Timor-Leste is a young nation with a violent history: centuries of colonial rule by Portugal, a bloody occupation by Japan during World War II and 24 years of brutal Indonesian rule. The violent rampage following the vote for freedom in 1999 left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands terrorised and displaced.

Now significant challenges remain for Asia’s youngest and poorest nation. Little work is available in rural regions so young people drift to urban areas where there is high unemployment.

Early Childhood Learning Centres

Mercy Works has established Early Childhood Learning Centres in remote villages in the Cova Lima District in south west Timor-Leste. In addition to building, equipping and staffing these schools we provide ongoing support for teacher salaries and help supply vitamin supplements for much needed nutrition. At the centres, the children learn important life skills and gain a head start in reading. They also have some exposure to Tetun, the language used in the classrooms at primary school.

So far we have helped establish schools in Fohorem, Datorua and Fatulik. These are all remote villages only accessible by dirt road. In the wet seasons, rains often cut off access to them completely.

We are now renovating an existing building for a temporary Early Childhood Learning Centre in Aitos and are planning to establish a new centre in Atabae. We also provide support for capacity building for teachers and pre-school teachers.

The centres are part of the TaLiHa network. TaLiHa stands for Tau Liman Hamutuk which loosely translates as ‘put your hands together’. This is an entirely local initiative with a network of centres in Dili and regions to the south and west of the capital.

We support the TaLiHa Early Learning Centres with regional workshops that enable teachers from different TaLiHa schools to come together and share their vision and ways of teaching. For the TaLiHa teachers working in isolated villages the opportunity to learn from their peers, gain support and exchange ideas is essential for enriching their skills and for their own well-being.


Maliana is 149km southwest of Dili. It’s the capital of the Bobonaro District with a population of around 22,000. Together with the Diocese of Maliana and the Fundação Sagrada Coração de Jesus (FSCJ), we are trying to provide quality education for both teachers and students. Many of the schools are in appalling condition. Some don’t have functioning toilets, others have doors that are just a few planks of wood. In addition to addressing the physical condition of the schools, the FSCJ has been working with school principals and secretaries to establish effective accounting and financial procedures. We are also supporting teacher development and have been running programs for kindergarten teachers.

Quick Facts...


  • Population: 1.2 million
  • 50% live below national poverty line
  • 45% of the population under 14
  • Adult literacy: 58%
  • Under 5 mortality 56.5 per 1,000
  • Source: World Bank /UN Data



Donate now!