FAQs Returned Volunteers


Gerda Pentinga (Timor-Leste)

Gerda Pentinga is volunteering as a English Language Resource Development Adviser (e-volunteering) with the Dili Institute of Technology in Timor-Leste. Gerda will complete her assignment in August 2017.

Back in Dili, Timor-Leste

Published on 21st July 2017

Volunteer Gerda Pentinga gives us a snapshot of what it's like being back in Timor-Leste...


Last week I arrived for the second time in Timor-Leste on an e-volunteering field trip and it’s so good to be back.


My assignment here is similar to the one I undertook last year. I am working as an English Language Resource Development Adviser for the Dili Institute of Technology, or DIT as most people know it.


DIT has a very well organised language department with about 32 teachers. They are all young graduates who are committed to teaching English, Tetun (the local language) or Portuguese. The largest group are the English teachers and their positive attitude and willingness to learn more is very encouraging. The Portuguese teachers are being assisted by two colleagues from Mozambique who are here for six months.


Gerda in Timor

A group of English teachers


It’s complicated language-wise in Timor Leste, because Tetun is the people’s language, Portuguese is the government’s language and English is the business and international communication language. Many teachers are trying to get on top of all three languages, which is very hard work. Most of them are studying Portuguese and English as an extra task, at the same time.


Last year I became VSA’s first e-volunteer as I worked at DIT for four months and then finished my assignment at home in Christchurch. I found a series of books suitable for the English teachers and students of the Engineering and IT Departments and adapted them for use at DIT, using lots of extra material, especially from YouTube.


Gerda in Timor-Leste

Students doing sample work for the “Mud Room”


This year, I am back for a much shorter period, on a field trip to support the e-volunteering work I have been doing and to prepare for my next assignment working with the lecturers of the Business and Administration Faculty to include English teaching. It’s a chance to speak and work with these lecturers and to find books and material for them to start the English stream. DIT is planning to teach 15 hours a week of intensive English to all first year students, and to follow up with five hours a week the second year. This should give the students a chance to really develop the English skills which are needed to study their subject courses. The same will be done for the Petroleum and Gas faculty at a later stage. My e-volunteering will continue for a while!


Gerda Pentinga in Timor

Dili’s famous avocado chocolate smoothie, a meal in itself!

Coming back to DIT has been such a pleasure, the welcome was warm, spontaneous and very positive. I don’t think I have ever been hugged and kissed by so many people and it made me feel so good. The language teachers are a group of hardworking men and women. They work long hours, teach large groups of students and have had to learn many new skills, especially when we introduced the Technical English books. Now we will give them even more new material. This will give them a chance to become more experienced, flexible and enhance their skills. VSA is giving them that chance.


Dili is a vibrant city; it has many restaurants and a wide variety of great food. Fresh fruit and vegetables are always available and there is an active social life for volunteers of all ages. Most volunteers have bought scooters or motor bikes, but there is a very cheap mini bus system and taxis are very reasonable and plentiful. We even have a registered taxi company now, which is a bit more expensive, but very reliable.


I don’t have time to travel much this time around, but there are many options to dive, swim, run and see more of the country during weekends. Much to my surprise, the weather is very pleasant at the moment and I do not even need air-conditioning at night. During the day, a fan is enough.

There are many options available to work as a volunteer in Timor-Leste and I would strongly suggest anyone have a look, as working as a volunteer has enriched my life in so many ways. I have made so many friends and as far as work is concerned, I am learning every day!



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