Damon, Brendan, Emma and Steve Yates in East Timor last year. Mrs Yates will return to the island in May.
Damon, Brendan, Emma and Steve Yates in East Timor last year. Mrs Yates will return to the island in May.

Timor revisited: Mum offers hope

IT is a memory that still gives Warwick’s Emma Yates goose-bumps.

A sick woman forced to carry her dying baby seven kilometres along a rough mountain track in East Timor seeking medical help.

As a tourist, Mrs Yates had driven the same track in a car; the seemingly short distance took a staggering five hours.

As a mother, it made her feel desperate.

As an Australian, it compelled her into action.

This year Mrs Yates will return to East Timor, or Timor Leste, as part of an International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) project aimed at creating positive change for women in the Asia Pacific region.

It is a long way from Palmerin Street to this developing northern neighbour, but the Warwick mother of two and experienced mediator believes the journey will be worthwhile.

“My family and I spent three weeks with friends in Timor Leste last year and it was a powerful experience,” she said.

“I knew when I was there that I would be back.”

She said knowing women in the mountainous country had difficulty accessing medical treatment and education for their children was the major catalysts for her involvement.

“Hearing of this sick woman carrying her baby so far for medical help still chills me,” Mrs Yates said.

“In many cases when they finally get to medical centres, their children are so sick they are referred on to Dili which translates to climbing onto the back of a truck and travelling for more hours.

“These are the stories which change your view of the world, which make you feel like you can and should do something to make the world a better place.”

These stories are also the reason why in May this year the Warwick woman will return to East Timor for 10 days as part of an awareness and fundraising project overseen by IWDA.

The visit will culminate in an arduous climb to the summit of Mt Ramelau, which is 2963m above sea level.

Mrs Yates admits the project represents one of the biggest challenges of her life

“I am really excited to be telling people about the inspiring work of IWDA,” Mrs Yates said.

“I’ll be spending time with the Timor Leste women, who are working with to access income and sustainable livelihoods.

“But no doubt the biggest physical challenge for me will come when we climb the highest mountain in the country.”

This return trip to help out one of our poorest neighbours comes as Mrs Yates acknowledges the difficulty many Australians at home are facing in the aftermath of the January/December floods.

“When we were overseas last year, I was reminded of how fortunate I am to be Australian,” she said, “and of all the things I take for granted, like quality health care, good roads, education for my children, and a reliable income.”

Initially her goal was to raise awareness about the need to empower East Timorese women through things like education so they can act as their own “agents of change”.

“I am paying for my own travel expenses and I am aiming to raise $5000 for IDWA between now and April as part of this trek,” Mrs Yates said.

“But I am very sensitive of the fact many Australians have had a very difficult and emotionally harrowing time with the January/December floods.

“Yet I do hope some might still be able to see the benefits in helping women and families in a less development country like Timor Leste.”

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