Freddie Mawanda, from Uganda, is the latest Development Worker to join the Progressio team in Timor-Leste.
The 34 year old Arsenal supporter will be working with the National Aids Commission (NAC) based in Dili, the capital city of Timor-Leste.
He has recently arrived from Papua New Guinea, where he also worked with their National Aids Commission and has worked for the NAC in Nigeria too.
Freddie says he was attracted to the Progressio job in Timor-Leste because he "wanted experience of working in a post-conflict state which is still finding its feet”.
He told me: “It's a very exciting time to be here in Timor. I worked for VSO before and there are similarities between how they work and the way Progressio does. I also love this part of the world; Timor-Leste feels familiar having come here from Papua in terms of the traditions and people and culture."
Supporting support groups
Freddie will be supporting the NAC in establishing structures within the commission and assisting the sub-commission which in turn supports groups of people living with HIV. He will be working in the NAC for 3 days and for 2 days he will be directly supporting its partners - small local NGOs that promote HIV awareness, prevention and care.
"Implementation will be the biggest challenge," Freddie says. "There is also some tension with the Ministry of Health who control the funds so currently the NAC is working with extremely limited resources."
The role of women
All the staff in the NAC are Timorese, apart from Freddie. "Unfortunately they are also all men," Freddie admits, "which is wrong. It can make it harder when trying to communicate with women's groups and women who are HIV+ but I hope that it will change over time and some women will start working for the NAC too."
Working with government
This is the first placement Progressio have ever had within a government agency in Timor-Leste - something Freddie is very pleased about. "This is a very good placement," he says, "because it develops links with government and opens up opportunities for advocacy and creates good contacts on a personal level. Hopefully the people I work with will be pleased and want to continue the relationship with Progressio in the future."
Freddie has just finished a week's intensive language school learning Tetum, one of the two official languages of Timor-Leste - the other being Portuguese. He has found it tough but is keen to start work and is confident about developing his language skills along the way as he settles into his new role in the NAC.
Lucy Jenkinson is Progressio's media officer. She met Freddie during a visit to Timor-Leste in September. Photo of Freddie in Progressio's offices in Dili taken by Lucy.