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Timor-Leste: giving children a safe haven

Since the eruption of political unrest in April last year, an estimated quarter of a million people in East Timor – mainly women and children – have been forced to flee their homes. While many have returned home, some families remain in displaced person camps around the capital of Dili.

In support, ChildFund Australia’s affiliate organisation in East Timor has been operating Child Centred Spaces in the camps, aimed at giving children some sense of order and a safe haven during the turmoil.

These spaces give children increased chances of survival and protection from abuse, as well as opportunities for education and recreation. ChildFund in East Timor has also provided clean and accessible water and systems for the safe disposal of human waste within the camps.

Separately, ChildFund in East Timor launched a new Early Childhood Development Program in 2006. The program focuses on giving teachers vocational training on child learning methodologies, as well as giving mothers and other caregivers information on home-based care for young children. Nutrition education is also made available to those caring for children, including mothers and nurses.

This knowledge will be passed from generation to generation as more caregivers understand the importance of nutrition and education on children’s development. Caregivers are now more able to get help if their child is not developing – they know that early intervention is needed.

These manuals have been developed and translated into Tetum. These quality training materials will be a sustainable legacy of this program, being available for future teachers, nurses and mothers. Community based organisations will continue to support mothers groups to improve home-based care.

More than 3,000 children have benefited from the program through the training and support of 83 Early Childhood Development Teachers.

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