Since 2002 our Rotary District has been bringing young Timorese to Sydney to participate in RYLA - (Rotary Youth Leadership Award). Each visitor was funded by Rotary club donations. Given that the average age of Timorese is only eighteen, that half the children under five are malnourished, that a third of the population perished over the last two decades and that many of the young people have never had mentors, leadership was seen as being absolutely critical to the emerging independent Timor Leste.
In 2008 Rtn Theo Glockemann and his wife Georgia visited Timor Leste to assess whether their idea of a RYLA in Timor Leste run by Timorese youth for Timorese youth was a possibility. The object was to “export” the RYLA program to Timor Leste. A team of fifteen returned to Timor on a fact finding trip and to confirm that RYLA had a very important place in Timor. As a result 2010 saw the first RYLA in Timor Leste held at Liquisa with 50 participants. Despite many cultural, language and organisational problems RYLA was a great success.
For the 2012 RYLA TL we were very fortunate to secure Woodside and its Joint Venture Partners – Shell, Conico Philips and Osaka Gas – as sponsors. Eddy Pinto was elected Timorese Director. He himself was a Rylarian in 2010. He set about the task of selecting and training his facilitator team with the result that RYLA TL 2012 had almost 700 applicants for the 100 positions available. After an exhaustive selection process the participants chosen were of the highest calibre.
Our team had great concerns about the number of young people we were turning away from RYLA TL, and the huge number of school leavers who would not continue to University faced a bleak future with no jobs and few choices. The Rotary RYPEN project (Rotary Youth Program of Encouragement), we believed had a lot to offer and so we resolved to have a pilot RYPEN in 2013.
To take advantage of the enthusiasm and to put into use what they had learnt, last year we initiated “Rylarian District Community Service Committees” made up of ET RYLA Alumni. Each year 100 new Rylarians will be encouraged to participate with their peers in the Rotaract Club of Dili and form new committees where there currently are none, and to mentor their younger peers from RYPEN, while serving their communities. We maintain a database of participants / districts / projects to monitor and assist.
What started with a single idea has now led to a variety of productive programs involving more than 400 young adults which is immensely pleasing.