Pittwater Friends of Soibada Committee Members
Tamara is the founder and life force of Pittwater Friends of Soibada. Her connection with Timor Leste began in 1999 during the Timor Leste/Indonesian conflict when she was stationed there as a Navy Intelligence Officer. The events of that time made a lasting impression on Tamara. Years later, the connection with Timor Leste was rekindled when she sought to establish a Sister School relationship between her children's primary school in Avalon and a Timorese school. Under Tamara's dedicated leadership the relationship has grown into the much more complex and involved network that it is today. The organisation has made a difference in so many lives, both Timorese and Australian.
Local Avalon business owner, Ian Laidlaw of Scally's Hairdressing Salon has been involved with Pittwater Friends of Soibada since the early days of the organisation. He has traveled to Soibada every year since 2011 in varying roles. Ian's early visits to Soibada saw him teaching hairdressing skills to local people giving them a means of earning a living. His role has evolved over the years and he has provided support in a number of capacities - 4WD driving over challenging terrain, organising volunteers, supporting water sanitisation projects and numerous management tasks.
To learn more about Ian's experience in Soibada click here.
Sal is the Early Childhood Program Manager for Pittwater Friends of Soibada and travelled twice to Soibada in 2014 in connection with this project. She has been utilizing her early childhood teaching skills in the development of a picture book to be used in Australian preschools to familiarize children with life in Timor. Sal has also volunteered to sponsor a child from Soibada to live with her. Tania Da Costa arrived in Avalon in late July and is currently improving her English language skills in order to start her Australian secondary education. She will live with Sally's family for the duration of her secondary school education.
Juerg is Treasurer for PFOS and travelled to Soibada with the group in October 2014. Born in Switzerland, Juerg starting his working life as an electrician at Zurich airport, he put himself through university to become an electrical engineer. At 26 he transferred to Nigeria as a telecommunications engineer. There could not have been a more stark contrast between orderly Switzerland and Nigeria where life meant nothing and people endured such hardship on a daily basis.
He came to Australia on a working holiday - to stay a year or two! He met his lovely wife and his future diverged from that which he had envisaged. He worked in medical electronics for 15 years and this work took him all over the world.
He then embarked on a different career and started studying accounting. A very different field for him. He is now a practising Tax Agent specialising in small business. Juerg has lived in Avalon for 32 years and loves this country. He does admit to yearning for the mountains and snow occasionally and thoroughly enjoys going back to Switzerland from time to time.
Virpi has a background in events and banking and has worked as a volunteer in a diverse range of roles since the age of fifteen. Her long-term interest in the developing world has seen her assume the role of Convener of the National Women’s Team for Amnesty International Australia, an organisation within which she also worked in the area of corporate responsibility and on the ‘Demand Dignity’ campaign. More recently, her interest in pursuing social justice work with countries close to Australia has led her to Join PFOS and take on the role of Social Justice coordinator at Sacred Heart School in Mona Vale where her two sons attend school. Virpi also volunteers two days per week for ADI, Australian Doctors International, an organisation which sends medical personnel to Papua New Guinea. Virpi travelled to Soibada with PFOS in October 2014 to establish a special friendship connection with Tasi Fatin School on behalf of Sacred Heart Catholic School.
A long time Pittwater local, Ange is a founding member of Pittwater Friends of Soibada. Working behind the scenes, Ange is plays a core role in the group. Her organising skills and dedication to the group has enabled the numerous fundraising functions that PFOS has hosted. She provides vital support to all committee members, always being there to help no matter what the task. Ange loves knowing that she is doing something to help people in Soibada and has enjoyed the many friendships she has made through the group.
One highlight for Ange was meeting Timor-Leste First Lady Kirsty Sword Gusmao. (Pictured left - Ange on the right!)
Ann has been a stalwart of the Pittwater Friends of Soibada since its commencement in 2010. A retired nurse, Ann never misses an opportunity to support Pittwater Friends of Soibada. Ann helps organise events, joins the Soibada knitter's group every Wednesday and is always on hand to help with stalls and Market Day events. She loves being involved with the group as it 'Keeps me involved with young people and part of the community'.
Pictured with Mana Lou
Rob has been a Pittwater local all his life. He is the manager of Mitre 10 in Avalon. Rob joined Pittwater Friends of Soibada in 2015 after seeing family and friends get so involved in the organisation. Curious to find out what it was all about, Rob made the journey to Soibada in July this year.
He found it a rewarding experience, helping with a number of projects that were achieved during this visit. He was a key player in the installation of two water tanks at the Salau primary school. He assisted Rob Romer with the installation and maintenance of the tank pro units already installed in Somoro and Tasi Fatin. Rob was of great value in assessing the progress of the Training Centre and Guest House construction. Rob is looking forward to his ongoing role within Pittwater Friends of Soibada.
Rob is pictured with Amin, one of our wonderful volunteer interpreters from Dili university.
Water Sanitisation Manager
Pittwater local Robert Romer is the owner and inventor of the TankPro water sterilizing unit. He specialises in development design applications and provisions for clean, safe, sanitised water in countries throughout the world.
Rob has an extensive background of over 25 years experience in water treatment by electro-chlorination, combined with a sound knowledge of electrical sanitising applications, water treatment equipment technology and techniques.
This makes Rob perfectly suited to manage the Water Sanitisation program for Pittwater Friends of Soibada. Rob's goal is to give the community access to clean, safe, sterile water. Other than the few TankPro units that Rob has installed there is no clean, running or stored water and any water that is collected is diseased.
David Haythornthwaite is a retired documentary film director who has lived in the Pittwater Shire for most of his life. He worked in the film industry until 1993 when he elected to make a sea change and moved to the offshore Currawong Cottages at Currawong Beach in Ku-Ring-Gai National Park where, along with his wife Margaret, he was caretaker for 10 years.
David had had a long term interest in the people of Timor Leste and their sufferings, having followed their struggle for Independence for a number of years. When Tamara Sloper Harding invited him to join the group on a trip to Soibada in 2011, David jumped at the opportunity. He wanted to apply his film industry experience to create film footage that would show people what Soibada is like.
David made two trips to Soibada in 2011 and 2012 where he made two short documentary films that can be seen on Youtube through the following links. David continues to be a supporter of Pittwater Friends of Soibada assisting where ever he can.
See David's Films here:
Impressions of Soibada