Monday, March 22, 2010

Beautiful Timor Leste

Now back at home in Canada the question we are asked by others is; “How was it? Was it beautiful? What was the best part? Sum it up for me.” Well how do you go about doing that?

Where does one begin to sum up an experience such as our recent Solidarity Trip to Timor Leste (East Timor)? This has been on many of our minds both during the last few days within the country and the week now following our trip. Though its necessary to be well prepared before such a trip and read as much as you can about the country’s history and its current affairs, it does not fully prepare you for what they are about to experience. Your first impressions might surprise you from what you were expecting and your understanding of the people’s mood or sentiment is just impossible to grasp before hand. During the 2 weeks our Development and Peace delegation was in Timor Leste, one of the sentiments
that kept coming to us was how proud we were to be Canadian Catholics representing this great organization, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. How welcome we felt everywhere we went and how real the sincerity was from the organizations and their people thanking us for our support and for coming to their country. This was from the heart.

The Catholic Church has played such a big role in this country’s history and continues to be an anchor of the society. Witnessing this first hand granted us an insight in how this country will continue to grow and gain it’s national confidence. It takes time for a people to gain an appreciation for being their own catalyst in setting the course for their future while simultaneously trying to deal with past that continues to haunt them. We were fortunate to see many examples of how groups are working at this from different angles but all with an equal passion. The people were certainly ready for the work that lays ahead. It was interesting to talk to so many people and for the conversation to naturally be about one aspect or another regarding Timor Leste. It seemed the last thing on their minds was what our country was like. There was never any question nor desire by those that we met about a future outside of their country. This was not a place where one got the impression that people are eager to leave. The country we were introduced to was a proud and new nation with a troubling past, and with an equally hopeful future.

This future was what we were most concerned for as we sat around a table in Bali contemplating what we just experienced. Our hearts too had quickly become concerned for their future. What will happen when the United Nations and the other international organizations now present start to leave? Will the country be ready to pick up all the pieces?
We sure hope so and are encouraged by what Development and Peace has nurtured here in the way of supporting the groups we have. Helping to build the confidence of a very young population, building the skill sets needed in the rebuilding of lives, communities, governments and society at large.
This is a mighty challenge to all the people and we are grateful to be part of it in a small way. We all committed to each other to raise the awareness of Timor Leste back in Canada and to continue to raise more funds to support this country and the many others that benefit from Development and Peace.

We will not only raise the issues but stand beside the beautiful people of Timor Leste (East Timor) in their struggles. In solidarity with them and their dreams for a brighter future.
A future they have longed for, fought for and are now working for.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

International Women’s Day in Timor Leste

Our last day in Timor Leste

It seemed fitting that on our last day in Timor Leste we would have time to take part in the local rally celebrating International Women’s Day. Many of our partners were there as well as people we had already met and other leading officials in the community, including Ms Maria Paixoa de Costa, the Vice President of the Parliament, Ms Ameerah Haq the head of the UN for Timor Leste and Ms Kristy Swann Gusmao, the wife of the Prime Minister who also heads up her Aloha Foundation. The speeches given spoke of the continued struggles ahead and need for education of all youth in the country and need for more in the way of gender equality. It felt like we had a much broader insight into what this new country is all about, thus it was fitting that this event was on our last day and not our first.

We have planned our debriefing meetings to be in Bali over the next 2 days as we start our large task of reviewing and reflecting on much of what we have learned here in the past 2 weeks. We can then begin our new role in bringing this information back to Canada so we can raise these issues and help the people of Timor Leste by getting their country back on our international agenda as Canadians.

We have noticed the amazing number of other countries here but outside of our involvement as the Canadian Catholic Organization of Development and Peace, we met no other Canadians except for a few working for other governments and other nation’s NGOs. There was an absolute zero Canadian Government presence here now as the rest of the world community of international governments continues to work to help this new country get back on its feet.


Men are working at gender equality too

Liquica March 7 - Day 11

Today we visited with the last partner we came to see. This is a partner in a slightly different sense as we met with a Men’s group in a community about 30kms west of Dili.

The group AMKV (Men Against Domestic Violence) was started in 2002 after a visiting delegation from Nicaragua came to talk about a similar program they started in their country. Olivia is a director of the group that has established themselves in 8 districts across the country and he took us to one of them, Kaiteu, a small community a few kms south of Liquica, right on the edge of the ocean. Many members of community came out to meet us in a beautiful hut they had built as a meeting center.There they explained about their 4 objectives, increasing the partnership and interaction with women to increase gender equality awareness, prevent domestic violence, establish a strong men’s group against sexism and insure that men are included in anger management training. They had numerous activities to carry out their mandate, discussions, training, capacity building and advocacy. They stressed they were grateful for the help in organizing the groups and were not in need of money for support but rather were looking for ways to help them to organize, have meetings and further discussions. Their group consisted of men both young and old who all were keen to learn and transfer skills. There were about 300 people in this village which had also formed a women’s group..

We were fed an excellent morning snack and had a great lunch of their local foods. We also got a great chance to visit their homes and walk around the village area. They have little in the way of community infrastructure as the drinking water is still carried from the hills as the local salt water well is only used for washing.
There is a huge disproportion of youth to adults as they could not even guess how many youth they had as it changes so often. The youth are using the typical sports activities and music as way to socialize while the older women tried to raise monies by selling cooked rice. The natural social gatherings with other local communities are at play here, as well school and church being an important part of their lives.
A telling moment came when we asked if the youth group was used as a way for all youth to get together and from the initial reaction we thought that no, this was not the case but after some further comments by the group it turned out that many of them were now couples. They commented that the work of AMKV has helped to reduce the number of domestic violence incidents in the community and within families even though some of elder men were not keen to hear of this type of talk

Dick and Paul

Commitment to Timor Leste

Ailieu Day 10

The Merryknoll Sisters were a delight to visit. It was like one of those days in Canada where you drive for a few hours, visit a short while, then make your way back home again and feel good for doing it. It might seem like a lot of driving but the scenery was so incredible and the visit was a great one. This particular order of 5 sisters and 2 lay missionaries were purposefully far from Dili and its oppressive heat. They chose to be up in the mountains at Ailieu to be close to the people they came to help. They first came to this area in 1992 at the request of Bishop Bellow and thus have lived through some rough times here. This order is part of the same order that Fr Rolf is from, the Dominicans and he had been here a few times before and keen for us to visit the Sisters. With 3 Americans, and one each from Bolivia and the Philippines they are all foreigner here but are treated as trusted locals. Their stories of their times up in Ailieu were so full of heart wrenching tragedy and such love of the people here. After more than 17 years in Ailieu they have witnessed and had been themselves through so much. During the occupation, the district of Ailieu was a stronghold of the resistance movement and many of the men stayed just outside of town in the hillsides while the Indonesian Army stayed in the villages. It’s no wonder the people distrust any military presence as during the occupation the military was too scared to go up in the hillsides and thus targeted and brutalized the women and children during this period. The sisters recounted the days and weeks leading up to the vote for independence. They struggled to stay alive by running during the scorched earth campaign from both the Indonesian Army and the militia who carried out much of the killings and destruction of anything built during the Indonesian Occupation. They told us how they were warned that if the vote went against Indonesia, there would no safe place to hide anywhere and they had better get ready to leave the area immediately. The campaign to destroy everything was carried out with a military precision that was impossible not to have been pre-planned. The memories of the original invasion in 1975 which first lead to the massive killing spree were still fresh enough to many people who took these new warnings seriously and fled to the city and West Timor instead of hiding in the hills for what many thought might be months. Over 400,000 of the 600,000 people fled many parts of Timor Leste and went either to Dili or to the border with West Timor, inside Indonesia to escape the killings by the militia. In September 1999 the UN moved in this time to restore order and the militia was put down in weeks stopping the violence. Those few weeks were a dramatic time in the recent history as even churches were not a safe refuge. We were told that if there were too many gathered within, this enough reason for some in the militia to open fire on the clergy and the people. This occurred in Dili and throughout the country. There are many examples still in the country where buildings remain unocupied as a result.

It might have been the lack of a language barrier or that we were talking to fellow foreigners but the stories of the tragedies seemed all too real and chilling when recounted to us. These stories had echoed some of experiences that Jess Agustin has shared with us during our stay here as he too has lived through some of these same periods. Jess talked about going through the streets of Dili with a priest during the violence and picking up many people with strong times to the church before they were rounded up by the militia, saving the lives of many and being too late to save the lives of others. These harrowing accounts sure make one appreciate the tremendous dedication of these people to do what’s right. We sure hope the future is much kinder to this country.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Two Roads Diverge

Today I saw two road crews working on different sections of a road which we drove on high up into the mountains. When I say road, you have to think of the logging roads in BC or the back roads of the prairies, then imagine that road with twelve years of neglect and in the rainy season!!! Both crews were trying to make a difference. Both crews had about six men. Both crews worked in the mud with only flip flops or bare feet, and bare hands. Here is the contrast, one crew had wire cages they were filling with rocks that had been brought there by a dump truck, the other crew worked with their own picks and shovels.
One crew was being paid by the government; the other crew was not and were stopping people as they passed, asking for money!! It leaves one wondering if maybe the frustration of a crumbling infrastructure or the slow movement of the services that are not getting out to the people who need it, is what caused the other crew of men to take their action and stop the public to ask for money. Or maybe they were just out to make a buck…. But let me tell you, I could find an easier way to make a buck.


The Districts

Friday March 5th – our 9th day in Timor Leste

Today we spent our first of 3 days visiting the “districts”, with Emera being the first. Emera has a population of 8,000 which here they call a village. It took us about 3 ½ hours to get there from Dili with a definite need for our four wheel drive vehicles. It is easy to see why these vehicles are necessary when you drive through one wash out after another. Winding, twisting and sheer drop offs at some points, up and over the mountains we went to where the air was refreshingly cool, though wet with rain at times too. We even lost the use of a truck due to a transfer case issue. Good thing we had extra room.

Upon our arrival,it felt like the entire community showed up to welcome us with a “Welcome Dance”. This included young and old, along with many home made instruments and a special gift of personalized “Tais” for each of our delegationWe visited 2 community centers both supported by Development and Peace partner, FKSHThe first one was focused on the younger women (18 and older), with 9 active members and 32 new recruits coming through their program. The second center was for the senior women, who known as “tias”, which is a name given as a sign of respect here. These women first started organizing on their own by committing $20 each for the group. Their goal was to start a center where they could transfer some of their skills in a group setting. Some of the activities now put on by these 2 centers include, sewing, embroidery, weaving, coffee packaging, English training, traditional medicines and book keeping.

There is always more needed in these communities as we heard their continued desire for material, sewing machines, and the ever present desire to have computers.. Everyone we met were so appreciative of the support we had given them through our partner FKSH that it was great to see how our funds were used by a local NGO. FKSH had helped these people within a community to create and implement a programs they had tailored for themselves and their own particular needs.

There are 12 sub-villages who all use this young women’s activity center. The local parish supplied the building for the youth center and helped provide for the original training by sending 2 students to the city of Baucau with one of the Sisters for several months of training. The seniors center was donated to them by the federal government after writing a proposal. We were quite impressed that this came about until we visited the center in person and saw it was actually a condemned building as it was severely damaged by an earth quake and now the only safe area in the building was a small room in the back that was used to sell their wares. Though we only spent a few hours in this village we were sure impressed with their hospitality and their gratitude towards Development and Peace for funding our partner FKSH. We had a great lunch, were serenaded in song and music and had lots of opportunity for shopping by buying many of the handicrafts made by the very women we came to see. We were lead back to our cars by women drummers and a huge following.

The roads and rain are a major factor here as it was easy to see how these people can be completely cut off from the rest the rest of the country after a downpour. Another example of the realities in these communities was highlighted when the main facilitator working for FKSH in this village was unable to attend due to coming down with dengue fever. This decision was probably not made lightly as we were some of the few foreigners to come through this town based on the entries in the guest book.

On the way back to Dili we stopped about half way down the mountain at a training center built by the Catholic Church and run by one of partners here, the Sisters of St Paul Chartres. This center was recently built on donated land and also holds classes for women to learn how to cook and sew. These 3 month courses are run from Monday to Wednesday and provide a great opportunity for the women within this region. They walk from 1-2 hours to get to this center and work on 9 “Singer” sewing machines which were the same models as the ones we saw earier in the morning at the first village. These were very good looking treadle models and very practical as electricity in these areas is scarce and costly. One of the products of their labour is the sewing of school uniforms. The Sisters pay each young lady $5 for sewing the uniform and supply the material. Overall they seem very resourcefull here in this remote location and even much or all of the food needed there is grown on site.

Dick, Mary and Paul

Women in Politics

Thursday Day 8 in Dili – At the Parliament

The ratio of women in politics is surprisingly high here in Timor Leste, though in some ways it may be easier to strive for a goal of gender equality in politics if you are starting from scratch. There is a big focus here to try and encourage women to run for office at various levels and today we met with the Vice-President of the National Parliament to see how that was coming along. Maria Paixao da Costa was actually elevated to the acting Prime Minister and the acting President of the National Parliament today as the others were sequestered at a planning retreat high up in the mountains and effectively cut off from the city. Maria was very gracious to us by spending close to 2 hours in our company. There was much dialogue around her boardroom table where candid questions were asked and experiences were shared from both sides. We even had her sign one of our Fall action cards as one head of Parliament to another. The local press caught wind of meeting and came to film it. We were all surprised to see us on the nightly news on TVTL and suddenly people recognized us as those people from Canada.

With a target of 30% of seats in Parliament slated for women there must be something working as they are currently sitting at 27%. The down side to this stat is the cabinet equivalent here is almost all male with the Vice President being one of the exceptions. I’m sure with more people like Maria Paixao da Costa involved this too will be one of the changes for the better coming in the near future. It turns out quite a few of the Parliamentary Ministers and even more of the general members of Parliament are folks who have a long history with Development and Peace. The is course is quite the success of the organization as it’s a living example of how far the skills can take you that are gained from the “capacity building” development of the people that work with Development and Peace.

From seeing how the Parliament works we next found out more about the municipal level or what they call here the “village council”. The Women’s Caucus is a partner Development and Peace has supported here since 2003 promoting women to participate in leadership within their community. We met with the leadership teams of adjoining villages inside the meeting house of the Kuluhon Village. This was one of the first areas targeted in a National Pilot Project to have community elections. Next year the entire country will have these community style elections for the first time. Each council being made up with 9 members, 3 of which are to be filled by women. Much is being done now to encourage women to step forward and give them the skills needed for public speaking and the like as women have traditionally not carried out such public roles. Having elections is one thing but the task ahead is going to be filled with many challenges. They have no tax base and a very small budget from the national government. Their local problems are great and dealing with the effects of 70% unemployment within their community will be a constant issue.

Dick and Dorothy

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Disease and Health Care

The most preparation that we all had to attend to before coming here involved vaccinations and medications for the prevention of disease. This precaution has proved to be well spent as so far we have no incidents from our team suffering any major ill effects on the trip. The many stories we’ve heard of people suffering from malaria, TB, and many other diseases here are real and you can see or imagine it as you drive by to very poor ramshackle housing that some live in. The hospital we visited today looked very modern and an example of the new dollars coming into this country but this is the only one and the rest of the country does not benefit from the same quality of service. With the threat of Malaria being particularly high here, each morning during breakfast the ritual of reminding each other to take our malaria pills has a heightened level of seriousness. The issue of health care was a key point the Bishop impressed on us and this is certainly important in Dili but even more importantly in the districts where roads are fewer and the issues in logistics are amplified. We will soon venture out to the districts, though it is plain to see that even in the city health is a key issue for the government here. The National University here now has a medical program to train their own doctors and nurses. This university was started in 1986 by Indonesia in their efforts to win the support of the people and is now a major educator of the youth here as many of the local youth working for NGO’s are using any income gained from it to further increase their studies. The trend, especially during the first few years of UN involvement here, was to send people to foreign countries for training as a form of foreign aid. Such was not the case during the Portuguese era and the Indonesian occupation where only the privileged few were sent out of the country for training. Now as the first doctors started to graduate, they were quickly scooped up by the state to help run and guide their new ministries and creation of policy. As a result there is still a shortage. This is in part why a very established project here which currently has over 300 Cuban doctors in Timor Leste providing the majority of the services in clinics and hospitals both in Dili and throughout the rest of the country.


Animals in Dili

When we told our friends that we were going on this trip Solidarity Tour, many commented on the dangers and possible violence. However, we have been walking in Dili every day feeling very safe. Some have been jogging along the sea shore enjoying the views and the markets. Everywhere we have encountered friendly people. Everyone greets us with “bondia”. Animals are always a good indicator on how friendly a society can be, and for the animal lovers, there is an abundance of dogs and cats everywhere. None are viscous and we’ve been told that all have owners though are allowed to run freely. Beside dogs and cats, pigs, chickens and goats are a common site in Dili especially around the market stalls by the beach. It is a different world here but very pleasant and friendly.

We are very impressed at how well the animals are treated here and that same compassion is evident when we meet with our partners. This gives us tremendous optimism for the future of this country.

We are having a wonderful time and want our friends to know we are all very safe here. We thank God that we have will have another week before we have to leave.

Gerhild and Linda

How safe is Timor Leste?

Safety concerns were discussed at length before we left home as this country has been synonymous with violence in the past few decades. While the threat of violence seems capable of erupting at any time, we have yet to feel threatened. In fact every policeman, military, private security, whether local or UN related, has been more than friendly and we often engage in conversations whenever we get a chance. When we passed a check point manned by Pakistani UN security, their waves are a natural response. Common sense is important though as one priest said here the other day, you don’t want to push too hard here as it can quickly bring a harsh result. Yesterday the judge presiding over the case of last year’s assassination attempt on President Rosa Horta released his final decision, with a 19 year sentence for the prime suspect. There are rumors now of a demonstration to protest many of the irregularities in the case and the key questions unanswered. The younger generation has much to be suspicious about as memories are still fresh here. We will see tomorrow whether the demonstration does occur.

We visited a prison in Dili today that used during the Indonesian Occupation. This was where the current Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, was first held as a political prisoner before he was shipped off to Jakarta. Xanana was a rebel guerilla leader during the occupation and spent 17 years living in the mountains leading and organizing the resistance, which gained him a huge following and ultimately led to his capture by the Indonesian military. Even from his jail cell in Jakarta, Xanana continued to be very outspoken for Timor Leste and had such dignitaries as Nelson Mandela visit him and plead for his release. The prison we visited was the place of many cruelties and was recently restored with the aid of the people of Japan to serve as a memorial to those who suffered within. We walked through the many cells and paid our respects to those who never left the grounds. Vivid examples of the pain endured are still etched in the walls and floors. Many photos exist that document some of what went on here and a commission was held to try and record testimonials from people who came forward to recall their memories for the record. These are now available to both the new generations living here and the rest of the world who may not have been aware at the time. This prison is truly a very sad place.

It might be that these memories are still so fresh that the sense of calm here seems to have a bit of an edge to it. After Timor Leste was used by the UN as the poster child of the United Nation’s success in bringing about peace and order in a new country, it only took one incident in 2006 to turn that on its head and for 7 years of work to unravel in a matter of hours and days. Let’s hope the eventual withdrawal of the UN comes with this country more ready and the society more adjusted to their new reality.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Where do you begin?

We have had such busy days going from group to group, it has been hard to almost get your brains around the monumental amount of work that is being done here and what still needs to be done.

So many of the people that are doing the teaching and training are from all over the world, the Netherlands, Australia, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil and others. They are all here with the understanding that they must help teach the Timorese the skills they need to effectively run their country. Yet I think any of us not from this country can’t really understand even the largeness of this, because it goes all the way across the board, all the way from the basic human right of safety and sovereignty to food, education, writing and re-writing policies for government, police and many other agencies. All complicated by the language issues of Portuguese, Tetum, Bahasa, English and many other local languages and dialects. Even deciding which language to teach in schools is a difficult and controversial one. So if anyone has ever been involved in starting up any organization you might have a small idea what is being done here. In the beginning you need to sort out just what needs to be done, the order of priorities, get funding in place, figure out who will do what and how. One has to write policies for every sector of life. It is even hard to explain. Yet it is so encouraging to see all the young people working in high powered jobs, well educated in capacity building with their commitment and passion to their causes. By young I mean between 22 and 45. THIS COUNTRY IS NEW. I think we are the oldest people in Timor Leste. LOL. Even the women in the women’s shelter we went to, where the oldest lady in the shelter was 45 and had been there two months, she was like a mother to the younger girls, even one who had been raped by her father at fifteen. There was one who didn’t speak for the first six months she was at the center. The girls stood behind this “older lady” like a typical 3 year old, eyes cast down, not wanting to make eye contact with a stranger.

Yet how does one put this in a blog? There is one thing that keeps coming to mind; Young and New, Young and New, Young and New. Monumental.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Women and kids

Today was one of the days we have talked about the most in anticipation as we were to visit a women’s shelter and a day care run by one of our partners. This visit was also one of a few changes to the schedule as our delegation was too large to accommodate. It was an easy decision for the group as we cut along gender lines with the 6 women. First though we all met with the staff of Fokupers at their main office to hear about all the activities and goals of the organization which has been in existence since during the Indonesian occupation and has only recently become supported financially by Development and Peace.
Their focus is on helping women who are victimized by violence, especially domestic violence. Their programs include the shelters for women, day care, and advocacy for protection of women and children. As they are recognized by the police and courts as a reliable resource to the community, many of the victims of violence they work with come as a result of the police contacting Fokupers and making the connection. The work then begins to help support these women and children during their struggle and helping them to bring the cases through the court system.

The 6 women of our delegation then visited Fokupers women's shelter in Dili where 9 women and their children were staying. This “Safe House” visit was done with a degree of security as this location is highly secretive. No pictures of course. Here the women can stay for 2 weeks though due to the slow legal system, many women stay longer even up to a year. For Fokupors these shelters both in Dili and in the districts are a major focus of the organization especially with the associated ongoing follow up work and family counseling. It was a great visit with open dialogue and all were eager to show off their meagerly furnished center. Though most of their appliances and furniture were broken, there was a high degree of pride especially when it came to the care of their children and the handicrafts they made and sold to our group.

In the afternoon we met with Progressio which was formally called Catholic Institute of International Relations. They focus on providing capacity building to NGOs, grassroots “partners” and advocacy. We met with 3 of their volunteers called “Development Workers” who came from the Netherlands, Australia and the Philippines. We listened with keen interest on how they deliver these programs by helping to develop in others critical thinking skills, and helping people to learn analytical thinking skills. Here we really got into some of the complex issues related to language or the many languages in Timor Leste. In this country all the laws and court findings are written in Portuguese though the Timorese generally only speak either Tetum and/or Bahasa and have a desire to learn English but very few of the younger working class speak Portuguese. They also raised the controversy of land ownership as many tracts of land have 2 or 3 separate titles, coming from Portuguese times and Indonesian times with direct title or land use rights.

It’s no wonder it takes a long to bring in a new civil society.

Dorothy, Dick, Mary and Paul

Monday, March 1, 2010

Day 5 in Dili

Human Rights

Human Rights, wow, that can be quite a different issue when you are within a context where only recently a Timorese life was not valued by the foreign government who controlled your country. Now starting from nothing, create a new government overnight or within a few years while under UN control, and you can find yourself in a situation where your life is of value in principle at least but try and explain to an entire population how different everything is going to be now. You have a whole range of new concepts. A police force and a military; there is a difference. No longer a police state where anyone with a gun gets to do whatever they want without recrimination. Now you have laws that says an officer (whether military or police) does not have the right to perpetrate acts of violence against you for no reason. Laws that say a husband cannot beat his wife or that a woman should not be forced to marry someone that has been chosen for her. That there will now be gender equality in the workplace and at home, in theory at least. Laws that state after 6 months in custody a charge must be brought against you and a lawyer must show up to represent you, as you should not be forgotten there.

These concepts are pretty radical here and while they seem logical to all the people we met today, they are not yet the prevailing attitude. Many in government are working for these ideals though many are resisting. Today we met 2 of our partners who are focused on these issues and making sure due process is followed, especially as they relate to women.
HAK is focused on these and other important issues such as seeking justice for those who have suffered horrifically from crimes against humanity, and are dedicating their energies to supporting these victims while helping them to re-adjust to a new society. This was the first time that HAK had received so many visitors at once who came to learn and listen to them. They were all quite impressed but also nervous and apprehensive as we do represent a funding source and they do not want to disappoint. It does not take long for barriers to break down and communication to flow from both sides. The women are especially new to the process of being front and center in such a meeting and seem vulnerable, though are so eager to talk about their roles once engaged.

The Rede Feto (Women’s Network) group is working as an umbrella organization bringing 24 member groups together to help in creating a stronger voice for change and stronger approach to capacity building and advocacy for all women of Timor Leste. This was another organization whose seed money came from Development & Peace and is continued to be supported by us as well as many others; helping to expand their services and programs.

It has been very rewarding to meet these people and witness the sheer dedication to the cause as the skills they are nurturing and gaining from working for a NGO make them much sought after in such a new country where qualified people to fill jobs are scarce. This is another constant issue which is a result of the very success of these organizations and then at the same time, a constant threat to their continued existence.


Thanks given to Development and Peace

March 01

As a representative of Development and Peace, our delegation was given a special Certificate of Appreciation by the Bishop of Dili, Bishop Ricardo. The Bishop has been full of praise for Development and Peace and urged us to continue in our work as the job is not yet done. It has been very rewarding to us get this recognition as it’s easy to see the challenges at work here and this praise from the Bishop has made a big impression on us all.

We have now met with over half of our partners, many of their staff and volunteers and have seen a glimpse into what they do and what they are all about. We will continue to see some of their specific programs in action over the next few days as we also will meet with the rest of the partners here. All have expressed their sincere thanks for the support that Development and Peace has given to their organizations. It is clear that this has not been lip service as many owe their existence to Development and Peace for providing the seed money to get started, providing continued funding and resource support to make then sustainable. Many have expressed the importance of having received the encouragement from Development and Peace to seek other funding so their existence was not reliant on this single source.

“Mr. Jess” as our esteemed Program Officer, Jess Agustin is called here, is somewhat akin to a national icon himself as his work is constantly praised by everyone we meet. The model of funding for the in-country support person, Edna has also shown how Development and Peace has enhanced its presence here. The glowing is enough to make one’s head swell except that it is clear that their work is not done and though these people and their organizations may have tireless energy; changing a society is not done overnight and will require every bit of that dedication.