Vol. 7, No. 2
Will East Timor See Justice?
Madison Becomes East Timor's First Sister City in U.S.
by Diane Farsetta
On Tuesday, February 20th, the city council of Madison, Wisconsin voted unanimously in favor of an official sister relationship with Ainaro, East Timor. In doing so, Madison became the first U.S. sister city of an East Timorese community. Those speaking in favor of the resolution included East Timor native Natércia Godhino-Adams and lead co-sponsor Alderwoman Barbara Vedder.
In Ainaro, a town in the mountainous southwest of the country, the Indonesian military-backed militia were numerous and ruthless in 1999. Ninety-five percent of all buildings, including the only hospital and all the town's schools, was destroyed following the vote for independence. Godhino-Adams said, "I saw almost no buildings with roofs" during a July 2000 visit. During a joint East Timorese-ETAN countrywide assessment in early 2000, residents of Ainaro shared their vision of their town's future, including agricultural cooperatives, women's organizations, and revitalized health care and educational systems. They concluded by inviting international friends to join them in a sistering relationship. Madison's first envoy to Ainaro, Jen Laakso, spent several weeks there in the summer of 2000, found great enthusiasm for the sister city project from "pretty much everyone I talked to."
Sistering provides a direct grassroots-to-grassroots relationship which is empowering and beneficial for both communities. "What the people of Madison can offer the people of Ainaro," said Godhino-Adams, "is the consistency of the sister relationship. Madison, in turn, can learn much from Ainaro's culture and experiences." Members of the Madison-Ainaro Sister Alliance are now planning their first delegation to East Timor. One possible delegation project Laakso found wide support for in Ainaro is building a community workspace and tool lending library, a project headed by Alliance member and woodworker Tom Foley.
Information on all of Madison's East Timor-related activism can be found on the web at http://www.aideasttimor.org.
For more information on sistering projects, contact Diane Farsetta at 608-663-5431.
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