By Steve Darmody, Friends of Ossu volunteer teacher.
I arrived back in Sydney last November, after three months in Timor Leste, spending most of that time in Ossú at the invitation of Rosito Ruas (‘Nito’), an English & Music teacher at Canossa Catholic Senior High. I had met him in Sydney at the time of his visit. Both of our trips were arranged by WFOO.
The village of Ossu sits on the rolling tableland directly below Mount Mundo Perdido (a former Fretilin stronghold during Indonesian occupation) and in view of Mount Matebian. Memensio, a Biology master at Olocassa, the State Senior High, was born there. He and Nito represent WFOO in Ossú.
Canossa School was used as an army base during the Occupation. Canossa partially survived the 1999 rampage that destroyed the great majority of East Timorese schools. A number of buildings at Olocassa are in ruins today.
I stayed just around the corner from the Olocassa School, with a congregation of Catholic nuns of the SCMM (Our Lady, Mother of Mercy) at the São Lukas Community. St Luke’s is a number of dormitories, chapel and amenities within a secure compound, accommodating students from all over East Timor, and visitors. It was built during the Indonesian Occupation for the protection of young women. The nuns, and the boarders, study and pray and work hard.
A new generation is emerging. The students matriculating now were born at the time of the 1999 vote for independence. I had the pleasure of assisting with the English classes at both schools. The students are intelligent and enthusiastic, with a strong desire to learn English, adding to their language skillset which includes Tetum, Portuguese, Indonesian and Makasi.
The friendship between Willoughby and Ossú is longstanding, sincere and fruitful.
I saw the progress of Stage 1 of the WASH Project, so important for Olocassa and Mundo Perdido Schools, and Aetula in general. I participated in the after-hours English and Portuguese classes, preparing students for upper secondary schooling. The Madrés at St Luke’s kindergarten are training with the Mary MacKillop Institute Field Officer. These programs are all assisted by FOO. On many occasions, I received thanks for FOO’s contribution from the parish, the teachers, students, Madrés, Padrés and staff at the Klinika and citizens of Ossú.
I had the privilege of living among the warm and kind-hearted people there, and I’m very grateful indeed to WFOO, for affording me what has seemed always to be a unique opportunity.
And I continue to hold in grateful thanks the many East Timorese who befriended and assisted me, above all the Madrés at St Lukas. My visit would have been impossible without their faithful help.