Published on 28th April 2015
The accompanying partners of volunteers always add a huge amount of value to their partners’ assignments – whether it’s by finding an assignment of their own, or becoming involved in their local communities in whatever way they can. Pip Desmond, accompanying her husband Pat Martin in Timor-Leste, has left behind an invaluable guide for the country’s flourishing creative community.
While Pat was working with World Vision in Dili, Pip says she took her time finding a way to contribute, exploring the city and learning Tetun. Pip is an award-winning author and works as a freelance writer and editor in New Zealand, and quickly became involved in teaching free English evening classes – a scheme she inherited from another expat and which attracted up to 80 students each night.
Pip says, “That was very satisfying, and linked me into the malae (expat) community," though it was the local community she ended up working most closely with. She was approached by Nuno Rodriguez, a researcher at Comissão de Pesquisa e Elaboração da História da Luta da Mulher Timor, to teach creative writing in Tetun, the national language, which she’d been learning for just a year. “There are no creative writing courses available in Timor, either at school or University level,” Pip says. She writes about the classes here on her blog.
Nuno was working with a team of researchers recording and writing the stories of women involved in the clandestine resistance movement during the Indonesian occupation of Timor. He suggested that Pip write a manual based on the course she’d prepared, and so Matadalan – Hakerek Kreativu was born. The book, written in Tetun, is the first of its kind.
It includes writing tips, examples and exercises, as well as excerpts from the researchers’ stories. Pip’s Tetun tutor and Nuno helped with translation of portions of the book, and Pat designed and produced it. VSA funded a first print run of 150.
The guide was launched in Dili before Pip and Pat returned to New Zealand. Pip says, “Nuno is a journalist, deeply committed to developing a creative writing culture in Timor. He has a wide network that will ensure the manual is distributed to students, teachers, researchers and others.” Already she’s heard a rumour that it may be added to the school curriculum.
Timor-Leste Programme Manager Diane Thorne-George says Pip’s work filled a real need: “Pip has been enormously committed to her creative writing course, and is acutely aware of the value of a resource such as this to support and build on it. It will last well beyond the end of her time in Timor-Leste.”