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East Timor’s Americo learns English in Australia


Jane Munro
11 January 2011
East Timor's Americo Pereira, 20, who has spent the last six years living in the Familia Hope orphanage located in the Ermera District of the emerging nation, is reveling in the opportunity to learn English at Southern Cross University's English Language Centre based on the Lismore campus.

The orphanage is home to up to 40 children who have in many cases lost their parents to military conflict resulting from that country's struggle for independence. Americo's main hope is to learn skills that will allow him to do something good for his country.

"My country is young, a new nation in the world. All the sons and daughters in East Timor, we stand for freedom. We are not interested in politics because politicians make many people sad. What we need so that we can develop our country in the future is education," Americo said.

"I am lucky to have been able to live at the orphanage because there are many kids in East Timor who are not like us. We have a home, good food and access to education but there are many children who live in the hills and the schools are far from them and so they can't go to school.

"I hope maybe one day I can do something for them. I would like for all people to be happy, not some happy, some sad. I am not interested in having things because this is not the right way to live, you must do something for your nation.

"I came to Southern Cross University because I want to improve my English. I know that English is the main language of the world and if you know English you can communicate with each other and you can travel everywhere."

Since 2004 senior lecturer with the School of Environmental Science and Management at Southern Cross University, Dr David Lloyd, has been involved in several research and capacity building projects in East Timor. He has known Americo for all of that time and was instrumental in facilitating a Southern Cross University visiting scholarship so that Americo could attend the English Language Centre located on the Lismore campus after he graduated from high school.

Dr Lloyd, who is Americo's mentor, said the North Coast had strong ties with the Familia Hope orphanage.

"The orphanage was set up by former North Coast resident Isa Bradridge who last month was recognised by the President of East Timor, Jose Ramos Horta, for his humanitarian services in establishing the orphanage during a difficult time in the emerging nation's history. Along with North Coast resident, John Bailey, we have been involved in fundraising for the orphanage for the past six years," Dr Lloyd said.

"Also through Southern Cross University's commitment to capacity building in East Timor, John, myself and some of the students have assisted in the rebuilding of the orphanage, as well as supplying computers and carrying out additional fundraising.

"The great thing about Familia Hope is it is one of the few orphanages where you see children laugh. They are treated and feel as if they are a part of an extended family. The long term for these children is more challenging because the opportunities in East Timor are limited.

"What we see with Americo reflects a major concern we have as to what happens when these children become adults. You can't just close the door on them. We need to find a way to provide a future to break the cycle of poverty and violence.

"So providing him with the opportunity to learn English in Australia is all about giving him a leg up in a country where little English is learned but a lot is needed. English is a valuable transferrable skill. It will open the door in areas where he may not be employable because much employment depends on family connections but because English is always needed these skills could create opportunities for him."

Americo, who arrived in Australia in November, plans to move to Dilli after he returns to East Timor on January 20 and broaden his studies to include computers, business and agriculture and also to further improve his English skills.

"When I first came to Australia I was walking around the uni and I was amazed, and I asked myself, 'when will my country be like here?', and that made me think about what I want to do for my country," Americo said.

"I am so glad to have had the opportunity to come here. I would like to say thank you to the Australian people who have helped me. My home stay family are very nice people and I give them my respect. I am also very grateful to my mentor David Lloyd and John Bailey as it is because of their support that I can come to Australia. Australia is a good friend to East Timor and the East Timorese do need support to improve their future."

Photo: Americo Pereira from East Timor has been learning English at Southern Cross University's Lismore campus.