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