Subject: Building Houses And Better Future For The East Timorese

Illawarra Mercury (Australia)

January 10, 2004 Saturday

Building Houses And Better Future For The East Timorese

By Laurel-Lee Roderick

AS a firefighter, Figtree man Gary Power is more accustomed to saving burning houses than actually repairing and constructing them.

The Wollongong station commander is about to trade his hose and helmet for a hammer and tool belt in strife-torn East Timor. He is one of 12 Illawarra residents preparing to spend nearly three weeks rebuilding houses which were burned and destroyed by militia during the uprising in 2001.

The project is being organised through World Habitat for Humanity and a team has been assembled through the Wollongong Church of Christ. The group departs Australia in March and Mr Power said the team included teachers, students, police and tradesmen.

"A lot of houses were destroyed with the uprising by the militia. The people are now living in makeshift houses and have no plumbing or anything. What they have been living in are basically canvas tents," Mr Power said.

Each team member must pay their own costs and needs to take $800 worth of building materials. The Church of Christ is aiming to contribute $12,000 and is already on the way after a successful Christmas appeal.

"All we are hoping for is to achieve our goals and give these people some decent accommodation and give them dignity. It is about getting that feeling of being able to help people," Mr Power said.

The East Timor project was the brainchild of Ian Morcombe, a man who is no stranger to foreign missions helping the less fortunate.

"I went on a similar type of trip two years ago to Mexico and felt it was very worthwhile and not only not only for what we do for the people. It also opens the eyes of Australians to how other people live compared to our materialistic society," Mr Morcombe said.

The Mt Kembla resident decided that since East Timor was a close neighbour, Australians would be more inclined to support a project there so he approached Habitat for Humanity.

"Their main focus is getting local people organised to help one another and build houses cheaply. They arrange interest free loans and get them motivated and organised. It is more about the local people helping each other," Mr Morcombe said.

He said the project was as much about raising awareness of the East Timorese people's plight as it was about building houses. And the volunteers will also learn a thing or two.

"For the group that went to Mexico it was a life changing experience and it changes your perspective on life. Instead of being part of a self-centred society and very materialistic, you come back and think there is more to life than what sort of car you drive and what make-up you wear."

The group's major fundraiser will be a trivia night on February 14 at Wollongong Church of Christ. To make donations, contact Gary Power on 0416068153.

Support ETAN, make a secure financial contribution at

Back to January menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu