From One Island to the Next: Brigida Soares is Back
Now that we have Brigida Soares back in the office after her voyage to Hawaii I have been able to catch up with her about her experience. She was fortunate and deserving enough to be one of ten women out of 127 chosen to participate in the Changing Faces Women’s Leadership Seminar, where she joined the other participants hailing from a number of countries across Asia.
The seminar was a very valuable experience, highlighted by leadership building workshops, hands on experience at local businesses and government institutions, as well as access to a number of successful, international businesswomen and social entrepreneurs. Brigida not only was given a platform to describe her experience as a female leader in Timor-Leste, but was able to hear her peers speak of their experiences, sometimes similar, sometimes quite foreign, in their respective countries.
Particularly relevant to her work as PDT’s Matchmaking Associate was her trip to an agricultural farm located on the island of O’ahu. There she was able to witness firsthand the farming industry in the United States as it compares to the many farms and cooperatives she works with across Timor-Leste. Wandering around the compound, the layout of the farm resembled the farms back home. However, Brigida did comment on the large differences that do exist in farming operations between the two countries.
One primary advantage agriculturalists in Hawaii possess is their accessibility to the markets to sell products and the ease of which they can pick up on vital market information. If farmers in Timor-Leste could accurately price their crops based on accessible, up-to-date market information, they wouldn’t be as dependent on middlemen whose high markups significantly cut into profits. Also, the lack of a developed transportation industry and reliable infrastructure remain two of Timor-Leste’s greatest barriers to a robust agricultural industry. PDT‘s matchmaking staff in the districts, managed by Brigida, continually witness these obstacles when dealing with farmers.
Returning to Timor-Leste, Brigida comes back to us brimming with an invigorating commitment to apply what she has learned in Hawaii to her work with PDT. Especially after meeting with the Mayor of Maui at the Business Development Center, which does similar work in Hawaii as PDT does in Timor-Leste, she has gained a new-found perspective on what it takes to turn a service, much like business matchmaking, into a for profit entity. Who knows, maybe in a few years time after PDT has finished its mission here, Brigida Soares will be running her own matchmaking business, building her country’s private sector from the bottom up.