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Published on 1st June 2010
VSA (Volunteer Service Abroad) has reaffirmed its commitment to working in partnership with Timor-Leste by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Timor-Leste in Wellington today
VSA chief executive officer Deborah Snelson says the MOU, which she signed during Timor-Leste Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa's visit to New Zealand, will make it easier for VSA to send skilled volunteers to support the development of South East Asia's newest nation.
"The MOU is significant as it signals that VSA has a long-term commitment to working in partnership with the Government of Timor-Leste. On a more practical level, the MOU will also make it easier for VSA volunteers and staff to the get the visas they need to work in Timor-Leste."
She told Mr da Costa that while VSA's programme in Timor-Leste is small, the quality of the work VSA does can still contribute to positive change.
Mr da Costa also welcomed the MOU, saying that non-government organisations such as VSA have an important role in deepening the bonds of friendship between countries.
"We value your intention and desire to work with us. If we can facilitate and increase the number of VSA volunteers working in Timor-Leste we are happy to do that. And of course, as a new nation we need to learn from your skilful people. With your knowledge and experience our country will be better off in the future."
VSA first started sending volunteers to Timor-Leste in 2002. Volunteers have worked with government and community-based partner organisations in the agriculture, health and education sectors.
At present, VSA has two volunteers based in Dili. One is working with auto-mechanic trainees at the Dili Institute of Technology to strengthen their employment opportunities in the automotive sector; the other is supporting the East Timor NGO Forum (FONGTIL) to increase community engagement with the Government.
VSA also has a Development Officer based in Dili. Part of her job is to recommend ways in which VSA can more effectively contribute towards Timor-Leste's development. VSA is currently developing a number of new assignments in the country, including assignments in vocational training, tourism and hospitality, and small business development.
The MOU is the second to be signed between a New Zealand organisation and the Government of Timor-Leste. The other is with the New Zealand Customs Service.
"These two MOUs provide evidence of New Zealand's support for the development of South East Asia's newest nation at a practical, grassroots level," says Ms Snelson.