Healing the Past and Building a Future in Timor-Leste
- By The Global Fund for Children on May 31st, 2012
- Region: East and Southeast Asia, Featured, Success Stories
In 2006, internal conflict in Timor-Leste spurred more than 150,000 people—15 percent of the country’s population—to escape the violence by fleeing their homes. As internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and transitional shelters were established, families uprooted their lives and relocated to the camps.
Unfortunately, the Timorese people were already familiar with violence and conflict. Timor-Leste declared independence in 2002 after centuries of colonization and occupation and decades of fighting and destruction. Although the country was fairly peaceful for the four years following independence, fighting between the police and military set off a cascade of civil unrest.
The grassroots organization Ba Futuru quickly adapted to the rapidly changing social and political environment. Founded in 2004, Ba Futuru was already on the ground, helping children heal from the traumatic experiences of the past through artistic and nonviolent expression and teaching them about their own rights, the rights of others, and how to reduce violence in their everyday lives.
The organization soon found that the teaching method it had been using in orphanages and schools—the Transformative Arts and Human Rights Education (TAHRE) curriculum—was also relevant in the IDP camps. That year, Ba Futuru implemented psychosocial workshops in ten IDP camps.
When gangs of young people responded to the unrest by taking to the streets, Ba Futuru once again adapted its projects, expanding its work with youth and, in 2007, opening a peace center between the two largest IDP camps to specifically target at-risk youth.
The peace center remains an integral part of Ba Futuru today. Young people come to the center to skate in Timor-Leste’s first skateboard park, but also to get involved in dance, music, and sports. While there, they take TAHRE curriculum courses in human rights and nonviolence so they can become change agents themselves.
“Ba Futuru’s projects are regularly transforming to match the needs of the country,” says co-founder Sierra James. “We foresee that this will continue to happen in the future.”
Ba Futuru means “for the future” in Tetum, and the organization continues to have a deep impact on the future of Timor-Leste, having reached more than 15,000 children through its workshops since 2004. Children who complete Ba Futuru’s program demonstrate increased self-esteem, can better process grief and trauma, and are more prepared to contribute to peace building in their communities.
Since The Global Fund for Children’s first grant to Ba Futuru in 2006, the organization has increased its annual budget from about $18,000 in 2005 to just over $600,000 in 2011, and has expanded its programs to reach all districts of Timor-Leste. In 2010, we also provided support for Ba Futuru’s national director, Joana dos Santos Camoes, to travel to Rwanda for a course in conflict transformation. The course allowed Joana to learn from the situation of Rwanda and other post-conflict zones, and also to share the experience of Timor-Leste with participants from around the globe.
The TAHRE curriculum has been used in various countries on four continents, and Ba Futuru has become internationally recognized for its work in delivering training in youth leadership, child protection, and nonviolence. Most recently, with our leveraging support, Ba Futuru was awarded the prestigious 2011 STARS Foundation Rising Star Award.
A 2012 Maya Ajmera Sustainability Award winner, Ba Futuru will be using the $25,000 capstone grant to hire a development director to help ensure its sustainability.
Photographs © Ba Futuru