Dili, Timor-Leste: Whoosh! A cascade of water flew into the air as a Tour de Timor biker grabbed the open bottle from my hand and continued up the steep Natarbora hill. It was obvious that staffing a water station for the Tour de Timor 2011 was going to involve a personal soaking. As I, along with three national staff with the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and a group of community volunteers, filled water bottles and camelbacks, the bikers seemed relieved to receive our smiles and the refreshment. That chilly evening, Tour de Timor bikers, volunteers and staff banded together, and kept warm by sharing supplies and offering encouragement. Many new friendships began that day.
My position as a UN Volunteer with UNMIT has been a multifaceted adventure. I arrived in Timor-Leste in July 2009 for an elections monitoring assignment in Manatuto District. I now work with the Public Information Office (PIO) in media relations. My prior experience included editing, writing and communications for academic and humanitarian organizations in New York, including for the School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University and the American Red Cross. I had also worked for the International Federation of the Red Cross in Dakar, Senegal as a Reporting Officer in Disaster Management.
Within media relations at UNMIT, I am part of a production team responsible for the Daily Media Review, the twice daily summary of all national and international news related to Timor-Leste. The summary is sent to the more than 2,700 UNMIT staff and 15 United Nations agencies present in Timor-Leste. With two national counterparts, Jamie and Hipolito, I monitor and translate local TV, radio and print news. We work well as a team, and respectively refine each others English and Tetum. Covering news events can require helicopter travel to outlying districts. I delight in these opportunities to report on important events, meet people from all over the country, and view beautiful Timor from the air.
As the person responsible for the PIO induction presentation to new UNMIT staff, I enjoy introducing media relations work saying, You are all very lucky, because every day you will receive two emails from me. I emphasize that we represent both the United Nations and our home countries. I discuss the importance of upholding appropriate behaviour and driving UN vehicles in a courteous manner while in Timor-Leste to provide only positive material for possible media coverage.
Every day is interesting. I enjoy interacting with colleagues from a variety of countries and often use my Tetum, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Wolof language skills in one day. Additional volunteer activities include teaching English classes to young Timorese and interacting with children and staff at a local orphanage. My free time includes bike riding around Dili and playing on a womens soccer team. I especially enjoy interacting with members of Timorese womens teams and the many spectators.
I cherish this opportunity to offer my professional skills through the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, to have daily contact with Timorese people, to visit this beautiful country, and to have this amazing multicultural experience.