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Finley High School students enjoy Timor Leste trip

Eight Finley High School students have returned from a trip of a lifetime in Timor Leste.

April 9, 2014 3:28am

Students with some Timorese children.

There were many people who helped eight Finley High School students experience a unique trip to Timor Leste last month.

On March 7, Dimity Sharp, Zoe Richardson, Libby Small, Aidan Murphy Riddell, Lachlan Westwood, Blair Henery, Luke Congram and Matthew McVeigh set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

They were accompanied by teacher Kate Littlejohn and community mentor Yasmin McGrath.

Having returned with so many memories and stories, the students and Finley High School held a thank you evening on Friday night for everyone who helped them on their way.

‘‘The night was a great success with heartfelt speeches from all of the students involved, as well as a photo slideshow and short documentary of their trip,’’ Ms Littlejohn said.

‘‘The aim of the trip was to become immersed in the lifestyle and culture of the Timorese people, and to learn as much as possible about the way the students lived.’’

The FHS students landed in Dili and spent a long day of seeing the major sites of the capital city.

They also spent a number of days in the village of Aileu, teaching very basic English through conversations and some structured classroom style activities.

‘‘All of the students felt that they gained a huge amount of life experience throughout their stay in Timor-Leste,’’ Ms Littlejohn said.

‘‘They were able to become more aware of the history of the country, which has seen much devastation, massacre and war in recent history.

‘‘They have come away from this trip with a much deeper understanding of the struggles that their Timorese counterparts have been through, and really appreciate their lives in Australia as a result.

‘‘It was an amazing experience and an eye opener for all of the kids to see how others around the world live in terms of housing, education and even basic hygiene.

‘‘They had to get used to drinking bottled water instead of just getting a drink from the tap as there was no running water.

‘‘The boys had to wait until it rained to go outside and shower and the girls just made the most of splashing some bottled water over them.’’

Ms Littlejohn said the trip was ‘‘really worthwhile for all students involved’’, and said the group coped well with their surroundings.

‘‘They had been told before we went over there and had seen photos but nothing really prepares you, it’s still a shock to the system,’’ she said.

‘‘They all found it hard in different ways but supported each other and I think they surprised themselves with how well they managed.’’

The students were also interested to learn about Australia’s involvement with Timor-Leste, particularly in World War II and in the peacekeeping operations after the 1999 massacres.

‘‘They were also lucky enough to visit a number of different programs, including a disability centre, after school sports and education program, youth centres and a meeting with the Aileu District Administrator,’’ Ms Littlejohn said.

‘‘The last two days of the trip were spent travelling the increasingly precarious roads up to the small town of Hatu-Builico, which rests at the foot of Mt. Ramelau, the highest mountain in Timor-Leste.

‘‘They were accompanied by eight Timorese students, who joined them on their hike of this epic mountain. This was a highlight for many students, as they were able to make connections with their Timorese counterparts that will never be forgotten.

‘‘Dimity said the hardest part of leaving Timor was saying goodbye to our new Timorese friends, knowing that we may never see them again.

‘‘And as Yasmin explained on Friday night, our students will have learned more from the Timorese than we can ever teach them – happiness, acceptance of others, patience, hospitality and gratitude on a scale that you just don’t see at home.’’

The students would like to thank the Southern Riverina communities for making the trip a possibility and for the support of the entire Finley, Jerilderie and Berrigan communities, particularly major sponsors Finley Apex, Finley Soroptomists, Finley Bowling Club, Finley RS Club, Finley Lions, Finley Rotary, Jerilderie Apex, Makatak and Berriquin Funerals.

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