Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke will join members of the Bendigo-Maubisse Friendship Committee on a visit to Timor Leste tomorrow.
Every second year the Mayor of the City of Greater Bendigo travels to Timor Leste to inspect the work of the committee and experience the local culture.
Cr O’Rourke first visited the Maubisse community in 2017 and said she looked forward to returning.
“The people of Maubisse are very welcoming and appreciative of the support they receive from the Greater Bendigo community. We stay with local residents, so it is a very immersive experience where I can see first-hand the wonderful difference the Bendigo-Maubisse Friendship Committee is making,” Cr O’Rourke said.
“The main reason for visiting is to attend a special community meeting that is designed to evaluate projects that the committee, with the help of the Greater Bendigo community, has completed and set a new development agenda for the next two years.
“I will also meet with local school children who have received a scholarship to attend school. Some of them walk many hours to get to school and they are seen by their communities to be very fortunate to receive a scholarship.
“By the end of this year nearly 200 scholarships will have been provided to Maubisse students over the past two years, with a number of students then pursuing university studies.
“The Bendigo-Maubisse Friendship Committee is one of Australia’s largest education scholarship providers into Timor Leste. This is an amazing achievement and these scholarships are the result of the generosity of private donors, clubs and businesses from Greater Bendigo, and I thank them for their generosity.
“Investing in education, infrastructure and essential services is critical to the sustainable development of Maubisse and Timor Leste more generally. I am looking forward to again representing the Greater Bendigo community on this visit.”
The Bendigo-Maubisse Friendship Committee was formed by Council in 2006 to contribute to improved living standards, access to basic services, training, capacity building and social programs.
The Mayor will return on July 16. The Bendigo-Maubisse Friendship Committee provide a small daily allowance and all other costs are paid for personally by Cr O’Rourke.
About the Maubisse region
Maubisse is located in the central highlands of Timor Leste in the Ainaro District, 73 kilometres south of the capital Dili and 1,300 metres above sea level.
It has a population of 20,000 people and is the main coffee growing region of the country.
This moderate climate produces green beans, mandarins, avocados, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and shallots.
Like most parts of Timor Leste, the Maubisse community experiences many challenges.
The fledgling economy faces barriers such as a lack of employment, government structures, health services, education, transport and communications.
The typical Maubisse resident is a member of a subsistence farming family who exist on an annual income of less than $350 and live in a house with a dirt floor.
A family may not have electricity, running water or transport (unless they are lucky enough to own a pony).
Children may attend a school with no furniture, books or pens and school can be cancelled for the whole wet season if the building leaks.
Only 10 per cent of mothers have access to medical assistance during childbirth and the only option for keeping mosquitoes away from babies is to fill the house with smoke.