Timor-Leste

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Saving a School in Timor-Leste

by Zoe Hogan, ChildFund Timor-Leste

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we visit the Uai-Bua school, which is benefitting from strong community support.

The school grounds of Uai-Bua primary school in the village of Ossu, Viqueque, is a shining example of what a community can achieve when it works together toward a common goal.

The Uai-Bua school shouldered a heavy responsibility in the local area – the school had just 11 classrooms to teach approximately 1,000 children, ages 6 to 14. However, the cramped conditions inside the rooms were not the only problem. The holes in the roofs and walls often exposed children to wind and rain during classes.

teacher at school

A teacher at Uai-Bua school for 35 years, Acácio Monteiro says that parents and teachers need to work together to improve school facilities.

Concerned by the problem, the Uai-Bua Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) met with Jose, ChildFund Timor-Leste’s education project officer, to discuss how they could work together to improve the school’s facilities. The PTA had been waiting many years of country unrest for an opportunity to work in partnership to develop the school. “It’s been 10 years since independence, and nothing has happened until now,” said Acácio Monteiro, the school’s director.

ChildFund Timor-Leste first held a training workshop with the PTA to help them identify and prioritize the current needs of the school and write a proposal for funding aid. The training is part of a long-term strategy to build the community’s capacity to successfully advocate on its own behalf.

The PTA of Uai-Bua then submitted a proposal to ChildFund Timor-Leste outlining the renovations required for one school building, including two classrooms. The proposal was approved with funding from UNICEF, and the community also donated about 50 percent of the labor and local materials needed to help the funding go further

Rafaela (left) and her friend at the front door of the new classroom.

After a month of hard work by parents, teachers and the community, the building had new walls, a new ceiling and a sealed roof. The schoolchildren shared their parents’ excitement about the renovated classrooms. Rafaela, 10, confessed that learning for her and her classmates had been difficult in the past, especially when the roof leaked. She added, “I am looking for knowledge!” She is happy that her classmates will be able to learn safely in the renovated building.
Now that the PTA has newfound skills in proposal writing and confidence in their ability to make a contribution, they’re already discussing what’s next for Uai-Bua school.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Timor-Leste and how you can sponsor a child.

The World Needs More Toilets

pit latrine

A pit latrine in Ethiopia

Americans take their bathrooms for granted, but for 2.6 billion people worldwide, a toilet is a luxury. To raise awareness of global sanitation needs, Nov. 19 is designated World Toilet Day.

“Children often suffer the most because of limited access to clean water and poor sanitation,” said Sarah Bouchie, ChildFund’s vice president for program development. “Poor sanitary conditions lead to more disease and less food, and precious family income must be spent on purchasing water or dealing with the effects of illness.”

A toilet in Vietnam

Responding to water and sanitation issues is a primary component of ChildFund’s work to help children around the world.

Beginning in 2008, ChildFund helped Nam Phong, a village of 3,600 in Vietnam, construct latrines and water supply systems. Community members were also taught to adopt hygienic practices, which helped clean up streams and roads in the community.

In Timor-Leste, where 70 percent of people have no access to sanitary bathrooms, ChildFund built latrines, a community bathroom and provided hygiene training to children and families. In Afghanistan, we are partnering with UNICEF to teach children about sanitation and hand washing. ChildFund Afghanistan has assisted some 6,000 former IDPs (internally displaced people), refugees and vulnerable families lacking quality housing and bathrooms. We’ve provided building materials and a small economic incentive to help families construct a two-room house and latrine.

An initiative to install latrines in elementary schools in Mexico provides students privacy and protection, increasing their likelihood of staying in school. Girls in particular are less likely to attend school if there are no bathrooms.

“Improved sanitation in schools, better access to clean water and knowledge about how to prevent waterborne disease helps ensure the health and development of the world’s children,” Bouchie said.

Celebrate World Toilet Day and help flush out poverty.

No More Sitting on the Floor for Timor-Leste Students

by Marilou Suplido, ChildFund Timor-Leste Program Manager, with reporting by program team members

Timor-Leste has one of the highest birth rates in the world, with almost 70 percent of the population under age 25. Educating Timor’s children is essential to ensuring this young country has a brighter future.

ChildFund Timor-Leste is working with its local partners to help fill the gaps where government is not yet able to keep up with the demands of the growing number of children going to school.

Two primary schools in the remote southwest Covalima District are benefitting from ChildFund’s support through the Community Partner Organisation Graca.

Students at desks

Students are happy to be off the ground at Lontale school.

Lontale Primary School is just one example of an under-resourced school struggling to meet the needs of schoolchildren. It has 336 students in grades 1 to 6, and just three classrooms. In fact, the school has so many enrolled students it has divided the students into two groups, with older and younger students attending class at different times of day.

ChildFund has assisted the school by providing desks and chairs, and we’ve built an office for the teachers. “There are many primary schools in the 13 districts of the country,” explains Jose Gusmao, school director, “and although we are always asking the government for support, the resources are limited. Hence, the support from ChildFund has meant that our schoolchildren do not have to sit on the floor during their class.”

Girls and boys at new desks

Florentina and Ignacio sit at their new desks in Sukabilaran school.

In nearby Sukabilaran Primary School, until earlier this year, all 120 students were sitting on the floor. Ignacio,12, is a student in the fifth class. He says that he and his friends “felt sad” when they had to sit on the ground. Writing and studying were difficult.

His schoolmate, Florentina, 13, nods in agreement. “I am very happy that ChildFund provided chairs and desks for our school,” she says. Florentina explains that she has a long walk to school, but is always prepared to make the trip because she loves school. She wants to continue studying so that when she grows up she can become a teacher.

ChildFund sees improving school facilities as an entry point in working together with the government and the community to ensure that children can be educated in a safe and child-friendly environment. Our goal is to help students finish school and achieve better educational outcomes.

By providing schools with basic services such as desks, chairs, books and teaching materials, as well as water and sanitation, ChildFund envisions that more children like Florentina will continue to enjoy attending school. Better educated and more confident children are needed for Timor’s future development.

‘When I Grow Up and Become Smart’

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

One of the best parts of my job at ChildFund is working with colleagues in our Africa, Americas and Asia offices. This year we’ve been collaborating on activities to capture the voices of children. By listening carefully, we are hearing remarkable things that will help shape our programs in the future.

Children in Timor Leste share their perspectives.

In Timor Leste, we asked children who live in a village near Liquica to share their thoughts on various subjects. Youth leaders scattered questions on the floor, and then walked the children around, recording their responses:

I want to build a school with enough chairs and desks.
I need pens and books to study for the future.
I am happy when I can play.
I like stories which let me understand more about our history.
— Amandio, 13

I like to play at school.
I want to become a teacher in the future.
—Sedelizio, 11

I want to study hard to help bring our country forward.
The last time I laughed was when a friend told me a joke.
I don’t like the poor condition of my school.
—Domingas, 13

I would like to become a teacher to teach people to become smart.
If I could meet with the Prime Minister, I would ask for clean water, as now I have to carry water far to my house.
When I grow up and become smart, I would like to help develop my village.
In past years I was unhappy, because I hadn’t started school yet.
Good stories are the ones that make me laugh.
At home, my dad tells me to do lots of work, and I worry about that.
—Kalistru, 11

I think a lot about studying for my future.
I like hearing funny stories.
My favorite place is the football field.
A place I don’t like is narrow rooms in the house.
I would like to become a policeman.
I don’t like to see people who are sick.
—Zitu, 12

I think a lot about school, because I want to be educated.
I like telling funny stories.
When I was 5, I was unhappy because I couldn’t go to school.
If I could, I would like to build a new school and a new road in my village.
—Isabel, 8

I like playing football in front of the school because we don’t have a proper field.
I like to tell ghost stories.
I think a lot about studying.
I would like to become a doctor, to give treatment to sick people.
—Leonito, 12

Even in the midst of extreme poverty and exclusion, children are hopeful and earnest about finding a way forward. That’s the reason for ChildFund’s 100 Days of Yes campaign — so many children await the sponsorship support they need to “grow up and become smart.” Won’t you say “yes?”

Keeping Children’s Early Childhood Needs in Sharp Focus

Photos from ChildFund’s programs in Indonesia and Timor Leste are among the winners of the Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) photo contest.

This year’s photographic theme, “Inclusive Foundations for Early Childhood: Working Together to Reach the Unreached,” sought to spotlight good care practices within the region.

Photographer Nic Dunlop captured the winning images of children thriving in ChildFund’s Leopa Day Care Center in Timor Leste and a community health center in West Jakarta, Indonesia.

The photos will be featured on the ARNEC website and widely distributed via ARNEC’s 2011 calendar.

Here’s a sneak peek at ChildFund’s winning photos.

Infant nutrition is a key focus for the Bina Kasih community health center in Tangerang, West Jakarta, Indonesia. Photographer: Nic Dunlop

Octavius plays at the Leopa Day Care center, an early childhood development (primary school) facility in Timor Leste’s Liquica district. Photographer: Nic Dunlop

Donors Join Hands to Fund Projects for Children

by Virginia Sowers
Community Manager

It’s amazing what people can accomplish when they work together.

In just three months, 22 generous ChildFund supporters have raised $62,588 to reduce malaria in Zambia, feed malnourished children in Kenya and bring fresh water to rural communities in Timor Leste.

These supporters likely will never cross paths, but they all shared a common quest through Fund a Project, which identifies critical needs in ChildFund program countries.

For the project in Nambala, Zambia, five ChildFund contributors and one major donor have put up more than $41,000 for malaria prevention and education. The program will significantly increase the number of treated bed nets in Nambala. A much larger trained force of malaria agents will also educate households on prevention and management.

In Kenya, ChildFund’s successful Pamoja nutritional support program will continue and expand to the Mukuru informal settlement in Nairobi, thanks to the generosity of a major donor and 10 contributors who gave more than $18,000.

The program will supplement the nutritional needs and reduce the levels of malnutrition in preschool children within the settlement. Funds will also cover the costs of transporting and distributing the supplement, employing cooks to properly prepare foods for the children and monitoring children’s progress to ensure the reversal of malnutrition.

In Timor Leste, children will no longer have to walk up to 40 minutes to reach a source of potable water and then carry a supply home to their families. With more than $2,800 from five contributors, ChildFund will be providing a nearby source of clean water for approximately 15 rural families. Without such long treks for water, children will have more time to study, play and help with other family chores.

All three projects should be under way this spring and summer.

More worthy projects await funding. So, what else can we do together?

First ‘Fund a Project’ Funded

by Cynthia Price
Director of Communications

Wow! Two weeks into ChildFund International’s Fund a Project, and one of the projects is already fully funded. Thank you!

In Timor Leste, children and families have to walk for up to 40 minutes to reach a water source for potable water. So, one of our priority projects was water pumps for these rural families. The cost was $2,857 and thanks to you, it’s now funded.

Water pumps for Timor Leste.

Installing water pumps within or near the communities is about much more than ending the trek to get water. It means that the children and families will have access to water that does not make them sick, cutting down on diseases that can be deadly.

It means that children won’t spend their time walking to get water and won’t be so tired. Ultimately, this means that it will be much easier for children to go to school, to interact with other children, to learn and grow.

And that’s only one project. Eight other projects remain to be funded. As these projects are funded, new ones will take their place. Each project requires thousands of dollars to make them happen. For those of us who want to make a difference, but aren’t able to make a large one-time donation, Fund a Project is perfect.

Each person gives what he or she is comfortable with contributing and, collectively, the donations add up to fund the project. It’s a great way for a few, or many, of us to come together to support a program and bring it to life.

The barometers on each of the projects are moving. I gave to the playgrounds in Afghanistan, which is now about 1 percent funded – a start. I’d love to see the barometer move up more quickly. I may have to give up one of my weekly coffee runs and help inch the barometer closer to “funded.”

How will you make a difference?

ChildFund Launches Fund a Project

by Cynthia Price
Director of Communications

I’ve been working for ChildFund for a little over a year, and I’m impressed by those donors who can help a community by building a school, supplying a water pump or providing materials for a health hut.

These are significant contributions that usually require several thousand dollars to make them happen. How fortunate we are to have these individual donors.

For those of us who want to make a meaningful contribution but may not have the resources to do so individually, ChildFund has developed a collective tool, Fund a Project.

Children in Afghanistan have few safe places to play.

It’s a great way for a few or many of us to come together to support a program and bring it to life. I’m drawn to the playground equipment for parks in Afghanistan. I can’t even imagine what life is like for those children, but how incredible will it be for children to have a place to play and forget about conflict?

A little more than $50,000 is needed for the playground equipment. I’ve made a $10 donation to get the project started. With the help of others making similar donations, it won’t be long until the children in these Afghanistan communities are having fun on a playground.

If you’re also looking to make an impact, consider helping provide water pumps for rural families in Timor Leste or supplies for community gardens in the United States. The water pumps cost $2,800 while the community gardens are $7,000.

The two most expensive endeavors of Fund a Project are malaria-prevention programs in Zambia at $41,000, and a global youth employment and livelihood initiative for $100,000. They are both worthy goals for collective efforts.

I like the idea of funding a program that positively impacts children. And I like knowing that I’m doing it with many others, even though I will probably never meet them or know who they are. But that’s OK because we all want the same thing — a better world for these children.

A Better Future Against All Odds

Earlier this summer, Vice President of Global Programs Anne Scott paid a visit to Timor Leste, a small country that only this decade became an independent nation. As our blog series visits this country today, we take a look back at one of Anne’s blog entries from early August.

In the central district of Bobonaro, we are driving into the “redlands,” a description owing to the unfertile red soil and the red wood of the eucalyptus trees, among the few kinds of trees that grow here. It is a hot, dry and dusty plain — an unyielding landscape, surrounded by a ring of mountains, also dry in this season, regardless of altitude. The river bed is completely exposed to pebbles and rock.

Vice President of Global Programs Anne Scott visits Bobonaro.

Vice President of Global Programs Anne Scott visits Bobonaro in Timor Leste.

Supplying food and water for families in this area is difficult, always, and especially so in this dry season. Electricity has yet to reach here, as even light in the nearest town center comes from generators, and only at night time.

And yet, against all odds in this remote rural area, I visit an early childhood development center — built, equipped and staffed thanks to ChildFund — where sponsored and enrolled children ages 3 to 5 take their turn to recite poems they have written, or, following the new government curriculum, sing songs of hope for this second youngest country in the world.

I inaugurate a new water pipe, funded by the Australian Aid Agency and installed by ChildFund and its local partner Hamutuk, which means “together” in Tetum, the local language, in a community where 40 children are sponsored. The pipe saves the children — usually girls — from having to walk two miles each way, twice a day, to gather water. This leaves them with extra energy to concentrate on their studies. And their parents are using the water to grow nutritious vegetables, otherwise sold at high prices in the town center some 10 miles away, a trip usually made by foot or infrequent motorbike.

Young and old alike have clean water to drink and wash, sparing them from a host of waterborne infections, for which there is no medical care readily available. Everybody, each in their own way, relishes the water now flowing from the village tap.

On the way home, in a coastal community over the mountains from the plain, we visit a house, newly built of sturdy cement and rattan, thanks to a generous Gifts of Hope and Love catalog donor. We receive the gratitude of the mother of six children, two of whom are sponsored. She can now proudly accommodate her children.31 in 31

Despite it all, traditions are strong and continue to give strength. The women of the village insist to dress me in the traditional Timorese costume. In doing so, I feel further acceptance of the relationship between ChildFund and the community. While children throw locally gathered flower petals over me, this strikes me as an important connection.
I’ve been to a lot of countries — 48 and counting. But in only a few, including Timor Leste, is daily survival so critical. If you are a sponsor of or a donor to a child in Timor Leste, you are truly a special person. Your support is paving the way for the children’s future, and for the future of this young nation. We need more like you.

I have also seen that the ChildFund team realizes and appreciates your generosity, and is working hard to make your gift make a difference to children and youth in Timor Leste.

For more information on Timor Leste, click here.

More on Timor Leste
Population: 1.1 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 170,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Timor Leste’s linguistic diversity is acknowledged in the country’s constitution, which designates Portuguese and Tetum as official languages and English and Bahasa Indonesia as working languages.

A Brighter Future in Timor-Leste

By Anne Scott,
Vice President of Global Programs

Note: This is the second of two blog entries from Anne’s visit to Timor Leste.

Heading east out of the main city of Dili, we climb up and through a mountain pass to be rewarded with a glorious view of an emerald sea, dotted with wooden fishing boats and a coastline of white beaches interspersed with dense, green mangrove forests, which are now endangered by rapid development throughout Asia, but still in tact in this part of Timor-Leste.

Small village compounds, where numerous fish nets are spread out to dry in the morning sun, appear along the road every now and again. The sea gives a deceptive impression. If you can take your eyes away from the emerald waters, you can notice the salty, sandy soil to the left of the road, and the brown, parched mountain sides rising up to the right, and you are reminded that not enough water is available to sustain the people living here.

With funding from the European Commission, ChildFund is bringing food security to children and families in 63 villages in this area. The ChildFund team established a farmer field school, which models and teaches skills in seed cultivation, catching rainwater, intensive farming of high yield vegetable crops and alternative staple foods, and goat rearing. ChildFund Sweden, a partner organization of ChildFund International, donated a water tank to supply the farmer field school.

Youth facilitators from surrounding communities are selected to attend the school and then introduce in their home villages these practices aimed at producing adequate food for all. Along the way, the youth gain important livelihood skills and the opportunity to become leaders in their communities.

Children dressed in colorful, hand woven Timorese sarongs greet us with a “snake dance” accompanied by drum and metal gong. We are presented with our very own farmers hats and traditional baskets, expertly woven from palm fronds.

After touring the field school, we sample the delicious, organically grown sweet potatoes, taro and cassava, spiced with garlic and chili. We wash it down with the rich, heavily sweetened local coffee, topping it off with a banana.

Having shared in the generous hospitality, we hear of their experience of the farmer field school. They are happy about the new farming skills they have acquired and the greater quantity and variety of vegetables. They want to expand their activities to include cattle rearing. They remain concerned about the water supply and see a need for more water tanks in more villages.

Stunted growth, rickets and other conditions related to longstanding, inadequate nutrition are commonly seen here. With food security comes improved nutrition and calorie intake for growing children and mothers during pregnancy, as well as greater strength for all parents.

In helping these communities to build food security, the ChildFund team has also brought a deeper sense of security, underlying their motivation to make expanded plans for the future.

Previous posts from Anne Scott’s Asia trip:
* Signs of Change in Timor-Leste 
* Recapturing Lost Time in Indonesia  
* An Oasis of Calm and Beauty

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