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Pilgrims making a difference


Five weeks volunteering in Timor-Leste provided many life-changing experiences for Matt Davies, with one of the most impactful witnessing first-hand how giving a little can make a huge difference to other people’s lives.

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In 2019 the commerce graduate made a self-funded trip to the small island country, offering his services to a Jesuit Mission Australia university and schools in Kasait and Railaco, which is also supported through the Pilgrims 100 program.

Matt worked alongside local staff, helping to upskill their expertise in the areas of accounting and reporting. While they were so grateful for his assistance, the 23 year old said he was the one who benefitted most from the experience.

“I returned from Timor with a much greater perspective on how fortunate I have been to grow up in Australia where we have a stable democracy, a strong education system, clean access to food and water and safety,” he said.

“I think also my experience in Timor illuminated how important faith is for people all around the world and especially in areas of grave poverty. Sunday Masses were a real event in Timor with hundreds of people filling very small hut-like chapels and churches.”

Born in Adelaide, Matt’s Catholic faith has been an important part of his upbringing. After his family moved to Melbourne when he was five he was educated by the Jesuits at Xavier College and is now involved in Jesuit Mission activities and volunteers for the St Vincent de Paul’s soup van in Collingwood.

He continues to have strong ties in South Australia, returning most years to spend Christmas with his grandparents – Brian and Noreen Stanley who are parishioners at The Monastery, and Glyn and the late Trish Davies from St John Vianney Church in Burnside.

“My experience in Timor with the Jesuits is just one example of the incredible works that they engage in across the globe and it was an incredible privilege for me to see this,” Matt added.

“Whilst it does sound incredibly cliché, I definitely benefitted much more from the experience than any of my efforts did in helping the local people. This caused some feelings of embarrassment when I knew that I was receiving much more than I was giving.”

Last year when he heard about the establishment of Pilgrims 100 Matt said he knew he had to become involved. The program invites 100 people to donate $1000 for a $100,000 pool of money which is donated to support overseas projects run by the Jesuits, such as those in Timor-Leste.

Matt Davies during his visit to Timor-Leste in 2019

Pilgrims 100 chair, James Hill, said the program last year attracted 71 members despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic and this year they are hoping to reach the “magical number” of 100.

“With a $1000 donation someone can make a huge difference to those living in the margins and suffering the indignity of poverty and injustice,” James said.

“When travel restrictions are lifted we hope that other donors like Matt will also get the opportunity to see first-hand how Jesuit Mission Australia programs are supporting the underprivileged.”

For more information, contact James Hill


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