After a 25 year plus occupation by Indonesia, in 1999 the overwhelming majority of Timorese people voted for independence. Timor Leste (East Timor) was declared an independent state on 20th of May 2002. As South East Asia’s poorest country, Timor Leste faces a vast range of social, economic and environmental issues. With one of the highest rates of malnutrition for young people in the world and over 50% of the population under 18, the Timorese youth are not only the future of the country but an important part of the region’s future too.
Soon after independence, Father Riley visited East Timor and commited to assisting the town of Baguia and the young people of East Timor. Baguia is a small impoverished village high up in the mountains, around 6-8 hours drive from the capital Dili. Baguia is used as a little hub for the smaller, outlying villages. There are a few small shops, a church, a secondary school and an orphanage. Due to the distance between the villages, many school students who live far from Baguia have to walk up to 5 hours to be able to attend classes. Add this to the time spent retrieving water and food it can make life very difficult for young people to attend school.
Through a number of programs, Youth Off The Streets Overseas Relief Fund has been successful in its commitment to help the young people of Baguia for over 10 years.