A group of 23 Australian veterans conducted an 11 day Veteran Health programme from 14 to 25 October 2017 distributing 2,500 Kits4Kids in remote rural areas of Timor Leste. The programme also involved a range of physical activities involving daily walks, some cycling, stretching and discussions on a range of physical activity options suitable for veterans. It also included inputs on nutrition, nurture of the mind, the soul and relationships, as well as developing a future life purpose.
A continuing aspect of the Timor Awakening programme involves the distribution of Kits4Kits packs to rural schools. These small education kits consist of an exercise book, a pencil, rubber, ruler and a Ziploc plastic bag to carry them in and are purchased in Dili by Rotary with funds raised in Australia. Of course the children and teachers are delighted to receive these resources, but the engagement with school children has a therapeutic effect on our participating veterans as well. Programme Director Michael Stone says “There is as much joy and smiles on the faces of our veterans as there is on the children.”
This particular programme was code named ‘Commandos Return’, as it comprised representatives from the State Commando Associations desirous of improving their health and well being, and it involved travelling 450 km to all the sites of Commando activity in WW2, as well as places that 4 RAR Cdo and 2 Cdo Regt have served in recent years.
The programme saw 1000 kits being distributed to five schools in the Betano region on the south coast of Timor where our WW2 commandos secretly entered and withdrew from the country. 500 kits were distributed in Bazartette, in the mountains south of Dili where commandos maintained an observation post over old Dili port and harbour. The remaining 1000 kits were distributed to 4 schools in the coastal district of Batugade, proximate to the border with Indonesia, where Australian troops served from 1999 to 2003.
This was the fifth in a series of the Timor Awakening programmes that have been conducted by the Veterans Care Association (VCA) led by DVA Men’s Health Peer Education volunteer Chaplain Gary Stone.
The Timor Awakening programme is much more than 11 days in Timor. It involves a three month preparation period and a six month follow up period where VCA Life Coach Michael Albrecht guides participants in implementing their Health and Wellbeing plans.
The Timor Awakening rehabilitation programme was designed by 20 year Army veteran Major Michael Stone, who spent 96 months deployed in Timor over his military service. Responding to a series of crises over many years saw Michael himself diagnosed with PTSD and medically discharged from the ADF. The inadequacies of his treatment saw him and his a Father Gary – a 47 year Army and AFP veteran gather together a group of ex-service doctors, nurses, psychologists, chaplains and pastoral carers, to form the VCA and offer holistic health education to promote resilience and offer hope to veterans and families with complex health issues.
The 11 day Timorese Immersion utilises a diverse range of educative experiences – reflecting on the resilience of our WW2 forebears, hearing the inspiration of the Falantil guerrilla fighters in their battle for independence, formal educational inputs, small and large group discussions and reflection, community engagement, and the experience of the camaraderie of a group of veterans on mission together to see how they can improve their health and the health of others in the veteran community.
Comments by participants in this programme have included:
“I feel I am now a much better person.”
“The best recovery programme going.”
“I am much happier, less stressed, and more grateful for the things that matter in life.”
“I am feeling very refreshed, both mentally and spiritually.”
“An excellent programme.”
The desired outcome of the programme is to raise the health and well-being of veterans and their families, and this is being clearly demonstrated by veterans who have sustained significant improvements over the past 18 months that the programmes have been running.
The Veterans Care Association is grateful to the members of Rotary for their commitment to funding and providing these kits. It is a wonderful way of showing the rural people of Timor, still living in poverty, that Australians still care for them. We acknowledge the support and financial contributions from the Rotary Clubs of Townsville (NQLD), Townsville Central (NQLD), Townsville Sunrise (NQLD) and Darwin (NT) and Rotary District 9550.
The next Timor Awakening activity will see a further 2,500 Kits4Kids distribution in April 2018.
Author: Gary Stone Date: 26 October 2017
The Veterans Padre
Veterans Care Association Inc
Holistic Care for of Body Mind & Soul for Veterans, Families & Carers