Safe Water in Soibada Thanks to Pittwater Catholic Parish Primary Schools and TankPro

 Safe Water in Soibada Thanks to Pittwater Catholic Parish Primary Schools and TankPro

I have been sitting at my computer for some time, trying to put into words the latest news about our projects in Soibada, Pittwater’s sister village in Timor Leste. It is proving to be a difficult task, because, thanks to the wonders of the internet, the people of this tiny village that is so isolated and underdeveloped, high in the mountains, are continually chatting to me on Facebook. Make no mistake, I love it! This type of communication between friends and communities is exactly what this friendship relationship is about. Yes, we are attempting to raise funds for projects that will increase the wellbeing and self sustainability of the village, but cementing our friendship and relationship building is of equal importance. We cannot assist them to achieve any significant development without the establishment of mutual trust.

Communication was always a problem in the early days of our project. Soibada has recently received electricity and the Internet has made regular communication possible. They also have access to online media and have gained an insight into the work behind our fundraising and the place they have in the hearts of the Pittwater Community. It is amazing for us to receive photographs from the teachers of their students using the books we have provided. 

This weekend marked a special date for our friends in Timor Leste. 15 years ago on 30th of August 1999, they voted to become independent from Indonesia. It was the onset of a tumultuous time that ended with the arrival of the Australian led Peacekeeping Force in September of that year. 

In 1999, when an overwhelming majority of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia, it led to violent opposition. Much of East Timor’s infrastructure was destroyed including water supply infrastructure. 

Exacerbating this situation was the already degraded state of rural water supply systems due to inadequate design, poor construction and low quality materials. Militia opposing East Timor independence killed pro-independence supporters and threw bodies in the water wells, further contaminating the country’s supply of clean drinking water. 

Earlier this year students at Sacred Heart and Maria Regina Catholic Primary Schools had special education days which raised their awareness of water problems in Timor. The students subsequently joined in activities to generate funds to assist with solutions in Soibada. This week I had the opportunity to pass on the latest news from Tasi Fatin and show the students in the Mini Vinnies (Social Justice) Team at Sacred Heart, where their money was spent.

Sally Watkins of Avalon was a member of the group of Pittwater volunteers that visited Soibada last month. Sally has experience in Preschool and early childhood education and is the adviser for the Soibada Preschool Project. She has since produced a book to explain to our children here in Australia what life is like in Soibada. It was wonderful for the children here to see in print the results of their hard work. 

Rob Romer, of TankPro, installed the water sanitizing equipment and solar panels purchased by the children at Sacred Heart and Maria Regina Primary Schools to clean the water, making it germ free. The Sacred Heart and Maria Regina Primary School students have made clean water a possibility in Soibada.

The Sacred Heart Mini Vinnies Team was even more enthusiastic after seeing all their hard work come to fruition. They have come up with some great ideas to further help in Soibada. If only we could bottle the energy of youth!

Tamara Sloper Harding
Chairperson, Pittwater Friends of Soibada Inc

Report and Pictures by Tamara Sloper Harding, 2014.  Extra Pictures by Peta Wise.