I am a director on the board of ChildFund Australia and recently I visited ChildFund’s programs for children in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste is home to over 1.1 million people, 70% of whom live in rural areas. Against a backdrop of limited socio-economic growth, children and youth in Timor-Leste, particularly those in living rural areas, experience extreme poverty. The majority of students do not continue schooling after grade four.
Gains have been made since independence in 2002 but there is a long way to go – especially for children. Sixty per cent of the population is under the age of 25.
These sobering facts were on my mind as we travelled to Liquica – a stunningly beautiful, mountainous district nestling many small villages. Amidst this beauty the difficult terrain creates myriad daily challenges for the people who live there.
ChildFund is working with local communities and partners in Liquica to improve nutrition, health and education. We visited two schools and sat in on a reading project being facilitated by ChildFund’s local partner Mary McKillop Today. The project is focused on literacy and reading.
Happy and enthusiastic six-year-olds were learning the words for different professions and choosing puppets depicting what they would like to be when they grow up. Among the featured professions were teachers, police, doctors, and nurses.