Timor-Leste our neighbour is one of the poorest countries in the world.  It was devastated during the Indonesian occupation from 1975 to 2000 with 70% of its infrastructure destroyed and 20% of its population murdered.  The Australian Army together with other forces helped to restore stability in Timor-Leste during a destructive withdrawal by the Indonesian army. This occurred after Timorese voted by a large majority for independence in a UN supervised referendum in 1997.
Foreign aid and support from Charitable organisations, Rotary and Local Governments are helping the Timorese establish their nation as well as assisting those living in abject poverty.
My wife and I visited Timor-Leste during September on a Rotary trip to find ways assistance can be given.  It was an amazing experience.  The generosity of the Timorese, their focus on nation building, a lack of debilitating bitterness and their determination to build relationships with neighbouring countries such as Australia and Indonesia was impressive.  Rotary was present throughout the country assisting with projects that were led and carried out by Timorese.  
The need is great.  Many rural villages live only off what they can produce from the land and in many villages there is no electricity and lack of clean water. 
East Gippsland Timor - Leste Support Network
Many people came to the help of East Gippsland after the tragedy of the bushfires.  Lakes Entrance Rotary  believes it would be fitting to help our neighbour Timor-Leste in their time of need.
The Lakes Entrance Rotary Club is establishing an East Gippsland Timor - Leste Support Network to support a rural district in Timor-Leste over a number of years.
 Providing a level of financial assistance for a period of time would result in significant improvements to the standard of living of Timorese in the chosen district.  Donations are being sought from individuals and organisations
The start of any Rotary project is talking with the local community to see what their priorities are.  The villages we visited had a clear sense of what assistance would be the most helpful.  Priorities included improvement to health services, education facilities and basic infrastructure requirements such as solar power sources, sanitation and clean water as well as helping with training opportunities.  These projects rely on international support including from Australia.
An East Gippsland Support Network would be able to support such projects in a district alongside other organisations.  The approach being taken is to cooperate and build on existing initiatives rather than a go it alone approach.
Links have been developed with a Victorian consortium, led by a Melbourne Rotary club, that is working in the Baguia local government area.   The project is coordinated by local Rotary contacts and the district secondary school Principal.  Their main work involves erection of water tanks and toilet blocks and hygiene training.  They are also involved with training scholarships and the provision of solar lighting.  Example of costs are water tanks $3,300 and Toilet block $6,000.  They are seeking additional member organisations in their consortium as well as support from individuals to provide additional financial assistance.  Local community leaders have mapped out with members a number of projects for support from the consortium for 2023 -24. (Refer article in News  on the website)
Rotary has an office in Dili that provides assistance to projects and is linked into a network of villages throughout Timor-Leste and the local leadership and project expertise available.  There are 2 Rotary and 6 Rotaract clubs in Timor-Leste with a large active membership consisting of Timorese mainly under the age of 35. 
Projects can also be tailored to suit particular organisations.  For example, the local Baptist church has expressed interest in being involved with and supporting the only deaf school in Timor- Leste which is run by the Dili Baptist Church.  There are many possibilities for schools and health organisations to support schools and provide assistance with training health  and education professionals.
In the future trips will be organised for interested supporters to visit Timor-Leste to experience first-hand the difficulties and challenges the country faces,  to see first-hand how projects that have been supported are changing the lives of people, experience the friendship and appreciation of the Timorese people and to be involved in setting up future projects.
Organisations being approached
Organisations that are being approached for support include:
  • Rotary Clubs in East Gippsland
  • East Gippsland Shire Council
  • Gippsland Lakes Complete Health
  • Local RSL clubs
  • Local Churches
  • Nagel College