During our visit we met a bunch of passionate people with exciting ideas to help shape the future of Timor-Leste. While you’ll find plenty of foreign aid workers in this new country, surely the Timor of tomorrow is best shaped by those who know it best: Timorese people. Here is a brief look at just some of the cool projects we discovered:
– Arte Moris: walking in off the dusty streets of Dili into the Arte Moris gardens is like arriving in the Berlin underground art scene… In a tropical jungle?! Amazing sculptures made almost entirely of collected rubbish. Litter is everywhere in Timor-Leste, with waterways often looking more like rubbish tips. There is no waste system in place and at best it’ll be burned (which of course isn’t good at all!). So to find people using this rubbish as the raw material to make something beautiful is really exciting. The team of artists who live and work at Atre Moris (the vibe is totally ‘artists squat’), run workshops to encourage local youth in creative expression, interwoven with themes surrounding the environment. Inside we caught an exhibition of two local artists, giving insight into daily life in Dili. Other works combine traditional handicrafts into modern works.
– Rocket stoves: In most Timorese families, cooking is done over wood fire in an enclosed room. Aside from negative health affects from inhaled smoke (all district children have runny noses), the inefficient fires burn lots of wood; wood that must be collected from forests and carried by women or children back to the kitchen. Organisations like PARCiC are introducing rocket stoves as an alternative to villages. Rocket stoves are highly efficient: the wood that would usually last just 2 weeks in an open fire, can be enough for more than a year in a rocket stove! The stoves are met with resistance in some communities, so often the wood fire option is left to allow the people to decide for themselves. Workshops are run to teach communities how they can build the rocket stoves themselves from materials already available in their village.
– Haburas Foundation: promote and educate about local organic food. In Dili their Cafe Natureza is a must for lunch, serving up all Timorese, all organic yumminess daily. You can taste their passion!
– PermaTil: work with district farmers to find working permaculture principles that can be incorporated into local agriculture. PermaTil have also created an introductory guide to permaculture, with illustrations by Arte Moris!
– Santana Leublora Green School, Maubisse: Mana Bella of Maubisse is in the process of establishing a ‘Green School’, which will teach environmental sustainability to children in the Maubisse district, Timor’s traditional agricultural hub.
– The Maubisse Flower Mini-festival (May): Erlin & Shige are working hard with the Maubisse community to revive the pride in the flowers, the region was once famous for. They hope the mini-fesitval will attract visitors to Maubisse and assist in setting up a domestic flower market. The Pousada grounds look absolutely beautiful thanks to the efforts of them and their local students.
– Science of Life: can be found in towns through out the districts of Timor-Leste. They offer English classes (at a fairly basic level – would certainly welcome assistance from native speakers!) as well as social awareness. In Maubisse, Science of Life was organising rubbish-pick-up afternoons weekly.
– Lyana Kafe: While Dili has a sprinkling of trendy bars popping up along the foreshore, you’ll find they’re rather made for foreigners by foreigners. And yeah, prices to match the wallet of the clientele… We discovered a hidden and newly open gem, near the cathedral (next-door to D’City Hotel), in a lower socio-economic area of Dili. Lyana Kafe is the first Timorese owned cafe/bar perhaps in the whole country, and more than that, it’s owned by women. The vibe is the kind that’s hard to find, no matter what city of the world you’re in: welcoming and unpretentious. They’re keeping the prices as low as they can to make sure it’s accessible to locals (you can get bread and sausage for $0.50!). They hope to set an example for other Timorese people of what is possible. Lyana is striving to operate as a social enterprise. Already they employ a local woman from the district of Dili to make the bread and are offering people volunteering opportunities to gain hospitality skills. They’d only been open a month at the time we visited, but they’re planning to bring women from the districts to Dili for training and skill sharing. On Saturday nights local bands play live music and the place is packed with people.