A very fruitful relationship
We visited the Railaco parish including surrounding villages in the mountains, as well as the Jesuit schools in Kasait.
The aim of the visit was to see the reality and the progress of the Railaco parish in the programs St Canice’s supports: feeding program, mobile clinic, NOSSEF high school, water project, and other projects of the Jesuit Social Services. . . . . .
Meeting the people of Railaco – GOLD!
Children delight at eating tasty food
This video is about Children eating tasty food brought by the Railaco Jesuit Mission in the remote sub-district Cocoa in East Timor.
It’s quite incredible that 100 children turn-up in the small sub-district of Cocoa outside Railaco today to greet us. Some are just babies carried in a sling by an older sibling, and others are nursed by their mothers. After announcing our arrival with the bagpipes, Khoda’s enthusiasm and passion sees him serving meals to the kids, and relating immediately to these youngsters through sparkling eyes, and the simple language of love.
Parishioners of St Canice’s Sydney initiated this children’s feeding program with Fr Bong of the Jesuit Railaco Mission way back in 2004, and they have been the main benefactor ever since. The sense of joy we take away is more than reward.
We leave a trail of happy kids following us in a cloud of dust.
Meeting ‘sons of Timorese’ (creados) who fought with Aussie troops in WWII
Chatting with the people, we learn more about the complex connections we have with these gentle people stretching right back to their assisting Australian troops in the second world war.
From the first day, traveling with Fr. Bong in the in the mobile medical clinic, we experience a higher dimension in the meaning of ‘authentic’.
Sitting sideways in the back of an old 4WD ‘storm trooper’, we leave a sealed road from the coast up to the mountains, and fall-in behind Fr Bong and his two assistants, who attend to patient ‘reception’ and ‘pharmacy’ duties in the back of his 4WD mobile medical clinic.
On reaching the small community at the end of this road through the bush built with pick and shovel by the local villagers, we see a line of women and children waiting to see the doctor.
Click on photo to play YouTube video.
Riding with Fr Bong in the mobile medical clinic
This video is about Elijah travelling with his mother Lynda with Fr Bong’s Mobile Medical Clinic outside Railaco, East Timor – a short video.
Lynda Slavinskis, Elijah’s mum writes: You can click here to get a handy copy of Lynda’s words.
When preparing for our visit to Timor Leste, I often wondered ‘what can I do to help? What can I give?’
Today on our visit to the remote mountain village of Fatu Besi, I realised that the greatest gift I could give was just to be me, a mother. I experienced the simple yet extraordinary power a smile and a gentle touch can have, in the absence of a shared language. It is the silent ‘knowing’, especially between mothers, that can engender trust and cement even the most unlikely of friendships.
After sharing mass and sitting a while with the people waiting to see Fr Bong in the medical clinic, Elijah and I went for a walk with Brother Apu to see the village. Along the way, we stopped to greet a mother Alita and her children Aveve and Akoli. Through some broken Tetum I had learnt from Apu only moments earlier and translation from him when needed, I was able to have a conversation with Alita. We sat in her sister’s home made of sticks, bamboo and corrugated iron and we bonded over our children.
Alita was so proud of her children, she beamed as she spoke about them. Through her smile, I could feel her love for them, which was only matched by the love I have for my Elijah. Elijah showed the children photos of our dog at home to their delight. We played peek-a-boo and laughed together. Akoli who was wary of us at the beginning, warmed to us quickly and started to introduce me to his cousins who all lived nearby and taught me new words in Tetum. Akoli looked like a toddler but was in fact 5 years old and I suspected wanted to show me he was a ‘big boy’ and peek-a-boo should be reserved for his baby sister!
In those treasured, simple moments spent with this family, I learnt that in motherhood there is no rich or poor, no division. There is only love, pride in our children and the desire to share experiences to achieve common ground.Motherhood is a club with automatic membership. It does not discriminate. Through motherhood, Alita and I became friends.
The key observation I made during our visit to Fatu Besi was that the people have great need, but they are NOT needy. They sang like angels, lead mass, waited so patiently to see the doctor, smiled like they were the happiest people on earth. This made me feel that our desire to ‘help’, although noble, perhaps needs to be reframed. I reflected after making the connection with my fellow mother Alita, that if we can make friends with our neighbours in Timor Leste, we become equals. We are not the givers and they the takers. We are able to sit together in conversation and connection like we did today, often with nothing more than a wink, a smile, a knowing look. We can inspire each other as friends do, help each other as friends do, love each other as friends do.
By moving the discourse away from ‘helping’ to ‘empowering’, from ‘feeding’ to ‘eating’, from ‘teaching’ to ‘sharing knowledge’ , from ‘watching’ to ‘noticing’, we can find common ground where our hearts beat to the same rhythm just like it does in motherhood, dance, song and smiles – all of which are universal experiences. Once common ground is achieved, we can then truly understand the need of our East Timorese friends and respond through trust and hope, slathered in love, to open up and achieve endless possibilities for the future.
Click on photo to open YouTube video:
Kids in remote village in East Timor stare in awe
Travelling into a remote sub-district, Khoda meets and shares a meal with children of the village. The Railaco Jesuit Mission in Railaco has been driving out to this village for fifteen years now. Khoda got busy chopping onions and garlic to help make the meal, before climbing aboard the stormtrooper to drive up the mountain to the village and help serve the Kids.
As we approach the remote village of Cocoa outside Railaco Mission with Christina and the lunch for the children of the village sloshing around in a big urn in the back of her 4WD, Khoda demands that the driver sits on the horn to announce our arrival.
If that noise wasn’t enough to frighten the daylights out of them, imagine how big and round their eyes were when Khoda alighted from the back of the stormtrooper he was travelling in with his mum, Odelia Potts, and started marching up to the gathered kids playing his bagpipes.
Click on photo to see Khoda telling us about his day in this one-minute video.
On the very first day for my group of six, we leave the sealed road from the coast up to the mountains and at an appointed junction, we fall-in behind Fr Bong in his carbon-belching old 4WD. His two assistants, who attend to patient ‘reception’ and ‘pharmacy’ duties travel with him in the back.
We jolt over almost impossible dirt tracks, hewn through thick bush by local villagers with pick and shovel to permit access to the outside world. And us! There we are, bones rattling, holding-on for grim death, but so excited, nonetheless. Our confident Timorese driver, Edu, manoeuvres around huge pot holes, deftly avoiding cave-ins, and using his gears to escape wheels spinning in slippery muddy patches. This evinces a few ‘holy shit’ moments not only from Juanita! Onwards, up and down and around the mountain trying to smile-away a sheer drop on one side, we finally reach the tiny village of Fatu Besi, where mothers with babes in arms and kids tugging on her skirt, and many elderly, are lining-up waiting for Fr Bong’s mobile medical clinic.
As Bong visits this particular post only once a fortnight, he also celebrates Mass in the beautiful chapel, (built by Franciscans, complete with flushing toilets and water tanks). The singing at Mass is beautiful, as though a choir has been brought-in to welcome us.
Fr Bong asks me to say a few words about our visit. I respond with the message of our being neighbours, wishing to be good neighbours who exchange kindnesses and ‘share’ with each other. Amazingly, this seems to strike at the heart. After the final Blessing, every person in the church comes up to each of us in turn, takes our hand, and kisses it, or bows respectfully, touching our hands with their heads. Moving!
Fr Bong writes to us”Peace, michael!
I just want to let you and your group know how thankful and inspired the railaco mission community, most especially i, of your visit and the gifts you bring!Gifts of yourself and all else you brought with you, from the medical, clothes, to toys & tooth brushes affirms that we are all together in the mission!May the Lord bless you and nurture the best in all of you! Thank you!!!Bong
‘Song, Dance, Music creates Equals’ – in East Timor
Song, dance, music is a universal language that creates equals. This brings us so much closer to these little children and their families in poor remote communities outside Railaco. Every time we do it a barrier comes down.
A fellow traveller wondered what lay behind the people’s bright smiles? How could they be so happy given the trauma they had suffered in the past and the obvious poverty they dealt with today? Lynda Slavinskis answer is hope.
The key observation I made during our visits to the villages and schools in Timor Leste was that the people have great need, but they are NOT needy. The people are filled with faith, hope and love. They dance and smile like they are the happiest people on earth.
Even the malnourished children at the feeding program dance. The people are grateful for and proud of the freedom they fought so hard to achieve.
Elijah “Tiger” Slavinskis sings for the children of Cocoa village outside Railaco Mission. The St Canice’s KingsCross Sydney people were happy to have a leader to lead us in song. We were giving back’ in response to the children, who had entertained us when we arrived.
Song, dance, music is a universal language that creates equals. This brought us so much closer to these little children and their families. Every time we did it a barrier came down. Especially in the those very poor remote villages, shoulders dropped, both us and them, and we relaxed, feeling very comfortable with each other.