Timor-Leste is one of the world’s poorest nations. Over 40% of its’ 1.3 million people live in poverty, unable to afford daily necessities.
Timor-Leste is one of Australia’s closest neighbours, only a one hour flight from Darwin. After the Japanese invaded Timor-Leste during World War II, the Timorese helped Australian servicemen fight a guerrilla war from the mountains, providing food, shelter and acting as guides and porters, some even fighting alongside the Australians. After the Australians were evacuated, many Timorese were executed by the Japanese for the support they provided.
East Timor was a Portugese colony for centuries and was then occupied by Indonesia for 24 years – only gaining their independence in 2002. It is estimated that 250,000 people, one third of the total population, died during the Indonesian occupation. Over 90% of public buildings, including schools, were destroyed in 1999 by Indonesian backed militia following the end of Indonesia’s occupation.
Despite their grinding poverty, East Timorese people regard education as one of their greatest priorities. Rebuilding the nation’s education infrastructure is of the utmost importance for East Timor and its children.