By Kathryn Robertson, Country Representative
As we get ready to close the office in Timor-Leste, we have been having a wonderful time – learning, reflecting and celebrating.
I only wish this wasn’t happening just as we close down. It makes me think that it would be good for all country teams to pause and take stock every so often. We need to more often honour the good work we do and the journey to get to where we are now.
Trócaire will leave Timor-Leste at the end of August, bringing to a close our 37 year association with the country. Due to the reality of more limited resources and the need to focus on deepening and strengthening our impact, Trócaire decided to focus its work in fewer countries and sadly Timor-Leste was one of the country offices that Trócaire decided to close.
Many people here have said that Trócaire is one of the few remaining “values” based international organisations. I always tried to be humble about this, but I think we were really able to see this during the Closing Event that we held in Dili on 9 July.
A few glimpses of the event:
We embraced both Ireland and Timor-Leste through language, music, prayer, and images. There were excellent presentations on the history of Trócaire in Timor-Leste, where we are now, where we are going.
Justin Kilcullen gave an encouraging presentation, which challenged civil society in Timor-Leste to take up its role, particularly as defender of human rights.
We heard how through our partner, KSI, thousands of farmers are organising themselves and selling their coffee at better prices.
In Dili our partner, Rede ba Rai, has taken up the cause of people who have been forced off their land and documented human rights abuses when evictions have taken place. No one else has been brave enough to do this.
Trócaire has worked with these partners since they began. Partners reflected on Trócaire’s work over the years and said we were different because we did more than supply grants – we have a long-term vision for society and we look at what partners need, not just what we need.
We reflected on Trócaire’s long history with Timor-Leste spanning back to the darkest days of the Indonesian Occupation and the genocide that Timor-Leste endured.
Partners talked about the brave and innovative work that Trócaire staff did to monitor human rights, raise profile in Ireland, support activists, and help new organisations to rebuild the country.
Even when the situation seemed impossible, Trócaire continued to build strong and enduring connections with good people like Tom Hyland, Timorese students and activists, and the church in Timor-Leste.
I will stay in Timor-Leste after the Trócaire office closes. My relationship with Timor-Leste started before I worked with Trócaire, and will continue afterwards. But it has been a privilege to have the opportunity for eight years to be part of Trócaire’s journey with Timor.
And at the end of our closing ceremony we danced. Trócaire partners and staff showed their talents – Ego Lemos sang (find him on Itunes!), Alex McClean played his sax, and Meabh Cryan played her fiddle. The swirl of people and laughter was wonderful. Ireland and Timor-Leste came together while we circled and danced the tebe-tebe.
We ended the night with glasses raised to a familiar cry: “VIVA TIMOR! VIVA TRÓCAIRE!”