Not a word about this in our media

Update 17 August 2013

I have now heard back from both Friends of Baguia, and CVTL (Red Cross Timor Leste).

CVTL said this:

Dear Helen

Our apologies for not getting back to you sooner – but we went on a bit of a mission to find out what had happened in Baguia.

No one,  either CVTL HQ or Timor friends had heard anything about it at al – which is very unusual as Timor is a small country and everyone knows everything.

Finally I saw Sipri our Bacau Branch Coordinator – and he confirmed there was a landslide in the area but there had been no deaths.

He said CVTL volunteers went up to help and gave relief packs to the family’s (pots, toothpaste, soap, sleeping mats etc and some tarps. Sipri also said the Government agency went up there and helped and there has been some rebuilding. But as your friend said there is probably still a need for something – but Sipri said  that the government had provided some roofing materials.

CVTL doesn’t have any funds to help with rebuilding as we don’t have a funding base for disasters like Australia.

Sipri gave me some photos of distribution of emergency packs – but I’m not sure that’s of use to you.

Hope this information helps and again our apologies for the delay.

Friends of Baguia said this:

The Friends of Baguia committee has assessed and prioritised the issues that they believe they can address – namely the four schools that need roofing iron and timber. We have obtained costings and in total this will be over Aust Dollars $3,000. So while we don’t really have “spare funding” we feel we need to fix these immediate issues to improve teaching conditions, and then hope that we can met our future fixed commitments later in the year for scholarships, teacher salaries etc.

Other requests such as 2 tanks and piping for Buibela are out of our league, even though I’ve been told that the landslide has destroyed their spring and their new water supply is apparently now 3 kms away.

My friend in Baguia continues to press the need for a solution to the water crisis in Buibela, but it has been identified as an expensive and complicated job, so I don’t know how this will be solved.  Friends of Baguia say it would cost $4,500 for the water tanks alone, and much more to include 3km of piping to the nearest spring.  I would dearly love to visit Buibela and see for myself, how they access that water.  I guess they walk the 3km, fill something, and walk the water back to their homes?

Meanwhile, I read a quote on Facebook the other day by Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of Nestle, that access to water should not be a human right, and water should be treated like a commodity, as with any other foodstuff.  When I hear this, I think back to the little boy in Dili who appeared in his ragged clothes from nowhere near my hotel as I was walking along, and literally begged me (in a language I didn’t understand) to put some water in his dirty old plastic cup.  I will never know what happened to that boy who I didn’t find a solution for, because in my shock it didn’t register until I’d walked away, the impact of what he didn’t have.  A cup of water!

780 million people across the globe lack access to clean water, which is approximately one in every nine people on the planet, and lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing every four hours.

21 July 2013

Today I heard from my friend in Baucau District, Timor Leste.
The message from her is “rain a lot and natural disaster everywhere.  People are injured and dead.  Buildings slid down in the rain”.

I have tried to find news of this on the internet but there is nothing?


It takes an hour to fly from Darwin, on the north coast of Australia’s Northern Territory, to Dili, on the north coast of Timor-Leste.  Why would this not be news we would want to hear?

Baucau District, where the disaster is reported to have happened, can be found on this map, two districts to the east of Dili.


I have texted her again, asking for more information so that I can let people know.  Her reply so far has been “I will send you email tomorrow.  But we have no batteries and no power”.  So providing even basic information via email is going to be a challenge.  Anything I find out, I hope to share somehow.

Sometimes though, it seems as though what some American celebrity wants to call their baby is more newsworthy than a disaster going on in our own back yard?

23 July 2013

Two days later, when the intermittent power came on, she managed an email to me, which I quote here:

The desastres are around Timor leste.There are many significant desastre in Seisal,West of east Timor.It is the desastre journalist has photos of it. Up in baguia no journalist come to do the report on the newspaper.We have no picture up in baguia because we are in remote area.there is no power at all during this wet season.We can’t recharger batteries.It is very hard to have evidence to over seas.If someone come up to baguia they will know what is happen.Friends of baguia will know what and where.

These is the things we need you to help.

1.Buibela school need your help to replace their school roofing because just in half an hour of the wind the roof is blow away.They need 45 lenghts of corrugated iron.6 kg of nails. And two water tanks and pipes for Buibela.

2.Haeconi School.35 lenghts of corrugated iron.

3. larisula Kindergarten school. 35 lenghts of corrugated iron.And 6kg nails

4.Water tank for Baguia orphanage

5.Afaloikai school.Needs 45 lenghts of corrugated iron.6 kg of nails and timbers.

6.Road and bridge broken

7.Mesh or gabion baskets for landslide and road broken.

Friends of Baguia are a community organisation in Victoria who have assisted Baguia District in different ways, and their website tells you how you can help with donations or fundraising.  I hope that people will read this page and decide to help.  It is hard to imagine being so cut off from the outside world.

Unfortunately a Google for news from Seisal also brings up nothing, so even though an outside journalist has apparently been there and taken photographs, this is not information available to the outside world either.

The good news is, people in Australia and the West do want to know and help.  This morning a friend has (already!) referred me to Kopernik, an NGO involved in directly assisting third world communities with innovative technologies.

24 July

Further enquiries have revealed that because Baguia is a remote location in the highlands of eastern East Timor, with a population of around 13,000, with intermittent power, poor internet connections, and a population who survive on subsistence farming (rice, corn, beans, and some water buffalo used to till the land), the chances of this ever making it to the outside world’s consciousness is pretty much “nil”.

There are, despite this recent tragedy (and the ongoing threat of similar tragedies due to the fragile built environment), still good news stories.  In 1999, after the Timorese referendum in which independence from Indonesia, who had ruled since 1975, was almost unanimously voted for, the Indonesians left a trail of destruction as they left the country.  95% of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed, including schools.  Almost all of the teachers at that time were foreign born, and left the country.

Since then, schools have been established, the country boasts 12,000 teachers at a teacher:student ratio of 1: 28 now, yet much still needs to be done.  Two thirds of the population are under 25yo, meaning that the demands on the education system are only going to increase.  Especially if natural disasters such as Baguia has recently seen, continue to cause cheap tin roofs to fly off school buildings, roads cut off, obstructing people who often have to travel large distances to reach school, and access to water remains so challenging.

26 July 2013

Overnight I received this email from Baguia:

Thank you very much for your attention.
Kopernik is absolutely a very part of the world to contact after I read the explanation you sent me.
I hope our suffers can be less with your way to listen to us.

Sadly, the message from Kopernik is that unless there is an organisation at the grass roots level for them to partner with, then they cannot help.  They have strict processes in place about this, which is tied in with their accountability processes, and it makes complete sense.

I have written to Baguia asking if there is an organisation there who Kopernik might be able to partner with, but I suspect the answer will be no.  In which case, I’ve written to Timor’s Red Cross, asking for their assistance.  They have a good reputation from all accounts, so with any luck they may be able to respond in some way.

The wheels of assistance sure move slowly!

12 August 2013

Well, the wheels do turn slowly, but today I heard from two organisations with an interest in Baguia Sub District and their recent weather damage.

Timor’s Red Cross have reported back from the area.  Unfortunately they don’t have funding to assist in disasters in Timor, and so they cannot assist with the repairs.  They have delivered “relief packs” including soap, sleeping mats and tarps (I can’t imagine living under a tarp in a tropical climate?).  They report that a government agency has assisted with some building repairs, however my friend continues to report that there remain buildings without roofs.

Friends of Baguia in Victoria have committed to roofing iron and timber for the four damaged schools, so that is a great start.  The school which needs access to water – they are hoping for piping to link to the nearest spring 3km away – seems like an unlikely bet, people are not prepared to commit to this as it is expensive and would be labour intensive.

Anyone interested in helping, you can donate to Friends of Baguia and know that the money will go directly towards projects in this poor and very remote part of the world, but only a very short flight from Darwin in Australia as the crow flies.

2 thoughts on “Not a word about this in our media

  1. Thanks Jennifer, I did send an email to Sunrise but have not heard back. They have warnings on their page that due to the volume of mail, they can’t promise a response, so I doubt anything will come of it.


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