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By Fr. Abilio E. Correia Guterres, sdb

Dili, Comoro, Timore Leste, 15 May 2020 -- Keith was a volunteer with the Cagliero project, who spent six months volunteering at the Don Bosco Comoro Technical Community Centre in Timor Leste. This was an excellent experience for the community, which have had a proud and fruitful tradition of hosting volunteers since its inception in 1991.

Keith was born in Singapore but soon moved to Perth, Australia, where he grew up. It was there that he became a mechanical engineer (now retired) and there where he converted to Catholicism.

All members of the community were extremely happy and excited for his arrival in January of 2019 and by the time of his departure in June that year, they had become most grateful for all his presence had brought to the community.

It is both humbling and fulfilling to know that people of very different cultures, mentalities and lifestyles can come to live together in the one community. This partnership brought a great experience of joy and enthusiasm to us all, as we live amongst and work for the poor and abandoned young people from all parts of Timor Leste.

The greatest experience of hosting Keith as a volunteer in our community was being able to see him in his natural element, working alongside our young boys and girls in the technical center, passing on his skills as a mechanical engineer and an English speaker.

It was most beneficial for our students to have the opportunity to practice their English skills with him, as he spoke with them patiently and kindly. It was fantastic to see them gain confidence in their skills in the classroom; this will be a great aid for them in finding work after their time with us!

Of course, the very nature of new cultures, mentalities and lifestyles encountering each other also creates challenges that must be overcome. With perseverance and patience, we were able to see through our prejudices, overcoming any misunderstandings or judgments that occurring within the community and within our young people.

By the way he carried himself during his time with us, Keith taught us a lot about his dedication and commitment to sharing his skills with the students and staff of our Technical Centre, despite his elder years and unstable health.

Keith’s perseverance was always on display as it was not always easy for him to be with the young people, however he made it through! He was an exemplary lay missionary, proclaiming God’s word as a volunteer, through his words and more importantly, his deeds.

Another great benefit to having Keith join us is that he is an amazing cook! His skills in the kitchen left a great impact on our community and its members, as we were able to experience new foods and flavors.

Keith was also incredibly generous, getting into the habit of buying and cooking the community meals for the weekends. Indeed, this has not ceased even though he has returned to Australia – as he now sponsors some of our students who are in most desperate need, ensuring that they do not go hungry and have the energy they need to complete their studies!

The presence of such an incredible lay missionary helped our community to grow deeper into our own Salesian identities. Keith’s volunteer period was dedicated to the improvement of young people and a profound testimony of the value of a spiritual Christian life, making God’s love visible for all who witnessed it. After all – this is the great dream of Don Bosco; the whole Salesian family working together for the betterment of young people!

Once again, we must give a special thank-you to Keith for his presence and all the good things that he has shared with our community and young people. With such as positive experiences as this, it is no surprise that our community is always open and welcoming to anyone who wants to help our center in any way!

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