As we approach the 10th anniversary of Rotary’s partnership with the Balibo House Trust, (BHT) it is timely to recall the many achievements of the Balibo Community in the Bobonaro District of Timor Leste.
BHT was established by the Victorian State Government in 2001, to commemorate the lives of the ‘Balibo 5’, the 5 young journalists killed by Indonesian troops during the invasion of Timor Leste in 1975.
BHT’s charter is to celebrate their lives, by improving the life of the Balibo Community. Since 2008 it has been Rotary’s privilege to help with that task.
Rotary Club of Bentleigh, Rotary Club of Port Melbourne and Rotary Club of Dili (Timor Leste) made the first contacts in 2008 and were then followed by RC Keilor and RC Pakenham in 2014. These two clubs then supercharged it all by forming the ‘Rotary Balibo Partnership’ and adding Rotary Clubs of Berwick, Koo Wee Rup, Carlton, Mitchell River, Keilor East, Gateway Rotaract and Rotary Club of Windsor [NSW], to the group and more clubs are always welcome!
The partnership, working together with BHT and the community, have concentrated on improving the community’s capacity to deliver better outcomes in education, health, sanitation, commercial enterprise and job creation.
we concentrate on early-childhood and on vocational education.
The Balibo 5 Kindergarten has been extended and now teaches 80 children. However, it is at capacity again and we are building the new Belola Kindergarten, due to open in 2018.
The Community Learning Centre [CLC], which is run with help of a PALMS Australia volunteer, delivers computer and English language classes as well as hospitality and mechanics training opportunities.
There are 23 schools and 9 kindergartens in the area and the aim is to gradually provide all schools with sanitation, furniture, etc. With help from Rotary International District 9800, RAWCS, DIK, and the CLC, we source, ship and distribute 100’s of desks, chairs, blackboards and computers. We also ship thousands of exercise books and other educational material. Sanitation, we have added toilets and fresh water systems to the Balibo 5 Kindergarten, the CLC, the volunteer apartments and Balibo Fort Hotel; more are planned for schools and kindergartens.
we built the new Balibo Dental Clinic, which now operates with two part-time, Timorese government dental nurses and visiting, volunteer dentists from Australia. The dental nurses visit schools and educate children about dental health.
We also supply the government run Balibo Hospital with wheel-chairs, medical instruments and supplies and in early 2018 there is a major shipment of hospital-beds and other equipment. The hospital and CLC will also distribute Days for Girls supplies to patients and high school students.
Over the past two years, under RAWCS project 22-2014/15, we improved the cafeteria at the CLC and added a commercial-grade, community kitchen, a resident volunteer’s apartment, the dental clinic and a mechanic’s training shop. All the above has created 6 permanent jobs, plus training opportunities and commercial activity.
The most significant commercial initiative so far, was the redevelopment of the 350 y.o. Balibo Portuguese Fort, into a small, 4-star hotel, restaurant, bar & museum. This project started in 2010 as RAWCS project 142-2010/11 and opened in 2015. It is by far, the largest employer in town and will soon reach 24 permanent jobs when the new Balibo Conference Room opens. The conference room was funded by the Victorian Government and the construction was supervised by a Rotary volunteer builder. The partnership and BHT has provided all furniture, crockery and electronics and is due to open in December 2017.
The works represent more than US$1,200,000 investment and are making a real impact on all 15,000 residents in the area. No club or organization could undertake all this by itself, but in partnership, we can.