OzGREEN programs connect youth with communities to become leaders of innovative sustainable social change

Background - East Timor

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In 2001 with a grant from AusAid OzGREEN established the Sustainable Villages Project in East Timor, (now known as Timor Leste). The Project was established in the enclave of Oecusse, which, due to its isolation, had been largely ignored by other INGOs.

Multiple grants and many years later, through the hard work of Judy Charnaud, our passionate volunteer, the program continues to this day. Early on Judy set up a local NGO, GREENTL, run by a very well known and respected local, Luis Armando, who has continued to work with us, through the good and the bad times to ensure his Oecusse community can prosper and become sustainable.

Judy and Luis work with local communities restoring habitat, providing clean water and ensuring sufficient local food supplies though community gardens. GREENTL also runs the annual GREEN Games, a massive community sporting event, created to help repair a community left fractured after gaining independence. The Games have grown to become a much loved annual event involving tens of thousands of people.

GREENTL and OzGREEN work with youth, local communities, District Administration, schools and businesses in rural and urban settings to:

  • Engage people to connect to their place and one another.
  • Equip people to investigate their place and voice their concerns.
  • Enable people to envision a better world based on the principles of.
    ecological sustainability.

Project methodology is based on participatory learning and action programs developed by OzGREEN in India.

Participatory action is the involvement of the people in their own forward change and development and is the only way to ensure success and sustainability of change.

Village Environmental Action Planning, VEAP, is the core of our work. This gives villagers the opportunity to develop their unique way forward by:

  • Preparing a detailed village resource map and timeline.
  • Conducting water quality tests and environmental assessment.
  • Identifying key village issues.
  • Developing a vision for the future.
  • Developing and implementing strategies and actions to ensure sustainability.

Program Overview 

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Clean Water Supply

In all the villages in which we have conducted the VEAP, the number one chosen strategy is provision of potable water.  

One of the major problems affecting the health and well being of the people of Oecusse is the lack of potable water. Water borne diseases such as dysentery, gastro-enteritis and diarrhoea are endemic. Since 2001 OzGREEN/GREENTL has been testing water sources and in that time has found that 95% do not comply with World Health Organisation standards for clean drinking water, many are considered too severely contaminated for human contact.

In the villages boiling water for drinking is not always an option due to lack of fuel, time constraints and the already heavy burden of daily chores. Many water filtration units on the market today are either too expensive, require technical expertise, rely on unavailable products such as chemicals or electricity and are not sturdy enough to last long term. 

To address these issues Judy, relied on her research and ingenuity to design a small, household bio-sand filtration unit. A bio sand filtration unit is simply a large container, (plastic barrel or cement tank) containing specific layers of pebbles, grit and fine sand. Water poured into the top of the unit slowly percolates through the sand and grit to a pipe in the bottom of the container. Hydrostatic pressure pushes the water up to the outlet tap from where it can be collected.

With use over a period of several weeks, microorganisms from the source water collect on the upper layer of fine sand to develop a bacterial layer which assists in the removal of pathogens by biological (anaerobic)

GREENTL has tested these in many villages and the results are excellent. Water testing consistently shows a near 100% reduction in faecal coliforms and 100% reduction in turbidity. Village women constantly tell us “Now our water looks better, tastes better, our children are not as sick and the rice tastes better.”

A single unit will provide a family with clean drinking water for many years.


Well rehabilitation and reforestation projects.

The other most common actions to come out of the VEAP process are well rehabilitation, reforestation and irrigation for vegetable gardens. Since colonisation Timor Leste has been largely cleared of its forests and is therefore heavily impacted by the effects of erosion. Planting trees helps stabilise the land and helps provide a source of food and income.

Youth Activities

There is a large number of young people in Oecusse who have finished school and do not have the chance of employment or further education. They are keen to find worthwhile activities and when the opportunity presents itself are only too happy to help out with our environmental projects.


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World Environment Day 5th June

Since 2002 OzGREEN has run activities to mark World Environment Day. This has become a much anticipated event in the schools calendar as opportunity for students to participate in community educational activities are limited.
Activities have included public speaking, quiz competitions, poster painting, water testing, clean up campaigns and tree planting. Students in Oecusse are enthusiastic and eager to learn.


Concerned about the lack of future prospects for young people, the high rate of unemployment and their own perceived lack of leadership skills, Luis Armando (Director of GREEN Timor Leste) and Judith Charnaud (East Timor
Program Manager, OzGREEN) decided to organise a sporting competition to give young people something positive to do, learn leadership skills, think critically, to feel better about themselves and improve their sporting and team
work skills.

The first Youth in Action GREEN Games were played in 2007 with 780 participants. This has grown to become a much anticipated annual event and now has over 1100 participants and well over 1000 spectators daily to each of
the games. The competition runs over 2 months with a round robin to begin with and then elimination quarter finals. This means that each team gets to play at least 4 games in the first round even if they go no further. Over 30 thousand people have been involved in some way, as participants, spectators, referees and organisers. There are competitions for both men and women in soccer, volleyball, basketball and a half marathon. We did have table-tennis until the white-ants got the better of the table!

"Ema hotu iha Oecusse precisa GREEN Games continua nafatin, Sei karik GREENTL la iha esportu la iha." 

("Everyone in Oecusse wants the GREEN Games to continue for ever. If GREEN TL was not here there would be no competitive sport in Oecusse at all.")

We can not express just how important these games are to the young people of Oecusse. Visitors who have come to Oecusse comment on the enthusiasm, and skills of the competitors and how well the games are organised and run. The GREEN Games are playing a key role in rebuilding the fractured community left after gaining independence in 2002.

Recent UN reports say that Timor Leste is the poorest nation in Asia, over 40% of the population lives on less than $1 per day, 70% suffering from severe – acute malnutrition, 13% of children die before they are 5, unemployment is as high as 70%, and over 50% of the population is under 20 years of age.

You can help support families in Timor Leste by making a tax deductible donation. Just $10 plants a tree, providing erosion control, food and income. $500 provides a bio-sand filtration unit, granting a family clean drinking water
for many years to come, $700 provides pump and piping for irrigation and $550 restores a well, providing water for an entire village. Please click here to make a tax deductible donation.


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