Until recently, the sound of rushing water was something children in Memo associated with the rainy season and the damaging floods and landslides that followed.
Memo, an isolated village on Timor-Leste’s border with Indonesia, experiences water scarcity for a few months each year. Families walk several kilometres to the river to collect water for drinking, cooking and cleaning, and children take water to school for cooking. “We had toilets, but inside there was no water,” said Azu, a year six student.
With the support of New Zealand Aid Programme funding, ChildFund started work in Memo in 2011, beginning by promoting sanitation through community education sessions, and using songs and board games to help educate children.
The project was so important to the Memo community that 500 parents offered to help construct toilets and establish water connections. “We wanted to help because of our children,” Victor, a father, said. ”Also the teachers and ChildFund asked us if we could help. We said yes, because it’s good for the future of our children.”
New water and sanitation facilities were opened in May, including a toilet at the early childhood development centre, eight toilets at the primary school and two water tanks powered by a solar pump.
The sound of water rushing out of the tanks was a cause for joy at the community celebration, attended by New Zealand Aid Programme representative in Timor-Leste Anna Mosley. Anna said New Zealand is proud to support a project that’s also so well supported by the community.
“Education and health are the foundation for Timor-Leste’s development, but development doesn’t happen unless people work together to achieve their goal,” she said.
Although the celebration, which included dancing, songs and food, lasted only a day, the benefits for children in Memo will be sustained indefinitely.
Almost 200 households and 438 students now have easy access to clean water, which means not only more time for children to study and play, but also health improvements.
“We are happy to have a new tank. The tank is full of water,” said Maria, a young student. “Now I can use the toilet. I feel happy that I don’t have to go outside.”
The New Zealand Aid Programme has contributed $1,419,428 to this initiative over three years, with tasks concluding in March 2014. The Sustainable Development Fund activity aims to provide access to clean water for 2000 rural households and 20 primary schools by March 2014. The activity is on track to achieve this, with 613 households and five primary schools already accessing clean water.