Monday, January 28, 2008

Signing the Friendship Agreement: Blue Mountains and Hato Builico

Blue Mountains Gazette article Jan 2008 (submitted by BMETS Suzie van Opdorp)

Travelling a long, winding road up in the hills, you could easily fool yourself into thinking you are in the Blue Mountains. The trees look very familiar – eucalypts and casuarinas – and the air is fresh and moist. Not far from the village a village chief, dressed in traditional costume, met the travellers from a foreign land and greeted them with a warm welcome and presentation of a tais scarf. The travellers were surprised and somewhat overwhelmed by this generous welcome. The elder and fourteen men on horseback accompanied the travellers to their village. This was the experience of the official Blue Mountains Council delegation during their recent visit to the Hato-Builico region of East Timor.

Last month, The Mayor, Jim Angel, Lady Mayoress, Pattie McQuoid, Councillor Kerrin O’Grady and BMETS representative Suzie van Opdorp, travelled to East Timor and the village of Hato Builico to sign the Blue Mountains City Council- Hato Builico Friendship Agreement. The Agreement states the Blue Mountains commitment to establish a relationship of support and friendship with the sub-district of Hato Builico.

“Hato Builico is a remote village in the mountainous centre of Timor-Leste about 100 km south of Dili. The village is very beautiful with grass huts set among the hills. It sits at the foot of Mt. Ramelau, Timor-Leste’s highest mountain. Hato Builico has suffered from deforestation, there is very little infrastructure and the village is isolated from Dili by a very poor road. Communications with the village is poor as there is no phone coverage.” said the Mayor.

“We received a very warm welcome from the administration and the people and had a good opportunity to hear first hand of the difficulties facing people in the area. We met the village nurse and one of the school principals. As the nearest high school is 30 kms away and there are no bus services, the young people expressed their need to access high school education. Although there are obvious differences, the Blue Mountains and Hato Builico have much in common in terms of the environmental, land and water management issues. There is much that can be achieved through this friendship relationship. We can assist Hato Builico with practical support and assistance and we have lot to learn from them about community participation and development. It is very much a two-way relationship.” said Mayor Angel.

“The Blue Mountains City Council- Hato Builico Friendship Committee was established about two and a half years ago with the aim of providing friendship and practical support to the community of Hato Builico. We have had a number of local events in the Blue Mountains to involve the local Blue Mountains community in developing their understanding and finding out from them how they might like to get involved. Our friends in Hato Builico have appreciated the support and care shown by our community in the Blue Mountains.” said Councillor O’Grady, Chair of the Friendship Committee.

“Readers might recall last year Mr Joao Corte-Real de Araujo, District Administrator – Ainaro District in East Timor – visited the Blue Mountains to discuss ways that we can progress our relationship. The official visit to Hato Builico was an important step in our relationship because it provided the opportunity for our Mayor, Jim Angel, and Mr Joao to sign the Agreement.”

The Friendship delegation was accompanied by a member of the Blue Mountains East Timor Sisters, Suzie van Opdorp. The Sisters have visited the area on previous trips to Timor-Leste and were able to assist with local information, local contacts, etc. Suzie had also been asked by teachers at Korowal School to represent them in the establishment of a Friendship School relationship between Korowal and Mulo school in Hato Builico. The teachers had prepared a banner and sent a letter of good-will. Exercise books, pens and balls were also provided to the school.

“The principal of the school was very moved by the gifts that Korowal had sent. Mulo, like many of the schools in East Timor, has very few basic resources such as pens and books. Each class has over 60 students and the teachers are working under very difficult circumstances. One of the positive things about Hato Builico is that most of the children do in fact attend school. As we know literacy is really important in assisting people to achieve their potential and leads to improvements in health, income, community participation, etc. It will be interesting to see how this relationship progresses.”

“The Hato Builico community have developed their own community plan which identifies the priorities and issues for their community. Likewise during January a planning meeting will be held in the Blue Mountains involving the Mayor, Jim Angel, Committee Chair Councillor Kerrin O’Grady, members of the Blue Mountains City Council - Hato Builico Friendship Committee, the Blue Mountains East Timor Sisters and other interested community members. This meeting will develop an action plan which will establish ways in which we can work together, identify practical projects and ways that we can involve our own local community in this relationship.” said the Mayor, Jim Angel.


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