Home' Aurora : Aurora December 2012 Contents 16
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
SEASONS OF GRACE
IT'S NOT EVERYDAY you meet a couple
who has placed starting a family on
hold so they can volunteer in a third
world country. Mim Buchhorn and Damian
Rake have just completed the first year
of a two year placement in Timor, and
they could not be more grateful for their
"It's pretty liberating in a way," Mim smiles.
"We've had the opportunity to take some
time and go somewhere else and it's
really enriching to your life."
Having grown up in the same parish
of Cardiff, both Mim and Damian were
raised with a sense of social justice, and
it influenced how they wanted to live
For Mim it's about "wanting to make a
bit of a difference in life with the skills
and experience that you've picked up
here, and wanting to learn about different
cultures and ways of living."
The couple approached volunteer
organisation Palms Australia last year,
and was immediately welcomed for the
skills each brought to the table. Mim is
an experienced environmental engineer
and Damian, a registered nurse who has
volunteered in other countries including
Bolivia, Peru and Papua New Guinea.
With their placement funded by an
AusAID scholarship program, the couple
has spent a year in a small rural village
named Hatubuilico, in Timor, simply
getting to know the local people, customs
and way of life.
"You are the outsider. To build trust with
the people takes time," Damian says.
Mim nods in agreement, "You really need
to spend time and observe what's going
on, learn the language and get to know
people, before you could even possibly
understand what might be a good idea in
terms of a project or a way forward."
Some of the projects introduced by
By LAURA RAE
the couple include an erosion control
plan, building a waste pit for the clinic
(previously, used needles and other items
had been discarded in the river), and
holding a health education day where
villagers learnt skills including how to
keep a wound clean and how to treat
fever, dehydration and infections in the
eyes and ears.
As Damian insists, "we have a
responsibility...why should someone else
have to put up with conditions so far
below our base levels, conditions which
would be appalling here in Australia?"
The couple has been living a very simple
life in Timor, in a tiny flat at the back of
the local community church. Electricity
and water are intermittent and, more
often than not, extremely poor quality.
"We had three months where we had no
electricity," Damian says.
But such is life in the rural village, and
they have simply had to adapt to the
"You really see the standard the Timorese
people are accustomed to," Mim says.
As for the language barrier, it seems
Tetum is fairly easy to pick up in a couple
of months and this is extremely helpful
in building meaningful relationships with
the locals because they offer greater trust
when foreigners attempt to learn their
"It's proof that you are happy to work with
them, happy to learn the language, and
don't see yourself as above them," Mim
For Damian, working in the local health
clinic has had its fair share of challenges.
With the village high in the mountains, the
medical treatments are dated and the
ambulances extremely unreliable.
"When I started I had really sick kids
coming in who hadn't eaten for ten
days due to measles, on top of being
malnourished from the previous bad
season, and I didn't know where the hell I
High infant mortality and maternal death
rates are also something he has to deal
with on a regular basis. Yet for every
disappointment, there are success
stories which make the job worthwhile.
Damian lights up as he tells of a young
boy who couldn't walk until he received
a leg operation. Now he walks to school
everyday and is really keen to learn.
"These are the ones that keep you smiling
at the end of a long day," he says.
Back in Newcastle for a month before
they return to Timor, Mim and Damian
agree they have been blessed with a new
insight into society.
"We have been blown away by how content
the Timorese people are, and that's very
powerful. And I think culturally, Australians
are not quite as advanced in terms of
being content with the situation and what
you've got," Mim suggests.
Damian is quick to agree. "Everyone is
just stuck in their own present reality. It's
worlds apart. The more we can expose
ourselves to the other side, the better off
everyone will be."
Mim and Damian believe a difference can
be made by having people on the ground
in Timor to help the local communities
improve their standard of health and
"There is nothing quite like sending a
person rather than a whole pile of chairs
or computers, because a lot of the time
in Timor it's the human element that is
lacking. You will probably be having an
impact that you don't even understand,"
Palms Australia is in need of more
volunteers to go to Timor, particularly
those with teaching skills to fill vacant
positions left by previous helpers. If you
are stuck at a crossroads, with no idea
which way to go, why not take some time
out to help others and perhaps discover
something new about yourself along the
As Damian says, "It's incredibly rewarding.
You only have one life and this is a damn
good way to spend it."
For more information visit Palms Australia
7 Sr Maria Thao Doan instructs Year 10 students of St
Paul's High School, Booragul in Vietnamese cooking, as
part of a social justice and awareness program. Rice
paper rolls were on the menu!
7 Pat Belcher of Merewether, Helen Walsh and Pat Tynan,
both of Elermore Vale, enjoyed the Council for Australian
Catholic Women end of year lunch. Guest speaker was
Sr Louise Gannon RSJ, diocesan co - ordinator of the Year
7 Emma Wark welcomed her grandparents Bruce and
Val Wark to Grandparents Day at St Benedict's Primary
7 Fr Richard Shor tall SJ, the guardian of the Relic of St
Francis Xavier, addresses the congregation at Sacred
Hear t Cathedral. The Relic also visited St Francis Xavier's
Churches at Abermain and Belmont.
Damian and Mim Rake. Photo courtesy of Laura Rae.
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