During HMAS Leeuwin's third South East Asian deployment this year, a port visit to Dili provided an opportunity for six members of the ship's company to visit the village of Soibada, located in the mountainous central region of the island nation, to experience the culture of rural Timor-Leste and lend a helping hand.

Leeuwin was connected with the village through the charity Pittwater Friends of Soibada, founded and led by retired Navy officer Tamara Sloper-Harding.

It was Leeuwin’s second opportunity to assist the charity this year; during a previous deployment, the ship delivered a number of stores, medical supplies, and other donated items for village.

The team from Leeuwin were warmly welcomed by the Chief of Soibada village, Father Tiago, before assessing the work required in the local medical clinic and community guesthouse.

Able Seaman Liam Warren said that Leeuwin’s team made significant progress on painting the guesthouse, while also making the most of their down time, getting to know the villagers, experiencing their culture and everyday lives and playing friendly but competitive volleyball matches.

“It was an awesome opportunity to experience the real Timorese culture and engage with the local community,” Able Seaman Warren said.

“I loved being able to use my work skills for a meaningful cause.”

Mrs-Sloper-Harding welcomed the enthusiastic assistance from Leeuwin’s crew.

“The community of Soibada were very excited to welcome some of the ship’s company from Leeuwin because of the immense friendship and relationship between our two countries,” Mrs Sloper-Harding said.

“Soibada is very fond of the Australian Defence Force, not just because of INTERFET, but because of the links from World War Two.

“The more we develop this relationship of support and collaboration, the bigger the difference we will help these people to make in their own lives.” 

Pittwater Friends of Soibada was established by Mrs Sloper-Harding in 2010; she first visited the area when she served as part of INTERFET. 

Leeuwin will visit the Philippines, Yap (Federated States of Micronesia) and Solomon Islands, before returning to HMAS Cairns in late November.