Archived News Item
Ballarat sister’s work in Timor Leste honoured
July 24, 2008
Sister Helen Nolen, a Sister of Mercy of the Ballarat East Congregation, was honoured this week by Rotary Mosman (NSW) with the prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship Award for her outstanding contribution to the community, particularly to the people of Fohorem in Timor Leste.
Photo: Sister Helen Nolen RSM with Bruce Allen and Howard Sullivan from Rotary.
Since 2005, Helen has been working as a teacher-trainer in Fohorem, a remote and mountainous area in the country’s south-west near the West Timor border. The only Australian living here, Helen is as remote as one can be! She has no phone, no electricity, no bridge and barely a road. She is 8 to 10 hours drive from Dili and 3,000 feet up the mountain on the Indonesian border.
Helen is also involved in a number of community development initiatives in Fohorem, including the installation of a major water system and the establishment of Feto Fitun Fohorem, a group for young women where they can learn and share social, domestic, health and craft skills.
Helen was presented with the Paul Harris Fellowship Award during a luncheon hosted by Rotary Mosman on Tuesday July 22. The award, named after Rotary’s founder, is one of the highest honours Rotary can bestow upon a person. Recipients are Rotarians and community professionals who are recognised for their outstanding contributions, exemplifying the highest ideal in Rotary in placing “service above self”.
The luncheon was also an opportunity to hear about the water project that Rotary Mosman, in partnership with Mercy Works Inc., Rotary Dili and the Fohorem Water Commission, is undertaking for the people of Fohorem and surrounding communities.
Sister Rosie Carroll RSM, Executive Officer of Mercy Works Inc. was present with Helen at the luncheon, as was a group of young people from Fohorem who were in Australia for World Youth Day activities.
Read the following articles about Helen’s work in Fohorem, Timor Leste:
Read the citation:
PAUL HARRIS FELLOWSHIP AWARD CITATION: SISTER HELEN NOLEN RSM
Sister Helen Nolen was born at Swan Hill, Victoria and spent her early childhood and education at Manangatang, where her father was the Stock and Station Agent. A country girl through and through, Helen finished her secondary education as a boarder at St Martin in the Pines, Ballarat where she entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1971. Her Final Profession was at Manangatang in 1980. Helen has served the Institute with distinction since then, epitomising the inspiration of Catherine McAuley who founded the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland in 1831. The now 17 autonomous congregations work tirelessly to bring mercy, justice, human rights and a better way of life to the underprivileged, particularly in remote areas.
At Fohorem in Timor Leste, Helen is the only Australian and is as remote as one can be, unusual for a gregarious country girl. She has no phone, no electricity, no bridge and barely a road. She is 8 to 10 hours drive from Dili and three thousand feet up the mountain on the Indonesian border. However, she is no stranger to being remote; having served, with distinction, the communities in the Kimberley and Balgo Hill in Western Australia and Karama in Northern Territory. These experiences fitted her well for the roles of CEO of different areas, culminating in her appointment as CEO of Mercy Works Incorporated, Co-ordinator of Cross Cultural Ministries and service on the Congregational Council of the Sisters of Mercy, Ballarat East, for five years from 2000 to 2004.
Over the past 40 years Helen has pursued education with a passion, in teaching, music, theology and applied linguistics; gaining a Master of Education in 1998 and a Master of Arts in 2000. This high level of education is matched by her consummate skill in all things practical and in home duties. She has established Feto Fitun Fohorem where women can learn and share social, domestic, health and craft skills. She has been instrumental in the joint venture of establishing the Fohorem Water Commission of village people, which with funds from generous donors and technical advice from Rotarians is bringing water to the villagers of the Fohorem Sub District. She is known and respected throughout Timor Leste.
For her unselfish devotion to the Sisters of Mercy and their work for disadvantaged people in remote areas, particularly in Fohorem, the Rotary Club of Mosman is privileged to present Sister Helen Nolen with a Paul Harris Fellowship.
Award presented to Sister Helen Nolen RSM on Tuesday July 22, 2008.