Support for the children of Timor Leste is growing rapidly with a series of projects being undertaken by a number of groups across WA.
Our union continues it’s support by asking schools with surplus desks, chairs, whiteboards, educational equipment and supplies to contact us so that instead of sending it to the tip, it can be freighted to Dili and used to give kids a chance at a proper education.
Leavers Week in Western Australia is usually perceived as a time when too many young people let their hair down too far - but that’s not the case in a couple of regions.
About twenty students from the Kalamunda area are on their way to Timor Leste to help with the upgrading of schools.
This is the fourth time that leavers from this area have organised such a trip.
But they’re not the only ones going.
This year students from Margaret River have joined in and organised for a team of a dozen to make the trip.
They’re being joined by Peter Snell from Rotary International and they’ll spend ten days helping to drill for water to provide schools with a permanent water supply.
The significance of the project is best understood by looking at the picture below showing how some kids get access to water.
Schools, teachers and leavers are making a major impact.
People from the south coastal town of Denmark are also making an impact on education in this new nation.
Ten years on and poor students are still being given an opportunity to study at East Timor's premier agricultural school, Don Bosco Fuiloro, by people in Denmark, Western Australia.
This project began in 2002 as a sister school relationship with the WA College of Agriculture Denmark - and has continued as a community support association – Denmark Fuiloro East Timor Association.
The results are good.
Ten students have been supported through to university studies, seven of those have now graduated.
Two are working as teachers, one is employed in women's issues in the ET equivalent of the South African truth and reconciliation commission, one is a mother, two are in the process of setting up an agricultural cooperative in their district, and the last is studying to be a vet in Java – still sponsored by a Denmark family.
After a six week visit to WA Agricultural College, Denmark in 2002, Olavio Morais studied animal husbandry in Indonesia, then returned as a teacher to the agricultural school at Fuiloro.
It was his dream to become a veterinary doctor.
A Denmark family was also inspired by that dream, and agreed to sponsor his university education.
He still has two and half years to complete his studies and will then be ready to return to serve his country in this vital role.
The commitment of Denmark (and Albany) people to this project is making a difference to individual lives – the students we have carried through can now begin their own families with sufficient resources and a commitment to education and development.
Ongoing Sponsorship at the School Level
Those larger numbers who are sponsored at the school level are being given an education which is highly valued in East Timor and which produces some of the best graduates in the country in spite of limited resources.
One of those graduates is Ance Cabral, ET National Team cyclist and winner of the 2011 Tour de Timor in her category.
She is also a lecturer in education at the teacher's college in Baucau and is about to finish her Masters Degree in Education.
(Ance recently visited the SSTUWA and talked about education issues with our President Anne Gisborne.)
In September DFET members, Murray and Jill Thornton, Libby Corson Jeanette Campbell made the annual visit of the association to Fuiloro.
Jeanette and Libby spent time with students in classes at the school, meeting many highly motivated students and participating in school assemblies at all levels of the school.
They were happy to see the (new) development of highly relevant teaching materials for the teaching of English and to see some excellent teaching in this area.
DFET were also able to give 100 new English-Tetun dictionaries to the school, purchased with moneys raised by Albany's “Safety in Numbers” choir.
In spite of these improvements the school is still starved of funds for resources and for maintenance and general running costs..
The Timorese government is improving its capacity but it will be some time before education is adequately resourced throughout the country.
The far districts are still starved of funds.
However developments in agriculture are now visible in the district of Lautem where government tractors are on the go, serving fledgling food production cooperatives in the lead up to the wet season.
The vast majority of farmers however are still working at subsistence level, families do not have cash and the months before the rains are still “the hungry season”.
In this context Denmark's support in paying school fees for poor families is still essential.
While at Fuiloro this year Libby was able to begin the process of setting up a work experience for Olavio Morais, currently studying in Indonesia, with an American services vet, Dr Douglas Riley at Fuiloro in January. He has not been able to return to Fuiloro or East Timor since returning to his studies in Indonesia four years ago. If this work experience arrangement comes to fruition DFET will fund his travel.
Dr Riley was assessing the cattle herd at Fuiloro during the DFET visit.
Jeanette and Libby received written reports and thanks in the form of some marvellous singing from the Primary School – where Denmark money provided essential school supplies and uniforms for 75 children.
The school also provided progress details of 26 senior students whose school fees, boarding, pocket money and general maintenance costs are provided by DFET.
Two of DFET's new university graduates Quintao Amaral, who visited Denmark in 2004 and Alicio Gonzaga Amaral have now joined together with fellow graduates from the National University to develop a horticulture cooperative in their district.
Their business plan has been submitted to various NGO's and to the Timorese government and has been accepted in principle Government tractors have been provided to prepare the ground for seeding, but there are many costs still not covered.
DFET have made contact with a prospective NGO and pledged to provide some back up seed funding for this enterprise.
The other business of the visit – the Tour de Timor – again provided experience for DFET university students one of whom each year has been a support person for team “Karau Tuan” sponsored by Denmark Mitre Ten and featuring Murray Thornton, Greg Newton, Mark Luscombe, Stewart Gee and this year – Kea Mumford.