Isa Bradridge and one of the orphans in Gleno, are looking forward to the Mullumbimby connection.
Isa Bradridge and one of the orphans in Gleno, are looking forward to the Mullumbimby connection.

Mullum and East Timor forge links

THE township of Mullumbimby, and the village of Gleno about an hour-and-a-half west of Dili in East Timor, would have to be about as far apart in life-styles as one could imagine.

One, all tastefully renovated old houses set in lush gardens, shops bursting with fresh produce and the must-have consumer goods of modern life, the other a battle-scarred landscape where a people torn apart by the war of independence nine years ago are slowly slowly rebuilding their towns and villages and lives.

Now these two points on the map are about to be joined in a great spirit of generosity and humanity, as the Rotary Club of Mullumbimby embarks on a project to secure a future for the orphans of that town.

When Rotary president David D’Vash went to East Timor two months ago to visit the orphanage set up by one-time Byron Shire resident Isa Bradridge and his wife Ina, and financed by “the good people of Australia, and primarily from Byron Shire,” he saw the scars of war everywhere very much visible, but his aim was to see what Rotary could do to help the children orphaned by that war, now reaching 18 or 19 years of age who could no longer stay in the orphanage.

“We realised that the best way to help these grown-up kids was to give them something to do, and something that would provide an income," David said.

“We found out they don’t have a sawmill, so we decided our project would be to raise the money for a mobile sawmill, one that the kids could learn to operate, that could go from village to village to allow the selective cutting down of trees.

“In this way the kids could earn an income, locals would be helped to rebuild their homes and the people could be educated in how to cut trees selectively.”

The project will be carried out in conjunction with the permaculture academy that Southern Cross University, under the headship of Professor David Lloyds, has already established in East Timor, one that has a strong emphasis on replanting complementing the selective cutting.

Now that the decision has been made about the provision of the mobile sawmill, Rotary is facing the challenge of raising the funds.

“It’s a relatively simple machine to operate,” said David, “but costly. We need to raise about $20,000.

“We hope to fund it through our own funds in Mullumbimby Rotary, and Rotary International, but we are also calling on anyone who would like to chip in, or to help with fundraising ideas.

“These kids really need it. Many of them saw things we could not even imagine, and trauma counselling is an ongoing necessity.”

The project fits the aims of Rotary, which are always about helping people to help themselves, to create self-reliance, as well as to help others less fortunate than ourselves.

And David sees that helping the people of East Timor is something we are obligated to do.

“In World War II the East Timorese helped the Aussie soldiers for no other reason but kindness. We owe them for what they did for us back then.”

As well, he feels that extending a helping hand is something that both underlines our common humanity and allows us to come more fully into our own humanity.

“I think I like myself better,” he says of the effects of the six or so years or his involvement with Rotary.

Anyone wishing to help out with fundraising ideas can phone Rotary secretary Helen Carpenter on 0407 267 215, and donations can be made to the account of Rotary Club Community Service at the Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062578, account number 10020138.

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