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

Background - East Timor

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OzGREEN has helped with the establishment and ongoing support of GREEN TL in the enclave of Oecusse, East Timor. Driven by the passionate volunteer Judy Charnaud, we work with local communities restoring habitat and providing clean water supplies. We also run the annual GREEN Games, a massive community sporting event, created to help repair a community left fractured after gaining independence. It has grown to become a much loved annual event involving tens of thousands of people.

This program was established in 2001 in the enclave of Oecusse, which, due to its isolation, has been largely ignored by other INGOs. GREEN TL 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.

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 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 time line
  • 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 we work with, 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 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.

Boiling water 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 we designed 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) processes.

GREEN TL has tested these in several villages and the results are excellent. Water testing consistently shows a 100% reduction in faecal coliforms and turbidity. Village women say “The water looks better, tastes better, cooks rice better and our children are healthier.” 

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 and reforestation. East Timor has been largely cleared and is heavily impacted by the effects of erosion. Planting trees helps stabilise the land and can help provide a future 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.

You can help support a families and villagers in East Timor by making a tax deductible donation. Just $10 plants a tree for a village, providing erosion control, food and income. $500 provides a bio-sand filtration unit, granting a family clean drinking water for many years to come, and $1000 restores a well, providing water for an entire village. Please click here to make a tax deductible donation.


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, unemployment is as high as 70%, and over 50% of the population is under 20 years of age.

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 team work, leadership, think critically and to feel better about themselves and improve their sporting and team work skills.

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The first Youth in Action GREEN Games were played in 2008 with 780 participants. This has grown to become a much anticipated annual event and now has over 1100 participants and well over 1000 spectators 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 are involved in some way, as participants, spectators, referees and organisers. There is 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 OzGREENTL la iha esportu la iha." 

("Everyone in Oecusse wants the GREEN Games to continue for ever. If OzGREEN 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 their enthusiasm, the skills, and how well run the games are. The GREEN Games are playing a key role in rebuilding the fractured community left after gaining independence in 2002.