Recently I was asked why i volunteer in a disability centre, when i could be working full time… Here’s why I do what i do!

Sitting with a young Timorese woman as she “read” her first book recently. Looking at the words and pictures to decipher what each word meant. Following the repetitive pattern with each page, her excitement grew as she realised she could recognise words and know what they said by looking at the photographs. She was beaming by the end of the book.

Another young woman, who created these Tetun books for a school project. She spent hours combining photos and text to create easy reading books for our students at Liman Hamutuk. Her books are the students favorites, especially the one which has photos of them inside.

A young girl, who when we began volunteering at Hera, was reluctant to sit at the desk and complete any sort of task. As her confidence in us grew, she became more and more focused on completing a task. She used her sign language to communicate with us and then one day, verbally whispered a reply to a question i asked her. This was the first time i had ever speak. Her confidence continues to grow and she has now attends the local school several days each week. Something she did not want to do previously.

A mother of two sons, one of whom has cerebral palsy, has learnt to write her own name and the names of her sons, through the lessons we have taught.

The toy library we started late last year was a new idea to all of the Liman Hamutuk families. But we wanted a way to use the donations we were being given, while encouraging more literacy, numeracy and pretend play to happen at home during the week. Many expats not connected to the centre expressed concern about whether such an idea would even work, but we tried anyway! Six months into our experiment, we’ve had a few jigsaw puzzle pieces disappear, but the students who come regularly eagerly return their toy bag and borrow something new each week without significant loss or damage.

A young boy with cerebral palsy unable to speak, frowning at me in disappointment because i don’t know what the sign is for a particular item in the book he is pointing to. He is so eager to learn.

A little boy, probably about two or three years of age, so malnourished that he cannot hold up his head properly, smiles at me in recognition. Because after several weeks of coming to the centre for special enriched porridge, he has the energy to interact with and remember me.

Students who finished their work early, go to the bookshelves and start reading books. They know that we have book time before lunch and after their work is done. The routines we have been working so hard to develop are making a difference. Enjoying books is a start in the road to literacy!

Because it’s fun to know that in Timor-Leste cows don’t say Mooooo they say Ahhhhhh!

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