This week i saw the picture above on Facebook. I realised that it was the perfect accompaniment to this blog that has been on my mind for a few weeks now. Sometimes, circumstances line up in a way that is beyond understanding… Coincidences just keep happening… and for me these types of circumstances whisper to me of God’s love, His Sovereignity and His help in my life. I know not everyone reading this will attribute the source of these circumstances as being Divine or Godly, but even if that is the case… sit back and enjoy reading an interesting story…. 🙂
Not long after we arrived in Timor-Leste we began hearing about shipping containers filled with goods from Australia that come here on a regular basis because of Rotary. We received some toys that had been loving hand made from wood to distribute as Christmas gifts to the children in the disability centre in Hera. We also used some of these toys in the care packs we make for children who get medically evacuated on the MAF plane. Then we met a lady who, along with some helpers in central Victoria, began donating items for us to use at Hera and in the care packs. These boxes of goodies arrived to us via the Rotary shipping containers.
I grew up in a family with Rotary connections. My Dad was a Rotarian when i was a child and i have fond memories of helping out with different activities that Rotary would do. My Uncle has also been a Rotarian for most of his adult life and i have heard his stories of helping others often. I loved meeting young people from all over the world who came to Melbourne as Rotary exchange students and our family even hosted one too. So Rotary and their generosity to those in need was not new to me. But these containers were…
During our time in Timor, we came in contact with those who distributed the goods from the containers. We took car loads of school supplies and resources to the disability centre in Hera, we used toys and jigsaw puzzles to make a toy library for the students to use. We delivered car loads of resources to preschools in remote areas of Timor, who operate with no government funding and very few resources. Rotary supplied goods were given to us and we kept finding people in need who could use them. On a flight back to Australia, i even found myself next to a man from Rotary who was checking on how the goods were being used, so i had some great stories to tell him. Probably more than he cared to hear if i was to tell the truth…. 🙂
So fast forward a few months and we are in Australia on home leave speaking to financial donors and churches about what we do in Timor-Leste. The idea of trying to connect with the Rotary group in Melbourne would occur to use every now and then, but it was on a long to do list for our time in Australia, and each day was packed with visiting people and speaking engagements. Friends who wanted to help us with supplies for the care packages were eager to buy, donate and organise items, but how do we get the items there was the question everyone kept asking. But other than a vague idea of Rotary being able to help somehow, we didn’t really know the answer… So we were a little surprised after one of our church speaking engagements, when a man approached us. He let us know that his wife is one of the people who sorts out the medical items to go into the Rotary containers to Timor-Leste. He was able to explain to us how the containers worked, how we could use the service and asked us if we would like to see the warehouse where the goods are stored and sorted.
Jason and I were a little gob smacked to tell you the truth! We were able to stop at the warehouse on a trip we were already doing in western Victoria, to tell the truth, it was probably only 20 minutes out of our way to call in. The warehouse of Rotary’s Donations In Kind was impressive. Aisles of donates good awaited transportation to many needy corners of the world, including Timor-Leste. Donations of fabric, disability aids, and school supplies were there, donated by big businesses, organisations and individuals. In another bay, boxes of labelled goods sat ready to be loaded into the next container. As we walked down the aisle headed for Timor it was encouraging to see the names of many NGOs and groups we work alongside on the labels of boxes. Knowing how much use these items would be in the national hospital, charity run medical centres and schools.
We headed onto our next location, thinking about how these donated goods could be useful for the work that we do in Timor-Leste. The following Sunday, the inundation began…. I’m not sure how the conversation began, but a very artistic lady at the church we were speaking at asked us if we would like some knitted teddy bears and blankets for the care packs, she had a big supply at home that she had made if wanted to collect them from her. We called by her home after church and left with two garbage bags full of beautifully knitted teddy bears and blankets which were all unique with crocheted flowers and decoration on them. Even once we were in the car to leave, she ran inside and added baby hats, booties and mittens to the load. This lady was not just a knitter she was an artist. Her creations were unique and beautiful and she wanted us to distribute them to those in need in Timor-Leste for her. We were honoured to be able to help in this way, and amazingly thankful that Rotary could help us to get these items there. In the past, we have always had to say thanks but we can’t accept your donations, because we had no reasonable way to physically transport these types of gifts to Dili. Regular shipping costs are high. Postage is expensive and unreliable. So our only real way to bring things to Timor-Leste is through our own personal luggage as we fly home… and these two bags of items would certainly have filled up a lot of our suitcase space.
Several days later we were to speak at a meeting in a nearby country town, with the ladies who had been sending us boxes of goodies using Rotary in the previous year. We showed photos of their donations being used and thanked them for sending them. As we spoke, a lady approached me asking if we could use school supplies. Of course i replied. The look of relief on her face was amazing. She went on to tell me that several years ago she had gone on a cruise to somewhere in the South Pacific. While there she visited a school and was horrified by the lack of resources they had access to. When she return to Australia she went shopping, bought exercise books, pencils, sharpeners etc to post to the school she had visited. Unfortunately the postage costs to get these resources to the school was going to be several hundred dollars. More than she had spent on the items and more money than she had to spare. So the school supplies got stored in a cupboard. But half way through our meeting she remembered them, told me the story and then dashed out the door to bring them back for us to take with us. We left another location with more … school supplies and some more trauma dolls for us to bring back with us… and my husband pondering how these extra things were going to fit into our already well packed car – three people, a car seat, three suitcases, three carry ons, and now several boxes and bags of precious donations.
Jason and i often commented to each other on the timing of this. We had never had people offer goods in this abundance before. It was interesting that it was only after we knew how to get these items to Timor-Leste that the donations began… we continued our travels and were able to package up these goods for shipment and deliver them to our contact in Rotary before heading back to Dili.
There was however, one part of this process we weren’t sure of. How would we access these good once we were in Dili? We supposed someone would just call us and ask us to come and collect them. We hoped it would be a smooth process, but you can never be too sure of how things will go here… But we hoped it would all be okay. To be honest we sort of forgot about it all once we returned. We moved house, unpacked, settled in, started new roles – Jason as Program Manager, me homeschooling our son and life went on.
Until we went to church on Sunday! In church, as we sang, a timorese lady, tapped us on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, i have been looking after your boxes for you!” I gave her an odd look as i wasn’t sure what she was talking about. In hushed whispers, she explained that she was the person who negotiated for the Rotary containers to be released from customs here. She was also the person who contacted the names on the packages for collection. Apparently while we had been away some boxes had arrived for from the CWA ladies and she had kept them aside for us knowing we were in Australia. She also showed us an email that had the boxes of goods we had recently delivered listed on them, so we were assured they were arriving soon.
We are still waiting for our goods to arrive, but the way the path has opened up for us to use this service has been amazing. If you would like some more information of Rotary’s Donations In Kind then go here to have a look. http://www.rotarydik.org And if you want to see how these goodies end up being used…. stay tuned to our blog for more information….
Coincidences… Ordained circumstances… Either way, we are so grateful for this tool to help us get much needed resources into the hands of those who need it most here in Timor-Leste!