have been used to enable some of the key women in Venilale to study English. The recipients include Georgina, Julieta, Rosalinda and Mana Teresa. Rosalinda is constantly on hand when tourists arrive at the community centre, keen to buy local tais products, while Mana Teresa provides delicious meals for tourists and special occasions. The lessons are held every day for at least one hour and the course runs for three months. The cost per person is $28 plus $4 for two text books. For a total of $144 this is tremendous value for money. Initiatives like this can only exist with FoV funding. These women work hard but the money they earn is dependent on tourists buying their products.
Thank you to all those who have renewed their membership.
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