In May 2009, Be Kids commenced our work in Timor-Leste by conducting a fact-gathering visit. Generous assistance was provided by Friends and Partners of East Timor (FPET), an organisation funded through the Gap Parish in Queensland.
The drive into Dili town is a reminder of Bali 20 years ago. There is evidence that the tourism infrastructure in Dili is beginning to develop with a significant amount of construction taking place. Traffic is a bit chaotic but quite manageable. The presence of the United Nations vehicles and personnel, police on secondment from Australia, New Zealand and numerous nations of the world gave an atmosphere of calm and reassurance. We did not feel any anxiety as to our security at any time.? There is a sense that the country’s economy is unsustainable in what is referred to as “a UN Economy”.
Driving from Dili to Atabae, we were struck by the beauty of the landscape. There are tiny villages along the way but it is evident that this country is not prepared for tourists. Both in Dili and along the journey we could see the ruins of firebombed buildings, a reminder of the violence and hardships that scar the nation. The roads were potholed with hairpin turns and we were told that the broad, dry river beds are cut off in the rainy season floods due to extremely heavy run-off from the mountain tops.
Arriving in Atabae, we found the small roads of the village relatively well laid and a market area with people going about their lives in a relaxed yet purposeful way. There are no substantial shops in Atabae, so most supplies have to be brought into the village. The villagers depend on what they grow for their survival. Infrastructure is minimal. We washed with water from a well and electricity is intermittent between 7pm and 10pm.
We visited the FPET supported Atabae Community Health Centre that was built by FPET and operated by Margaret and David Hall and their team. We spent a remarkable morning, observing young mothers with their babies coming for preventative health checkups and teaching sessions. Infant mortality is high. Illnesses from malnutrition and lack of sanitation are prevalent. Thanks to our donors, McKenzie’s Chemists in Mount Lawley, Dr N Partridge and Christine and Joe Nonis, Be Kids was able to provide vitamins, food supplements and worming medication for children and mothers.
We then drove to the village of Limanaro about an hour from Atabae along a very bumpy road. Felicidade “Lepa,” FPET’s community nursing assistant, showed us the school she attended from age 5 to 10. She completed her primary school education in Atabae which required walking 4 hours per day. Lepa’s secondary education was completed in Dili. We learned from Lepa and Mr Octovianus Laisbuke of the problems caused by lack of nutrition, worming issues and the absence of amenities and facilities experienced by this small community.
Be Kids can partner with the Limanaro community and FPET to provide for the children at this little school with the following:
Reasons for Project
We discussed the possible parameters of our involvement with Margaret, Dave and their team. We were particularly touched by the gratitude that Lepa displayed. At this stage, this project can be supported by funds already donated or raised by Be Kids members.