Kwinana Rotarians supervising new water supply for remote Timor Leste villages

Kwinana Rotarians Bob Cooper and Max Bird will be heading back to Timor Leste to continue the Rotary water supply project.
Picture: Jon Hewson d468570
Kwinana Rotarians Bob Cooper and Max Bird will be heading back to Timor Leste to continue the Rotary water supply project. Picture: Jon Hewson d468570

TWO Kwinana Rotarians are preparing to embark on a new water supply mission in Timor Leste as part of an ongoing project to help improve the lives of people in remote villages on the eastern end of the country.

Club president Max Bird and treasurer Bob Cooper are set to leave Perth on Sunday to finish a project at an orphanage in Tutuala and research new projects in the region.

They will also be investigating some old bores near an agricultural school at Fuiloro to see if they can be connected to two large concrete tanks on the site.

Mr Bird will be making his second visit to the region this year, after returning in March, when he said the water situation at Fuiloro was deteriorating.

“It was the middle of the wet season and they had to shut down the pumps at the well for two weeks due to it not making enough water to supply the ag school and orphanage,” he said.

About 1000 students attend the agricultural school and 130 girls live at the Sisters of Tutuala orphanage.

The Rotarians belong to a group led by Mr Bird called the East Timor Group which has been supervising the installation of water systems in several villages since 2010, including schools, the orphanage and hospitals.

He said the Timor Leste Government had installed a large concrete tank with a 50mm pipe about 100m from the orphanage.

“The Government has allocated a 25mm outlet on their tank for the orphanage to connect into,” Mr Bird said.

“Bob and myself are going up on Sunday to connect a pipe to the tank and put on the permanent water supply.”

Mr Bird said the success of the projects had been due to villagers getting involved and taking ownership of their own systems.

“We don’t do anything until they ask for help,” he said.

“They have to demonstrate that they are prepared to maintain the system, own the system and at the end of the day it’s their project, not ours.”

Mr Cooper said children were walking up to 4km a day to collect water before water filtration systems were installed.

“They are going to school now instead of carting water all day,” he said.

“Now they are attending school, achieving and getting somewhere.

“And when they ask me what kind of reward they could give us because they didn’t have much I said, quite simply, go to school, graduate, become your doctors and lawyers and politicians of the future and help build a new country.”

Mr Cooper said teachers have told him that students were more alert during class and their attention span was improving

The district schools principal now has plans to expand the water filter program to 34 other schools within her district.

The projects are funded by contributions from 16 Rotary clubs in WA, Victoria and Timor Leste and also contributions from Rotary Districts and the Rotary Foundation.