Jeanette Daysh is volunteering as a Small Business Adviser with the Nazareth Foundation in Dili, Timor-Leste. Six months into her assignment, we checked in to see how Nazareth's work is making a difference.
What inspired you to volunteer in the first place?
25 years ago, while living in Australia, my husband and I and our 3 small children were accepted as Australian volunteers for a two-year placement in Papua New Guinea. They were two of the best years of our lives – we had a wonderful time living there and felt it was an outstanding experience for our children. We always knew we would volunteer again – and now, with the children all grown up and independent, and us not too old to be useful, the time was right again.
How did you become involved in business?
After our volunteering stint in PNG we returned to New Zealand and set up our family joinery firm – where I learnt all the skills that are necessary for running a small business. During that time I also worked full time as a Secondary School Director of Sport – which had very transferable skills, and taught me a lot about people managing. The knowledge gained in both these roles has been really useful to me while on this assignment.
What wins/challenges/needs in relation to decent work and economic development can you see in the local community?
There is a huge need for jobs in Timor Leste. A huge percentage of the population are aged under 25 – and these people need work. It is very humbling to see how many hours some people are prepared to put in for a very small sum of money. For instance, the boys who sell Pulsas ( a phone money card) make just $4.00 for every $100 of Pulsa that they sell – and when you take into account that most local people only buy $1.00 or $2.00 worth at a time – it an awful lot of sales for a very small reward.
Wins are that there are so many hard working NGOs who are determined to make a difference in the lives of the Timorese people. There are some amazing projects in place ranging from teaching healthy living – such as growing highly nutritious crops to cook & accessing clean water, to immunisation programs, healthy relationship promotions and accessing decent education for children. The Government is trying to encourage business growth by offering good tax-refund incentives. There are several micro enterprises that will help young entrepreneurs with start-up finance and who will help to support them in establishing their own businesses.
How do you feel your assignment is helping Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth in the local community or organisation you’re working with?
The Nazareth Foundation employs people who live with a disability, or who have come from a disadvantaged background. Disabled people in Timor-Leste have a difficult life. Whether they are born disabled or whether they have been left disabled following an accident, cultural beliefs are such that they are deemed to have done something bad or evil to deserve this. These people are often denied the basic right to education and gaining meaningful employment is very difficult for them. To be employed is very highly valued and can be totally life changing, in fact the far reaching effects of gaining employment in Timor-Leste cannot be under estimated. Once in a regular paying job, lives of people change. For once they can afford to care for their families properly by means of feeding them healthy food. They can treat health issues promptly and prevent serious health issues later, they can afford to house their families in decent accommodation and send their children to school. Even second generations in families benefit by a child being able to attend school, as education becomes the norm, good futures are ensured, and employment is more easily obtained - not only for themselves, but for future children as well.
For the first time people have the means to implement budgets, enabling them to buy items such as cycles or motorbikes so they can transport themselves independently. They can plan for the future and have the means to save towards it. This not only improves their lives on a daily basis, but is also empowering and increases self esteem.
Timorese people are keen to share their knowledge. For every person given extra training on a job, the effect is wide reaching. Capacity building in the workplace is common by the sharing of skills, and other eager to learn workers benefit from the professional training of a single employee.
I have copied below the company HR strategy / Health and Safety and Values
Our HR strategy
- To maintain a holistic approach to employee relationships. Employees are treated as family.
- Workers are well supervised and supported to enable them to work to capacity.
- All employees are given full induction training – including workplace health and safety.
- Workers can live on site if they require accommodation
- Strong quality control measures are put in place – all workers are involved with this and are encouraged to constantly check their work against prototypes
- Regular staff meetings are held to ensure everyone knows if we are on target with production
- Above award remuneration rates are paid
- Staff training and reviews are ongoing
- Incentive schemes are fully detailed and documented
- Celebration of success and regular recognition of good work are implemented
Occupational Health and Safety is still in a development stage in most Timor-Leste businesses
Nazareth Manufacturing is committed to ensuring its employees work in an environment that is safe, hygienic and healthy.
- Ongoing accident prevention education is provided
- Employees are provided with full safety equipment to wear, and are educated on the importance of this. All employees are expected to wear ear muffs while the steel is being cut, boots while in the workplace and individual safety equipment relevant to their position ie gloves for concrete workers, glasses for steel finishers etc.
- Meals and access to unlimited drinking water are provided.
- Employees have been offered education sessions on the benefits or smoking cessation and are given a monthly cash reward for not smoking in the workplace.
The values of Nazareth Manufacturing are to realize the potential of disadvantaged people in Timor-Leste by:
- Promote the dignity, rights and equality of employees as contributing members of the community.
- Help create a secure and healthy environment for employees to live in
- Strengthen the confidence and self-esteem of employees to use their abilities and talents.
- Represent the right of employees to non-formal education, health care and disabled access to community services.
- Help employees become more self-sufficient by providing support and training to obtain employment.
- Encourage and support employees to participate more fully in community activities
What is it like to live in Timor-Leste? Best surprise/biggest adjustment? What do you and Bryan do in your free time?
Dili is an amazing place to live. The people here are so positive after the rough deal that they have been given, and forgiveness is very much in their culture. They smile, laugh and enjoy what little they have – and manage to teach us on a daily basis about making the most of life and not looking back. We have made friends with a couple of Timorese families who are very generous with their hospitality – and who love showing us off as their pet malae!
There is a large active expat community in Dili and there is no end to the social scene. The beaches are great and snorkeling world class – all within a short drive from the city centre.
We have a large group of VSA’s here and we get together for famous Porch Parties, to watch the Rugby, to spend the day at the beach or to just be together. As we are all living in rented accommodation, the weekends are pretty much free to do what we want with (no painting the shed roof or mowing the lawns to be done here - yaaay), so it means we will get together and explore new places – or just go out for a meal to entertain ourselves.
I go regularly to an Aussie boot-camp (held twice a week), a yoga class and I’ve joined the Dili Saturday walkers group – who have an adventure every Saturday morning. I am lucky enough to have membership to a pool within walking distance of my work, so I can spend my two-hour lunchbreak lolling in the cool water – and I am currently teaching a young Filipino woman to swim (boy that’s a challenge!).
Bryan and a couple of other volunteers (both Kiwi and Aussie) enjoy motor bike riding and have managed to get around a lot of Timor on their bikes. The roads are pretty awful and it is much nicer scooting around the pot holes on a bike than what it is bouncing through them in a car! One of their rides took them to a village where the people showed them a water pump that had not worked for many years – a repair project that they now have underway.
The biggest adjustment, I guess, would have to be getting used to the heat – it’s weird being perpetually dripping in sweat and something that we are not overly comfortable with as Kiwis. However every cloud has a silver lining and it is very hard to gain weight while living here – despite drinking vast quantities of beer and eating lovely curries! The language is also an ongoing challenge. We try hard – with various levels of success, and have absolutely mastered the art of smiling and nodding a lot. People do appreciate the effort we make and every now and again we get a big surprise when we are actually understood.
Dili is an easy place to live – there is always something happening, there is very little in the way of goods that cannot be found, the public transport is functional, the people are lovely and the food is cheap.
We cannot believe six months has gone by already – we are having such a great time living here and we know that at the end of our two years we will be very reluctant to leave.