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 2016-17 year, VSA volunteers undertook 31 assignments with 11 partner organisations in Timor-
Leste. The young country’s bourgeoning business and NGO sector has made it the ideal place for VSA to pioneer new volunteering models, with e-volunteering allowing volunteers to support their organisations from a distance, and hub and spokes assignments allowing volunteers to sit with one partner organisation but provide support to many more. VSA continued its work in education, a key area of need given the young population and the demand for vocational training.
The number of children completing secondary school is low and unemployment rate is high in Timor-Leste especially among young people, who represent over 60 percent of the population. Working with vocational training providers, our volunteers are helping to ensure young people have access to training which equips them for employment. VSA volunteers work with a variety of public, private and civil society organisations. VSA‘s goal of expanding the programme to district level continues to progress. Approximately 70 per cent of the population live in rural areas and practice subsistence agriculture. The financial, administrative, management, marketing, agricultural and horticultural, water and sanitation, English language teaching, tourism, event management and more recently climate change knowledge and experiences our volunteers share help individuals, organisations, communities, and government bodies to improve the lives of all people in Timor-Leste
Volunteers undertook assignments with the Dili Institute of Technology (DIT), Sentru Treinamentu Vokasional Juventude, Xanana Gusmao Reading Room and Ba Futuru. These partners provide education directly or support the education sector and Timorese youth.