Dili, the city of peace

IF YOU are interested in diving, snorkelling, contributing your time, energy and passion to a local NGO, exploring the districts in a 4WD, or you like good food, you’ll love Dili.

My place in Dili is pioneering swimming education programs for orphans and encouraging women to train in the vocation. In August, the fifth program will run and 15 students will start their training.

When we arrive, the children burst away from whatever they are doing to hug us, smile and raise their hands to say "nani" (swim) in Tetun.

We start the day at 5.30am. I wake to the sound of hymns in the orphanage church. Sometimes I go to listen, other times I write.

Going to Mass in another country seems strangely reassuring (the first 17 years I went to a Catholic school) and I enjoy the sense of family in participating.

Next I go and visit the animals, pigs, chooks, monkey, dogs and cats, then attend breakfast with the Sisters, which always consists of rice, bread, fish or chicken and sometimes vegetables.

We then round up the kids who will be involved with the program.

This can take up to 90 minutes, as the kids try their negotiation skills to come with us.

To see their faces so desperately pleading, deep furrows appearing between their eyes, pushing each other aside in anticipation of being picked, is emotional.

Once kids are picked, they all pile in the back of the 4WD and we negotiate the Dili city traffic, which is a bit like Kuta in Bali.

Each student learns through demonstration and my vocabulary in Tetun is improving.


Self funded volunteers needed

DO YOU hold a recognised swim-teacher qualification? Do you have the ability to train others to teach swimming and water safety? Keen to live and work in a foreign environment with very basic facilities? Please note that for all successful applicants, we will request a police report in order to ensure your suitability to work with children.

Contact Meg Fisk on 0408 833 988 or go to www.easttimorchildrenscharity.org.

Meg has pioneered learn to swim education programs into East Timor through her charity Academy of Swimming Education East Timor Inc.

She lives in Dili and Byron Bay with her two children

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