Posted by Barry Anderson on Dec 06, 2018
Three years ago, on my first morning in Dili, I looked through my hotel window.  A constant stream of women and children walked past carrying water containers.  They were getting the day’s water from the local pump where, even in Dili, few dwellings have piped water.
In villages away from Dili, few buildings have piped water. The women and children walk – often some distance – to a local spring for water.  This unsatisfactory situation is tolerable in the wet.  However, in the dry season, this walk can take even longer – too long for some girls to get to school therefore impacting on their education.
But even this is not the most urgent issue.  The schools, medical clinics and market places often lack running water.  A reliable water supply at these communal facilities would vastly improve community sanitation and hence public health.
The Northbridge Rotary Club’s first water project in Timor Leste focused on this issue.  The project is at Lete-Foho, a community located 3 hours’ drive south west of Dili and it involved the following:
  • A 5 kw pump to lift water 190 metres from a spring to header tanks.
  • These tanks supply, by gravity, additional tanks at three schools, a medical clinic and the market place.
  • The Global Grant Scheme of Rotary International provided the required funding - US$36,000.
How effective is the project?  A team from Northbridge Rotary visited Timor Leste in October 2018 (paying for their own flights and costs) to review the project. 
A market place stall holder took Denis Fernandez’s hand and thanked him profusely with tears streaming down his face.  The stall holders walk to the market the night before and they camp out in an area where there is no shelter.  They walk home the next afternoon.  For the first time in memory he could now wash his hands!
Why do we support Timor Leste? 
They have had it tough.
  • 400 years of Portuguese colonization
  • A very stressful invasion during WWII
  • 25 years of Indonesian occupation
  • Much destruction during independence at the time of Interfet.
They are our friends.  During WWII they supported our diggers with a one-on-one buddy (kriados) system to keep our soldiers alive.  There was great anguish when we withdrew and the diggers were unable to bring their kriados back with them. This at great cost to the East Timorese – the reprisals cost thousands of lives.
Still they hold no animosity. There is a large cemetery in Dili with the graves of Indonesian soldiers killed during the 1975 invasion. Not one of these graves has been vandalized.
They are self-starters:  The senior school Lete-Foho has 200 senior students.  Only 15 years has passed since the devastation during independence when most of the teachers were killed.  However in 2017, this village school graduated 10 students to university.
Half the proceeds from Rotary’s recent Bridge Day event has been donated towards future Water projects in Timor Leste.