Building the Futures of Families in Soibada

By Pittwater Friends of Soibada Inc

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Soibada - where is it?

What is the impact of war?

Why do they need our help?

Soibada, in the mountains of Timor Leste, just North of Darwin was once a prosperous town and a hub of education. During 25 years of brutal occupation, the people struggled for freedom.  As many as 200,000 people perished in the fighting, massacres and forced starvation. The destruction has set the community back decades. The standard of living is now not as good as it was in the 1950s. In 1999  INTERFET peacekeepers landed on the basketball court just down from the church. Freedom is not enough. Education is the key to independence and sustainability. For every year of conflict, it takes 5 years to rebuild to the standard of before the war.

Friends of Soibada has been working in partnership with the local community for ten years now. This successful relationship is evident in numerous projects from education, maternal health, girls hygiene (Days for Girls), to sanitation and water projects.

The construction of a Training Centre for Arts, Craft and Culture will not only provide a much-needed learning environment.   It will provide jobs for the locals during construction, and the running of training programs. The skills learnt in the centre will provide business opportunities in the burgeoning tourism industry. It will empower the local community to work, train, feed and educate their families.

After WW2 Australia promised the Timorese we would support them as they supported our troops that had been abandoned on the island. We told them that we would not forget them. We have let them down countless times in the years since. We owe them a debt of honour. 

The problem we face.

COVID-19 has challenged us. We need to keep the builders working on the construction of the centre. They need these jobs in order to feed their families. The average family in Soibada has 8 children. Our construction site employs 20  builders. It is critical we are able to keep these men employed. A builder's wages are only approximately $40 a week, yet it will cost him about $25 a week just to feed his family.

If we do not complete construction ready for learning to commence when this crisis is over a large group of locals, both children and adults, will miss the opportunities for the education that will change their lives.

Here’s what we’re doing about it

COVID - 19 has meant that all of our regular fundraising events have been put on hold. As we continue to look for alternate funding sources like social enterprise, partnerships and grants we seek your help. The success of projects over the last ten years gives us the confidence to continue beyond this current crisis. 

The construction of the Arts, Craft and Culture Training Centre not only provide jobs for the local tradesmen during the building phase, thus enabling them to support their families, but there will also be jobs opportunities for many people on completion. There will be education and practical training for all ages in the community. Small businesses will be established to sell the products crafted and there will be a venue to preserve the historic culture of the people of Soibada.

We are funding:

  • the construction of classrooms in the training centre and educational facilities
  • jobs during the building phase
  • families livelihoods
  • jobs on completion
  • career-building education which leads to a financially  independent community

Help us make good the promise Australia made in WW2. 

You can help us in the following ways.

1. Donate, please and share the campaign with your friends.

2. Take a selfy with the phrase - "Australia does not forget her friends in Timor Leste" on a piece of paper and post it on Social media.

3. Send a message, make a video recording yourself saying showing your support and friendship for the people of Soibada. For example; "We will not forget you Soibada"

4. Share this campaign through your networks an organise your own team.

Can you help us?

The people of Soibada want to give you something too. 

For every $50 donation, you will receive a bracelet of friendship made by the Soibada crafts groups in Timor Leste and Australia. This joint craft project uses recycled materials and unites our two communities in creativity and friendship.

For every $100 donation, you will receive an original lino print made by the school students in Soibada. In October last year the well known Northern Beaches artist Yvette Ten-bohmer ran workshops in the guesthouse. Once the centre is complete many more such classes will take place.

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Team Members

Tamara Sloper

Ian Laidlaw

Isabeau Harding

Jo Buchanan

Kerry Goodrick

Peta Wise

Rae Masman