The Madison-Ainaro Sister City Alliance (MASA) is a project of the Madison East Timor solidarity community. It was established in February 2000, in response to a request from community leaders in Ainaro for international friends to partner with them at a crucial time.
The mission statement of the group reads, in part:
The indomitable bravery of the East Timorese, who resisted a brutal, 24 year-long military occupation and nonviolently acted to end it, inspires us to pursue social justice here. Through the sister city relationship, we will actively support movement towards a vital, inclusive, egalitarian society in both East Timor and the U.S.
During the ten years of our project, we have worked to make contact with friends in Ainaro, hosted delegations, and provided material aid made possible by the good people of Madison. In association with a similar organization in Ballarat, Australia, we are establishing an extensive network of friends and organizers to make the most of these international opportunities. With your help, we can do even more in the future. (Read more in our PDF brochure.)
Madison-Ainaro Sister City Alliance
c/o Eric S. Piotrowski
213 N. Fifth Street
Madison, WI 53704
You can support our work by making a contribution.
Please make checks payable to "East Timor Action Network" and write "MASA" in the memo line. Tax-deductible contributions can be made to the Foundation for International Scientific Cooperation/MASA. All donations may be sent to the address shown here. Thank you for your support!
The Ainaro Lia-Foun
MASA's official newsletter, published once a year (sometimes more), is filled with news and updates on conditions in Ainaro and our work with the people there. We're pleased to present the full text of past issues:
In addition, these older issues are -- at least for now -- available only in PDF format:
To establish lasting connections between Madison and Ainaro, MASA has conducted regular delegations to and from East Timor. The following are brief descriptions of each voyage, with the most recent at the top:
- 2008: Father Evaristo Soares and Agio Gomes. In our first-ever delegation to the US from East Timor, we were joined by two respected members of the Ainaro community. The delegation toured local farms and meetings with the local Catholic community. More information is available in the video interview.
- 2005: Diane Farsetta, John Peck, and Eric Piotrowski. As reported in depth for the Spring 2006 Lia Foun, this was the first trip to Timor for both John and Eric. The delegation focused on permaculture, education, and the state of community organizations. Small grants were distributed to a variety of deserving groups in Ainaro, and the group met with people from assorted government offices and NGOs.
- 2004: Inga and Tom Foley. The Foleys are longtime activists on issues relating to East Timor, so Inga's first trip to the island was of course thrilling. With an eye toward agriculture and community radio, the pair met with many different people in Ainaro, and distributed tools and grant money to deserving organizations. More information can be found in the Spring 2005 Lia Foun.
- 2002: Diane Farsetta, Tom Foley, and Mike Iltis. Our first official delegation presented the charter establishing Ainaro as an official sister-city relationship, and began to secure important relationships between travellers from Madison and people living in Ainaro. Full details can be found in the (PDF) February 2003 Lia Foun. Mike's complete notes are available here, and the delegation's final report is here. Mike also has three pages of photos available: 01 02 03, and is looking to network with anyone interested in a sister university project.
Other individuals have also been integral to MASA's work:
- Elliot Stokes is a longtime Madison-based activist on East Timor solidarity, especially in association with Medical Aid for East Timor. He made his first trip to East Timor in January of 2006, when he met with folks all over the country -- and spent over a week in Ainaro. He also worked closely with Dr. Dan Murphy and the Bairo Pite Clinic in Dili.
- Yohan York is an artist and activist who lived in Madison for several years, becoming involved with the local ETAN chapter in the late 1990s. After the smoke from the violence in 1999 had settled, Yohan moved to Dili and helped to organize the Bibi Bulak performance group, then worked to co-found Arte Moris, an artists' community and residence. (Be sure to view the permanent collection of works created by Timorese artists!)
Yohan has been a great friend of MASA, helping us to communicate with friends in Ainaro; deliver aid supplies and financial assistance; and arrange travel within East Timor.
- Jen Laakso is MASA's Madison pioneer. She got the ball rolling when she visited Ainaro in October of 2000 and met with community leaders who urged her to help establish a sister-city relationship. We've made available excerpts from her report, and the full PDF file is also available. She also wrote an article for the Spring 2001 Lia Foun (PDF).
MASA supports a variety of programs in the district of Ainaro, East Timor. We're always looking for ways to show solidarity, so please contact us if you know of a program that might be a good fit for our group.
- Mau Nuno Cemetery Renovation
On 23 September 1999, a massacre took place in the village of Mau Nuno. The Cemetery and Monument fell into disrepair over the last ten years, but members of the community recently organized to renovate this important memorial. Our funds helped buy paint and supplies for the site.
- Ainaro Vulnerable Persons Unit (VPU)
In 2009, the Madison Ainaro Sister-City Alliance made a donation to the Ainaro police department's Vulnerable Persons Unit, which specializes in addressing reports of domestic violence and battery. Our friends in Ballarat helped to coordinate the fundraising effort, which culminated in the purchase of a new camera and motorbike. These tools will help police respond to cases of domestic violence and hopefully make Ainaro a better place.
Ainaro police held a ceremony in October 2009 to celebrate the new acquisitions and the important work of the VPU. Thanks to everyone who donates to MASA and supports this and other projects in Ainaro.
In addition to all of the above, MASA carries out various other activities and events to educate Madison about the history and culture of East Timor, as well as provide real solidarity assistance to the people of Ainaro.
- Tais Sales. In the heart of Ainaro's small community market is a women-run cooperative selling colorful, homemade weaving known as tais. With every delegation, MASA members purchase large quantities of these weavings, bring them back to Madison, re-sell them, and use the proceeds to purchase more fabrics on the next trip. While we don't have an online shop (yet), you can take a look at some samples we've had recently. If you'd like to buy a tais weaving, email email@example.com, or visit us at one of our many public appearances (see below).
- Tour de Timor Annual Bike Ride. Each spring, MASA and Medical Aid for East Timor host a family-friendly bike ride to raise funds for our solidarity work. For more information, visit the main Tour de Timor page.
- Advocacy and Activism. As a partner of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network/US, MASA members take action for peace, democracy and justice in East Timor. In the past, we've held vigils to commemorate important dates in Timor's history (such as 12 September 1991, the date of the Santa Cruz Massacre); conducted letter-writing campaigns; and hosted speakers from East Timor.
- Public Events. MASA makes a point to be visible in the community. We usually have a table of information, resources, and tais weavings at community festivals, and we regularly give report-backs following delegations. If you'd like to invite someone from the Madison-Ainaro Sister City Alliance to speak or table at an event you're organizing, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
History of MASA
On 20 February 2001, the Madison city council unanimously approved a resolution making Ainaro, East Timor an official Madison sister city and the first such East Timor sister city in the US. (Read the Press Release for more details.) The relationship was established at the request of the community of Ainaro, who has also urged concerned groups to help with medical, women's, educational, farming, and other projects.
Ainaro is a small mountain town in the southwest of East Timor. Ainaro's main resources are its delicious organic coffee and aromatic sandalwood trees. It is a diverse community, where Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims are neighbors.
Unfortunately, Ainaro was also home to a large contingent of Indonesian military-backed militias in the months leading up to the August 30th, 1999 referendum on independence. An observer of the ballot in Ainaro commented:
"The day of the vote was amazing. We got to the main polling station at about 6 am, and over half the town was there waiting in line for the polls to open at 7 . . . Inside the ballot rooms many people kissed their ballots before putting them in the boxes . . . About a half-hour after the polling started, a small bomb went off outside -- nobody was hurt, and although everyone skittered a few feet, after a moment they all went back to their places in line, undeterred."
According to a visitor to Ainaro following the military's post-ballot destruction, "just about every building in Ainaro is burnt out . . . [many people] have been forcefully sent to [Indonesian] West Timor camps."
A sister city relationship with Ainaro is needed to assist in the rebuilding of the community and to advocate for human rights and justice. We also believe that international solidarity is needed to assure that the transitional United Nations administration and international aid groups in East Timor work with and are respectful of the Timorese and their culture. Lastly, we see a great need for monitoring the activities of international financial institutions in East Timor.
Files and Links
The following items may be of particular interest to the Madison-area solidarity community (or wherever you are):
Articles & Documents
Other Madison Sister Cities