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Training the next generation in Timor-Leste

In Timor-Leste, more than half of the population is under the age of 25. Not only are its people young, but the country itself is young. Timor-Leste became the first new nation of the 21st century in 2002. Just over a decade later, the country’s young people are entering a limited labour market during a time when economic growth is yet to take off.

With this in mind, ChildFund Timor-Leste has created a program to engage youth in the development of their new nation. ChildFund is providing technical expertise with a model for a comprehensive youth training program, which is designed to provide sustainable employment to young people who are normally without access to further education and training.

The youth training program provides young people with vocational skills specific to their communities’ strengths, in fields ranging from agriculture to hospitality. Underpinned by ChildFund’s Youth Employment Model, it also aims to provide them with the ability to sustain themselves and their families economically and contribute to their communities in meaningful ways.

Eighteen-year-old Imaculada, from the Covalima District, believes her country`s future lies in agriculture. “Strong agriculture, strong country,” she says.

Before joining the training program, Imaculada helped her parents with cleaning jobs at home, and sometimes worked on the family`s farm. Imaculada completed secondary school but could not afford to continue her studies. When she heard about the youth training program from a school friend, she jumped at the opportunity to study agriculture. “I wanted to learn about methods of traditional and modern agriculture,” she says. She enjoys learning how to use manure to fertilize her crops – instead of expensive chemicals. She plans to use her new skills at home.

“Life in Covalima is good, but we young people need to make efforts to make it better,” she says.

Another member of the ChildFund training program is 20-year-old Leandro. Prior to joining, Leandro grew vegetables to help support his family of 9. He chose to study hospitality instead of agriculture because he wants to use his burgeoning English skills; which he has developed from a concurrent English course he is taking. He is gaining skills in catering, food safety and customer service, and has been an apprentice at several restaurants in the capital city of Dili, where the program is held. On completion, Leandro plans to return to his village in the Bobonaro District and start a small business as a tour guide or open a restaurant.

He says the training has changed him, and he is grateful for the opportunity. He`ll pay it forward by helping to provide schooling for his younger brother and sister, thereby giving other young people an opportunity to contribute to their young country.

“Young people like me are the future of the nation,” says Leandro.

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