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Laga East Timor - Revisited

“We’re still there and doing things”

‘The Gympie Times’ Saturday 30th October, 2004
by Pastor August Fricke, Gympie Qld Australia

It would be iniquitous to abandon the people of Laga, East Timor now. The 20 000 people of the region deserve far better. Five of them, incidentally, have been killed by crocodiles in the last twelve months.

After sending three container loads of clothing, rice, fishing boats, teaching supplies and other essential equipment a few years ago and making the people believe that we are their friends for life, we cannot now say “Good-bye, see you later.” Even today many of the Laga poor can only survive on continued rice distributions.

Every year I visit our Laga friends in East Timor. Unbelievably it is still one of the world’s poorest nations. Even compared with other developing countries in the region like Indonesia and Cambodia, which I also visit annually, East Timor is by far the poorest. Eight out of every one hundred children die before their fifth birthday because of limited access to basic health care services.

“In spite of all their problems and troubles, the people are happy,” said Laga Catholic priest Father Marcos. Kristina, working for a German Aid organisation in East Timor added, “The Laga people are good. They are hard workers, not lazy like some other people I know.”

I am proud of my Laga friends and I will remain stand fast in support of them. The other day, a person from the Gold Coast sent me $2000 for the Laga people. Earlier this year $2000 were received from the Lutheran Church in Maryborough. I hope that we here in Gympie also keep excelling in generosity. I must make mention of St Patrick’s College, Gympie, who have been helping the people of Laga since we began working in East Timor five years ago, and they are still supportive today in various ways.

The funds that we have invested in Laga this year have been used to give the children the education they deserve. Funds have been used to purchase typewriters for schools in the mountain villages, blackboards for classrooms and helped to pay salaries of local teachers. There is just no money available locally to pay for many of these basic educational essentials.

Remember the fibreglass fishing boats we built and transported to Laga a couple of years ago? They are still going strong. I saw one of them, the ‘John Polmann’, coming in from the sea early one morning and beaching nearby. It must have been a successful fishing expedition as was evident from all the colourful reef fish on board! Instant breakfast, how wonderful! Are these little canoe-type fishing boats still seaworthy? My word they are! A Laga fisherman took one of them on a journey across the sea to an Indonesian island and promptly got himself arrested as an illegal immigrant. This proves the point!

While our efforts to provide clean drinking water for some of the hinterland villages have so far been unsuccessful, we presently support the impoverished education system in the area. We also sponsor 24 children to give them the opportunity to attend school and help with other needs as they arise. Your continued support is invited.

The bright faces of Laga school children

Catch of the day… reef fish freshly caught

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