Cou­ple vol­un­teer­ing in East Ti­mor

Matamata Chronicle - - Happy New Year - By ABBY BROWN

While most peo­ple are mak­ing sure they have all their Christ­mas presents sorted, for­mer Mata­mata cou­ple Trevor and Ali­son Gat­land are pack­ing their bags to head off to vol­un­teer in East Ti­mor.

The cou­ple, who now live in Kerik­eri, will leave New Zealand in late Jan­uary and will be in Bau­cau in East Ti­mor for two years.

Trevor, who was brought up on a dairy farm in Walton and com­pleted a plumb­ing and gas­fit­ting ap­pren­tice­ship with Gor­don Burr in Mata­mata, will use those skills to ad­vise on wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion in a part­ner­ship with World Vi­sion.

Trevor and Ali­son, nee Bell, said they were mo­ti­vated to un­der­take this trip be­cause they are in a good po­si­tion and have the right skills to help.

‘‘I have known of the work of Vol­un­teer Ser­vice Abroad (VSA) for quite some time and de­cided about 20 years ago that I would like to vol­un­teer when I was in a po­si­tion to do so,’’ Trevor said.

‘‘Now that the kids have left home and we are both still young enough and healthy it was log­i­cal to do it now.

‘‘The main mo­ti­va­tion is sim­ply be­cause there is a des­per­ate need and my skills and knowl­edge have the po­ten­tial to ben­e­fit oth­ers.’’

The cou­ple took own­er­ship of a self-stor­age business in Kerik­eri in March.

‘‘I am a plumber and gas­fit­ter by trade but in the later part of my ca­reer, I have been in­volved in op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance of large-scale wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture.

‘‘ My ex­pe­ri­ence in the wa­ter in­dus­try will def­i­nitely help with this as­sign­ment as the role is as a wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion ad­viser.’’

The aim of the as­sign­ment is to re­duce in­fant mor­tal­ity through in­creased ac­cess to wa­ter and im­proved san­i­ta­tion.

‘‘I will also be in­volved in train­ing lo­cals with re­gards to the build­ing of wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture.’’

There are 16 vil­lages to get retic­u­lated wa­ter to, some san­i­ta­tion projects and an ir­ri­ga­tion project.

The cou­ple will be pro­vided with ba­sic two-bed­room ac­com­mo­da­tion which will have a cold wa­ter sup­ply.

‘‘Se­cu­rity is OK but we have been ad­vised to be vig­i­lant.’’

Trevor said they had made friends though VSA al­ready and ex­pected to gain more on the trip, as well as per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion from help­ing oth­ers in the build­ing of es­sen­tial wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture.

He de­scribes East Ti­mor as a new coun­try slowly find­ing its feet after many years of In­done­sian oc­cu­pa­tion, be­fore which it was oc­cu­pied by the Por­tuguese for four cen­turies.

The war that re­sulted in East Ti­mor no longer be­ing a colony of In­done­sia re­sulted in sub­stan­tial loss of its pop­u­la­tion as well as con­sid­er­able dam­age to build­ings and in­fra­struc­ture, Trevor said.

This caused is­sues of poverty, ed­u­ca­tion and nu­tri­tion.

‘‘ I be­lieve about 250,000 Ti­morese died dur­ing the In­done­sian oc­cu­pa­tion and as a re­sult, 67 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion is un­der 25. Thus a great deal of knowl­edge and ex­per­tise has been lost.’’

‘‘This is where vol­un­teers can help through train­ing and help­ing to re­build in­fra­struc­ture.’’

The pair, along with another VSA cou­ple, are rais­ing funds for VSA through an on­line do­na­tion page.

Do­na­tions can be made by go­ing to fundraiseon­line. co. nz/ Trevor andAlisonGat­land.

Photo: SUP­PLIED

GOOD VOL­UN­TEERS: For­mer Mata­mata cou­ple Trevor and Ali­son Gat­land are vol­un­teer­ing in East Ti­mor in Jan­uary.

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