Editor's Note: East Timor Religious Outreach provides an annual educational scholarship and emergency relief appeal for young women, youth, and children of East Timor.
By John Chamberlin, National Coordinator
East Timor Religious Outreach
I begin this year's East Timor Religious Outreach (ETRO) appeal with some encouraging news. In the report of the 2011 United Nations Development Program, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, cites statistics indicating "Timor-Leste has made considerable progress in improving its people's livelihoods, alleviating poverty and improving social conditions." He goes on to say:
"Recently the percentage of the population living in poverty has been estimated to have fallen from 49.9 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in 2009. This has been accompanied by important gains in human development. In education, school enrollments have increased and literacy levels have improved substantially.
"In health, under-five and infant mortality rates have declined significantly, as has the maternal mortality ratio ….
"This progress has been made possible by high growth rates in recent years enabling improvements in livelihoods. Non-oil per capita incomes have increased from an average of US $398 in 2007 to US $599 in 2009. The country has managed its petroleum revenues efficiently to deliver growth, which is now enabling us to begin to realize the [Pro-Poor] Development Vision outlined in our country's first National Development Plan – at independence in 2002 – for every East Timorese to live in a prosperous society with adequate food, shelter and clothing for all people, by 2020."
However, despite noteworthy progress in reducing poverty, improving living standards, and making crucial areas such as health care and education better, immense challenges remain.
The majority of this post-conflict country's population is below the age of 21, and migration from the rural areas to the capital, Dili, is still at very high levels. In a recent communiqué, Professor Clinton Fernandes informed me that East Timor's very high population growth rate is unsustainable in terms of employment opportunities. There is only one job created for every 50 new entrants into the work force! About half the adult population (this includes those age 15 and over) is illiterate.
It is easy to understand why ETRO's educational scholarship and emergency relief efforts are still needed. Because we focus especially on rural poor young women and children, your financial help is important. You may recall that our work is done in partnership with the Protestant Church in East Timor and the Roman Catholic Salesian Girls' School, located in the mountains of Venilale.
This summer I will again be traveling to East Timor to deliver your financial contributions, and to meet with indigenous church leaders, foreign missionaries, and non-governmental organization representatives. As always, one hundred percent of the funds collected will be distributed equally between local East Timorese Protestants and Roman Catholics who are committed to building a better future for their nation. There is no administrative overhead.
Please make your tax-deductible donations payable to "Hayward First United Methodist Church," earmarked for "East Timor" with a notation on the memo line.
We are grateful for your continued friendship, generosity, and support.
You may contact East Timor Religious Outreach at 1183 B Street, Hayward, CA 94541; 510.270.8399; or firstname.lastname@example.org.