Subject: On the Bright Side: Local woman heading to East Timor for three years

The Daily Star (Oneonta, NY)

Published: January 03, 2009 04:00 am

On the Bright Side: Local woman heading to East Timor for three years

By Jake Palmateer

Staff Writer

A Stamford woman who worked at the SUNY Oneonta Migrant Youth Program will be putting some of the skills she learned there to use in East Timor.

Peg Vamosy said she is leaving Monday for the small southeast Asian nation, which only recently gained its independence.

The 51-year-old is embarking on a 31/2-year mission in Aileu, East Timor, with Maryknoll Lay Missioners, after a three-month training regime in Ossining.

Vamosy said she is excited about having the opportunity to lend a hand to one of the newest countries on the planet.

"I'm optimistic that if learn the language and experience the culture and appreciate what they have to offer, I'll get a good response," Vamosy said.

Vamosy, who has a bachelor's degree from Cornell University in agriculture and a master's degree in horticulture from Texas A&M University, is no stranger to overseas humanitarian and education work. The 51-year-old spent 10 years in Latin America, working first for the Peace Corps in Ecuador and then teaching horticulture at an Ecuadorian college. She also worked with a Catholic parish in Ecuador. Vamosy left her job at the State University College at Oneonta's Migrant Youth Program in September.

Her job at SUNY Oneonta will likely be an asset in East Timor, she said.

"I worked with many people from other cultures who weren't American," Vamosy said.

Because of her background in agriculture and horticulture, Vamosy said she expects that is where her efforts will be concentrated. But she said she intends to not simply be a teacher.

"I plan to learn as much as I teach over there," Vamosy said. "I'm sure I'll learn a lot about what they grow."

Vamosy said she is expecting a big change from Stamford. In Aileu, the electricity is only on from 6 p.m. to midnight and only every other night.

East Timor is a former Portuguese colony. The nation declared independence in 1975, but Indonesia invaded later that year. A bloody conflict between Indonesian forces and the East Timorese independence movement followed until 1999, when a United Nations-sponsored referendum in the country set the stage for full sovereignty in 2002. Since then, conditions have improved in the country.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners is a non-profit Catholic organization that works with poor communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as North America, making improvements in civil and human rights, and educational, economic, environmental and health care development.

"We are not going out to convert pagan babies," Vamosy said.

What she will be doing, the congregant of Sacred Heart Church in Stamford said, is helping to get the people of Aileu on their feet. Aileu has a population of about 17,000.

"They have to start from scratch," she said.

Vamosy said exchanges like this help make the world smaller and are steps toward world peace.

"Individual people are good all around the world," Vamosy said. 

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