VSA has been in Timor-Leste since 2002. We work alongside Timorese people in government, the private sector, local urban and rural NGOs, and with International NGOs to support the economic, social and environmental development of this new country. In 2007 VSA was forced to suspend its programme following a period of civil unrest, but was able to return in November 2008. Following the election results in April 2012, VSA reaffirmed plans to extend our programmes in Timor-Leste. VSA has a field office in Dili, staffed by a Programme Manager and Programme Administrator and works closely with the NZ Embassy.

There are 1,225,000 people living in Timor-Leste (formerly known as East Timor).  Timor-Leste is one of the world's newest nations and the newest in South East Asia with history of colonisation and occupation.  Timor-Leste became independence in 2002, after it suffered a violent history through decades of struggle for independence from Indonesia. As a young nation, Timor-Leste is moving from a post conflict fragile state to quickly transitioning as a developing resilient nation.  Timor-Leste is now focused on building its governance and public service delivery, improving and rebuilding infrastructure, reversing economic hardship and poverty, along with improving education and health.

Timor-Leste has a young population (62% under 25) and along with having a very short to time to run its own country, there is often be a lack of experience in key positions in all sectors of the workforce, VSA volunteers are in a good position to work alongside managers and employees including building the capacity of dedicated, optimistic and driven young professionals who are contributing to build their nation.

Timor-Leste is the second most oil dependent economy in the world with the country’s offshore natural gas and oil reserves providing the majority of Government funds, this resource is unsustainable, so other income generating sources are being investigated . Coffee is the main private sector export commodity, while aid money continues to support a wide range of economic and social development including in infrastructure and construction.


What we’re doing in Timor-Leste 


In the 2018-19 year, VSA volunteers undertook 35 assignments with 21 partner organisations in Timor-Leste.

Combining economic development with social development continues to
provide strong opportunities. The ongoing relationship with HAFOTI continues to provide economic development opportunities such as increasing exports, while also establishing HAFOTI women as social leaders in their communities.

HAFOTI continues to be a success story with the collective beginning to
develop its export markets and HAFOTI women leading their communities to
develop potable water and higher quality diets.

We will be broadening our focus to more foundational work such as our
support of organisations such as TradeInvest and the Asia Foundation.

VSA’s shift from tourism operations to more general business development
will focus on creating an enabling business environment and youth
entrepreneurship, to help support Timor-Leste’s large youth population to
create jobs and businesses.

VSA’s ongoing relationship with the Xanana Gusmao Reading Room in Timor-Leste has most recently involved Hugo Egan who volunteered as a Marketing and Library Coordination Assistant.

Looking to volunteer in Timor Leste and want to know what living there is like for our VSA volunteers? Check out this great short by Adam Constanza: