Tour de Timor X: Ten Years of Cycling and Solidarity
by Eric S. Piotrowski
In the aftermath of the horrible violence after East Timor's 1999 referendum, activists in Madison, Wisconsin wanted to find a way to raise funds and awareness about what was happening there. We came up with a bike ride -- a fun, casual way for everyone to have fun and learn and lend a hand. The Tour de Timor has become a Madison institution, and this year's 10th anniversary ride was our best ever. We had nearly 50 riders, and we raised over $5000 for solidarity projects in Ainaro, our sister cty, and Dili, East Timor's capital.
The Tour takes riders around Madson's beautiful Lake Monona, in a loop of about 13 miles. For the past few years, we've started and finished at the block party held by WORT-FM, our superb local community radio station. (WORT also helps us publicize the event.) Once the ride is over, we offer prizes, donated by local groups and businesses, to those individuals who raise the most in pledges.
For our 10th anniversary spectacular, we were joined by two special riders. Wisconsin State Senator Spencer Black is an advocate for environmental preservation, health care, and community transportation. He kicked off the ride with a generous speech about the Madison-Ainaro Sister City Alliance and Medical Aid for East Timor, and he pointed out that one of the things that makes Madison unique is our interest and engagement in global affairs.
We also had Mel along, from WORT-FM's hit commentary and comedy show "Mel and Floyd". He helped spread the word before the ride, and we appreciate his support. (He's also assured us that he'll ride with us again next year.) On the show following our ride, he explained his surprise that he was "the only one out of all those riders with training wheels".
Community members like you are the key to successful events like the Tour de Timor, and we appreciate the support of everyone who rode or gave donations. We also appreciate the support of local groups and businesses that co-sponsored the ride. They include Yellow Jersey, WORT 89.9 FM, Revolution Cycles, Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative, The Progressive Magazine, Planet Zebulon, People's Bakery, Mother Fool's Coffeehouse, Machinery Row Bicycles, Lakeside Press, Just Coffee, Family Farm Defenders, Bandung Indonesian Cuisine, and B-Side Records.
We collected plenty of footage from the ride, and we've got an action-packed (and interview-packed) video up on our website, aideasttimor.org -- check it out and see us in action. And be sure to mark your calendar for May 2010, when we'll host the 11th annual ride. A luta continua!
Dr. Dan Murphy in Madison Aug. 27-29
We will have the honor to host Dr. Dan Murphy, director of East Timor's Bairo Pite Clinic, in Madison on August 27-29. In addition to talks at the UW's Medical School and fund raising in Madison's activist community, we plan to introduce him to the College of the Menominee Nation.
The college in Keshena has a excellent nursing program and has expressed continued interest in working on issues shared by other indigenous peoples. An exchange of students and professionals between Bairo Pite Clinic in East Timor and the College would be mutually beneficial. Visit page four and our website aideasttimor.org for updates on Dr. Dan's visit. You can also visit bairopiteclinic.org for background on the clinic.
MASA Supports New Ainaro Police Unit
by Diane Farsetta and Kate Owen
Like other post-conflict and patriarchal societies, East Timor suffers high rates of domestic violence. Timorese women's rights groups have addressed the problem through public education, and by establishing the country's first shelters. In 2001, women's groups, the Timorese government and the United Nations worked together to establish Vulnerable Persons Units (VPUs) at the national and local levels. We're happy to support this important work in our sister-city of Ainaro.
The VPU is the unit within the Police National Timor-Leste (PNTL) who respond to cases of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse. Within Ainaro District there is a VPU police officer at each sub-district police station; that is, in the sub-districts of Maubisse, Hatu Builico, Ainaro and Hatu Udo. There are also two VPU Officer District Co-coordinators based at police headquarters at the Ainaro District Police Station.
From Ainaro township it takes up to two hours by vehicle to reach the other sub-districts and outlying areas. The VPU across the Ainaro District has no ready access to vehicles to respond to incidents of domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse. A motor bike and camera will allow the District Officers to respond to incidents and support sub-district officers with their expertise, transport to sites and evidence gathering and reporting when attending incidents.
In addition, the Ainaro District VPU plans to implement a community awareness and training program across the district about domestic violence and sexual assault. Not only will this provide valuable information to local communities, but it will also allow the VPU to inform these communities about its ability to respond to incidents. The unit will also spend time developing and strengthening their relationship with these local communities.
The VPU recently opened a child-friendly victim interview room for women and children who may be victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and/or child abuse. The dedicated room within the new sub-district Ainaro Police Station demonstrates the dedication of local police to respond to these issues supported by their training with and close relationship to PRADET, a Dili- based NGO working in the field.
MASA is pleased to work with the the Ballarat-Ainaro Friendship Program (an organization similar to MASA based in Australia), which is helping the VPU expand its services in Ainaro.
Gardeners of Eden Project Update
MASA has worked for several years with the Gardeners of Eden Project, which provides seeds and supplies to local communities in East Timor. It is coordinated by Colleen Coy, a member of Madison's Just Coffee collective. In the latest GoE update, Colleen writes: "At present work [...] is finally at the stage where participants want to learn seed multiplication techniques and would like to run their own seed banks.... Demand is such that local farmers could afford to buy seed once available locally. It is likely those the prices can be set below that of imported seeds. All varieties used are open-pollinated, non-hybrid varieties which can be multiplied easily. Support is needed to ensure that there is sufficient planning to avoid unwanted cross-fertilisation."
Gardeners of Eden plans to work with Agio Gomes, who visited Madison as part of a MASA delegation in 2008. Visit justcoffee.coop/en/seedproject for more info.