Timor-Leste – Moving to Maliana
After many years of travelling through Maliana in Timor-Leste to reach Fohorem, Sr Helen Nolen has now relocated there. We spoke to her about her work and her impressions of her new home.
‘Maliana is the third largest town in Timor-Leste. Close to the border with Indonesia, the region suffered badly during the struggle for independence. It’s on a floodplain so it’s a big agricultural area.’
‘I have been travelling through Maliana for the past seven years and prior to that I visited here in April 2000 when things were quite raw. I live on a fairly busy side street and we are quite close to the rice fields as well as the market area. My neighbours are all very friendly. ‘
‘One thing that does seem a little different from Fohorem is the large number of young men, all on motor bikes. They gather in crowds with their bikes around the market area. There’s quite a bit of gambling on cards in a public area not far from the market.’
‘It reminds me of the great importance of engaging young men in positive pursuits. Most of them don’t want to be agricultural workers like their parents, but they don’t have the necessary skills, education and languages to get a government job. Instead they choose to get a bike and perhaps work at ferrying people around on them. There are no taxis here as there are in Dili so travelling on the back of a bike is usual. I am sure that there are still many unresolved issues from the past simmering under the surface.’
‘Here in Maliana, there are several high schools so there are always hundreds of people walking to and from school: some in the morning, others in the afternoon, using the same buildings. Senior high schools are usually located in the larger towns, so students must move from the villages to the towns if they are to complete secondary education.’
‘In terms of the work we are hoping to do here, we are looking to build capacity for Early Childhood Learning as we did in Fohorem. Last year I ran workshops for teachers in all schools across the three districts. There are already a number of Non Government Organisations involved including Child Fund, World Vision and Plan.’
As we reported in the last issue of the Bilum, early childhood education plays an important role in the future health and well-being of the people of Timor-Leste. As well as teaching children vital life skills, the centres also provide nutrition in the early years of development.
Sr Helen Nolen and Fr Natalino in Maliana