Martin Canter

St. Yohanes Berkhmans Todabelu Mataloko
English Corner

“Hi, Romo, its Tina, Martin’s sister. Can you let me know if you receive this message”.

“Oh, Tina, thank you that finally I reach you. How are you and family there Tina? I’m good here. We’ve just ended the teaching course with Pearson”.

“What Martin did long-long years ago still echoes up to the very moment. We still maintain the group of teachers learning together”.

“Romo we have some very sad news. Unfortunately Martin died unexpectedly on Thursday 10th Nov. We are all devastated. I’m sorry to tell you this news. Please include us in your prayers. Love Tina”.

We had this chat on November 11th, 2023.

Martin passed away. The news struck us like a lightning bolt. We couldn’t believe our ears!

Martin Canter came here in 2002 as a Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO), an NGO affiliated with the British Council.

He became part of our community, especially with us English Teachers all across Ngada and Nagekeo (back then we were only one region, Ngada). He was our friend, our mentor, as well as our brother.

I have a lot of meaningful experiences that I still remember regarding the presence of Martin Canter.

He came from a faraway land: England. He stayed together for more or less 3 years. He ended up being a ‘mosalaki’ (a great man) from Flores.

“Eja, can we have a kind of farewell workshop with friends in Kemah Tabor?” Martin told me, sometime, at the end of 2005.

We did it at Kemah Tabor, a retreat house, a place where we used to do English teacher’s workshops.

Martin, facilitating a workshop for English teachers

I told some friends.

“Romo, why don’t we find lega (a hairy bag) and give it to Martin as our souvenir?” Suggested a friend.

It was not without reason. We English teachers found teaching English burdensome. When Martin came, we started to regularly meet at weekends. Martin and friends who were the core members of the group would spend every Saturday night in the English Room, thinking, discussing, and planning bigger monthly workshops, and annual ones.

After three years, Pak Jehny shouted, “Martin has made us love English!” And, of course,  Martin has ever since made us proud of being an English teacher.

Now that FLORETA (Flores English Teachers Association) has become an example for Indonesia about how teachers from remote areas can learn together in a professional community, with a professional talk, we all know too well that it’s Martin who planted the seed, a long time ago.

“I’ve got a hairy bag, a hairy bag!” Martin shouted when receiving our souvenir. He danced and danced happily with a traditional sword lifting up high like a mosalaki. Pak Jehny, Pak Alfons, Pak Stef, and I watched him with our eyes glowing. Mosalaki Martin!


Almost every afternoon Martin and I visited Pak Stef’s house, drinking coffee, and talking about almost everything.

It became a kind of everyday ritual, a ritual that we did so dearly.

Once I asked Martin, how could we really develop our professionalism as English teachers? His answer was a big surprise to me. Its truth still resonates up to the very present.

“Romo, if we want to be professional, we need to have three commitments: professional commitment, financial commitment, and personal commitment!”

The former two things were ‘yes’ because they were important. But the latter? I learned about the importance of personal and emotional bonds from Martin. He visited friends. He went to far away villages, risking his life only to meet friends, he shared coffee and meals with the family. And, he would love to go to the kitchen and sit there.

For us in Flores, sharing coffee and meal with a family in the kitchen means you are part of the family, you put yourself at the center of the family life. You belong to us! That’s what Pak Stef and Ibu Aloysia felt about Martin.

When it was time to be together for workshops, friends would come from anywhere feeling so happy. We couldn’t wait to meet each other. We created not only a learning community but a family as well.


“Martin, how can we become a creative teacher?” He was silent for quite a long moment, in my room, when I came up with the question.

“Believe that you are creative, and have the courage to do what you think best for your students. And, don’t forget to respect your feelings!”

Martin used to ask me, “What do you feel Romo? Are you satisfied?” whenever I finished teaching or doing English activities with the students.

Reflecting on my feelings is actually a great source of creativity.

I’ve heard this from a long, long time ago, coming out from Martin’s heart!

Recently, when I took part in a national meeting, there was the same question posed by a lecturer to the professor who was the speaker. Her answer resonated with what Martin told me, “Respect your feelings, and reflect on them!”  Wow!

These are only some of the abundant impactful experiences with Martin.

Tina Canter (right) visited Martin in 2004

I never expected to hear the news that a great friend and brother of ours passed away.

I phoned Pak Jehny, Pak Alfons, Pak Stef, Ibu Tilde. We were shocked.

Martin has long been our angel, sparking invaluable vibrations that have made us love English and our profession as an English teacher, and above all, love our school kids.

He is and will still be our angel.

Martin, dear brother, eja, tima ti’i woso-woso, thank you so much, ma’e rebho ne’e kami, don’t ever forget us, and may you rest in peace! (Nani Songkares)