A brighter future for East Timor thanks to a little help from Mountains residents

Declaring the school officially open: Blue Mountains Clr Romola Hollywood addresses the crowd. Her speech was translated into Tetun.
Declaring the school officially open: Blue Mountains Clr Romola Hollywood addresses the crowd. Her speech was translated into Tetun.
Something to celebrate: The people of Tauremo, East Timor came in droves to attend the opening of the village's primary school (in the background) on June 3.

Something to celebrate: The people of Tauremo, East Timor came in droves to attend the opening of the village's primary school (in the background) on June 3.

Stunning view: The village of Tauremo in the mountainous East Timor sub-district of Hatobuilico, which has a friendship relationship with the Blue Mountains.

Stunning view: The village of Tauremo in the mountainous East Timor sub-district of Hatobuilico, which has a friendship relationship with the Blue Mountains.

All together now: Members of the Blue Mountains delegation join locals in Tauremo to celebrate the opening of a primary school. The facility will save local children from having to walk three hours to get to the nearest school.

All together now: Members of the Blue Mountains delegation join locals in Tauremo to celebrate the opening of a primary school. The facility will save local children from having to walk three hours to get to the nearest school.

Imagine living in a village so remote, the closest school is almost a half day's walk away across unforgiving mountainous countryside.

That situation is over now for the tiny community of Tauremo in the sub-district of Hatobuilico in East Timor, where a primary school that can accommodate nearly 100 children was built thanks to fundraising efforts over many years by Blue Mountains residents and volunteers.

The beaming smiles among almost the whole village's population which attended the school's official opening on June 3 summed up what this milestone meant.

Twelve representatives from the Blue Mountains Hatobuilico Friendship Committee, Blue Mountains East Timor Sisters and Blue Mountains Trek for Timor - all on a self-funded visit - soaked it all in and were given a warm, traditional welcome.

Long-term members of all three groups, Mary Waterford and Jude Finch, said the community of Taurema had long identified the need for a local school, understanding that direct access to education offers the greatest hope for the future.

"It was wonderful to see their dream come to fruition," Ms Waterford said.

Ms Finch, who spoke in the local language of Tetun at the opening, said she saw first-hand "the determination with which this very poor and isolated community worked together to make sure their children would have access to education".

"This community truly deserved assistance from the Blue Mountains," she said.

Built with funds raised from Trek for Timor events in 2012 and 2014, the school has three classrooms, a staff room, outdoor toilets and washbasins.

Former friendship committee chairman John Telford said the day meant so much to the locals, who turned up in droves. "They were singing and dancing - clearly delighted," he said.

Community leaders said the road to Taurema was also improved, funded by the East Timor government, to enable trucks to transport the building materials there.

One local said "before the road was only used by animals, now it is for cars".

Councillor Romola Hollywood, who returned home last week, said since becoming chair of the friendship committee in April, she felt it was important to meet community leaders "to demonstrate our commitment to continuing the relationship [between Hautobilico and Blue Mountains City Council] established 10 years ago by former mayor Jim Angel".

"This relationship has been possible due to the goodwill and grit of all the community members who have continued to visit and it is one small way we can help this developing nation," Clr Hollywood said.

"It takes five hours [travelling from the capital Dili] along winding dirt roads to get to mountainous Hatobuilico, which like the Blue Mountains is often bathed in cloud. Many people are still living as traditional subsistence farmers."

Clr Hollywood said being the main speaker in a special ceremony overseas and having her words translated into Tetun "was an experience I've never had. I feel very privileged."