ChildFund talks to children to understand their experiences, to help us design programming that is right and relevant and effective. One of the best ways for us to gather this kind of information is to enlist the help of children, as we did recently in Timor-Leste.
In a village near Liquica, ChildFund brought together a group of children for a multi-age activity. The older ones scattered the floor with pieces of paper with questions written on them, and then walked the younger children around and recorded their answers. Simple questions, simple answers — until you take a closer look at where these children live: in one of the poorest nations in Asia.
The young people in that room were barely older than the country of Timor-Leste itself. Since achieving independence 2002 after 400 years of occupation by Portugal and, after 1974, Indonesia, Timor-Leste has been in an ongoing struggle to rebuild its infrastructure, health system, economy, agriculture and schools. More than half of the country's 1.1 million population is under age 15, and 20 percent is under the age of 5.
Those numbers suggest that children are Timor-Leste's most precious resource. The answers these 8- to 13-year-old children gave to some simple questions confirm it. See what these boys, Amandio, Sedelizio, Kalistru, Zitu and Leonito, and girls, Domingas and Isabel, have to say.
Foremost in their minds? School.
- In past years I was unhappy because I hadn't started school yet.
- I think a lot about school, because I want to be educated.
- I think a lot about studying for my future.
- I need pens and books to study for the future.
And they know what needs improving in their environment.
- I don't like the poor condition of my school.
- If I could meet with the Prime Minister, I would ask for clean water, as now I have to carry water far to my house.
- I want to build a school with enough chairs and desks.
They want to help …
- When I grow up and become smart, I would like to help develop my village.
- I want to study hard to help bring our country forward.
- If I could, I would like to build a new school, and a new road in my village.
and they have dreams.
- I would like to become a teacher to educate the children.
- I would like to become a primary school teacher.
- I would like to become a policeman.
- I want to become a teacher, to teach the children.
- I want to become a teacher in the future.
- I would like to become a doctor, to give treatment to sick people.
- I would like to become a teacher to teach people to become smart.
But, for now, they are children. Just children.
- I like playing football in front of the school, because we don't have a proper field.
- My favorite place is school, because I can play with my friends there.
- I like to tell ghost stories.
- I like telling funny stories. I like hearing funny stories.
- I like stories which let me understand more about our history.
- The last time I laughed was when a friend told me a joke.
Today, they are children. Tomorrow, they are the people who will lead their community into health and stability. Change begins now.