Have you heard of East Timor?
I’ve got three weeks of vacation coming up in August and have been trying to decide how to spend it. First, I was planning to go to India. Then I thought I would save money and just relax on my beautiful island and maybe take a trip to the mainland to get to know Korea better. Now, I’m determined to use the time volunteering.
As cheesy as this sounds, the Day-17 documentary inspired me to take a less selfish approach to my vacation. Ideally, I’ll be able to go to East Timor and offer some help to the people there.
Based on my preliminary research, though, short-term opportunities aren’t available, so I might have to choose a different location. I’m currently waiting to hear back. If anyone reading this knows anything about reputable volunteer organizations in that area, PLEASE let me know!
In the meantime, I’m tapping into the knowledge of the amazing people I know to figure out what other options are available.
For those of you, like me, who had never heard of East Timor before, here’s a brief overview from Wikipedia:
Indonesia occupied East Timor from December 1975 to October 1999. After centuries of Portuguese colonial rule in East Timor, a 1974 coup in Portugal led to decolonization among its former colonies, creating instability in East Timor and leaving its future uncertain.
After a small-scale civil war, the pro-independence FRETILIN declared victory in the capital city of Dili and declared an independent East Timor on Nov. 28, 1975. Claiming its assistance had been requested by East Timorese leaders, Indonesian military forces invaded on Dec. 7, 1975, and by 1979 had all but destroyed armed resistance to the occupation. Following a controversial “Popular Assembly” which many said was not a genuine act of self-determination, Indonesia declared the territory a province of Indonesia.
For 25 years, the people of East Timor were subjected to extrajudicial executions, torture and starvation. The 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre caused outrage around the world, and reports of other such killings were numerous. Resistance to Indonesian rule remained strong; in 1996 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two men from East Timor, Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and José Ramos-Horta, for their ongoing efforts to peacefully end the occupation. A 1999 vote to determine East Timor’s future resulted in an overwhelming majority in favor of independence, and in 2002 East Timor became an independent nation. The occupation claimed between 102,800 and 183,000 East Timorese lives, out of a population of less than 700,000.
I REALLY want to go there, so wish me luck that something works out.
To see what’s coming up, check the 30-day Challenge List.