Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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In the small village of Puno, Timor-Leste, children spent hours walking to a nearby stream to collect clean water.

They had to walk with buckets, on a long and dangerous journey for children travelling alone. Instead of playing or studying, they spend hours collecting water.

“The children spend two hours to get water and carry it back using the wooden cart. They get water twice a day. The distance from our place to the water take 500 metres. It can be very risky but as parents and big sisters we all must look after them. We make sure they are safe and always hold their hand,” said Carolina, one mother in the community.

Carolina is a mother to eight children and teaches at the local kindergarten. Carolina knows how important it is to have easy access to clean water. “Water is very important in our community. We need it for drinking and cooking. And it is hard when we can’t access it easily.”

Easier access to water means that Carolina and her family can cook healthy food, shower, wash their clothes, and give water to their farm animals. “If the kids have school in the morning, then they must get the water in the afternoon so that they can use for showering the next morning before school. If there is no water, then they must go to school without taking a shower.”

With support from ChildFund Timor-Leste, the community installed a new water system that is more reliable and closer to the village. The water system serves 34 homes – approximately 200 people.

“Now the water is accessible any time but now our concern is that we don’t have a tap-stop to divide the water. We only use a hose directly from the pipe and because the water was installed in an old room next to the toilet, sometimes we need to take the hose out from the toilet to the outside to prepare meals for children or to be used for kitchen needs.”

The village Chief of more than 17 years, Filipe, explained that the whole community helped in the construction of the water system. “We had a lot of people helping. I divided them into two groups of about 50 people. They helped with the construction and prepared food for the volunteers.”

The water protection project provides communities with  access to clean water for agriculture, schools, and the health post in Puno.

Learn more about how ChildFund works with local partners and communities in Timor-Leste to improve water access.

The Disaster READY (DRR) project is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP). The water rehabilitation project was one activity that was part of the Disaster Risk Reduction Community Action Plan. The initiative was led by the community.

Florencia is a loving father to three children in Etetpiti, Timor-Leste. Every morning he walks his children to school, drops them off, waves goodbye, and then goes to work on the village farm. He is back at the school every afternoon in time to pick his children up.

His eldest son is in the second grade and his second son is just starting at a preschool supported by ChildFund Timor-Leste. Florencio has a reputation amongst the community for being very passionate about his two sons receiving a quality education in Timor-Leste.

Florencio pictured with his youngest son.

Every morning he can be seen smiling walks his sons to school. Florencio was only able to complete a middle school education until he was pulled out to focus on generating an income to help support his family. But now he wants a better future for his children.

“He is one of the best fathers. I don’t know how he manages it with his work on the farm, but he comes to school every day to wait for his children to finish. Only after that will he go tend to work or other chores,” said a volunteer teacher at the school. 

Last year, he was recognised by the school for his dedication to his children’s education in Timor-Leste. This is the first time this award has been given out. In a community where traditional gender roles are entrenched in daily life, it is unique for fathers to be so heavily involved in their children’s education.

The boys’ mother stays home with their third child, who is four years old. “For me, the most important thing is my children, I share work with my wife, my wife takes care of our third child, and I take the kids to school every day. Every important thing that I must do I always do it after my children come back from school,” said Florencio.

ChildFund has supported the local preschool by providing basic learning supplies and running information sessions with the community to demonstrate the importance of early childhood education in Timor-Leste and encouraging parents to send their children to preschool.

Florencio’s oldest son, Arjun, is one of the top students in his grade. Florencio makes time to sit and study with his children twice a day – usually around dinner time. He will read magazines with them to help them with literacy and they’ll play games together supplied by ChildFund at the preschool.

Florencio thinks that the support from organisations like ChildFund is vital to making sure more children attend and stay in school. He says that through ChildFund, he learned more about why childhood education is important for his children, particularly early childhood education.

He says that children who have graduated from the ChildFund supported preschool are always some of the best students. “Preschool prepares children and helps them be more confident learners. They have a head start in reading and the alphabet which is very important for all children because their minds are so open at that age.”

“My dream to all my children is for them to have success in every way they choose. I had a dream for one of them to become a teacher and military because I want my kid to be part of the Government and to keep teaching what they know to others,” said Florencio.

Learn more about how ChildFund Timor-Leste is working with local partners and communities to improve access to early childhood education.

You can also support early childhood education and make a difference to the lives of children in need. Consider donating one of our educational Gifts for Good, such as a school supplies set or a scholarship for a child. You can also sign up to donate monthly to ChildFund Australia, enabling us to support many more children to go to school and to stay there.