The Timor Sparrow Project
“My children’s book, The Timor Sparrow (a story about an endangered bird) has finally been printed in Tetum, the native language of Timor Lesté, and distributed throughout the country.
The long hard struggle for Independence in Timor Lesté was achieved on May 20, 2002. Since that day, many people have been helping to rebuild a country brought to it’s knees by civil war. Shattered villages, few schools and even fewer opportunities for any form of education were the outcomes of the war.
In 2008 I joined a group called NEEF Australia that was looking for a way to help the people of Timor Lesté. We wanted to address the extreme shortage of appropriate books for school age children there. So I wrote six books for each level of reading ability, from entry level up to Australia’s equivalent of year six, all focusing on some aspect of life in Timor Lesté. I knew there were many versions of the Tetum Language, the native language of Timor Lesté, but the plan was to print the books in the main Tetum Dialect. With this in mind, my idea was to illustrate the Timor Sparrow, the first book in the series, in such a way, that the book could be ‘read’ from the pictures alone, regardless of the reader’s knowledge of the Tetum dialect used in the book. I wanted a teacher, grandparent, sibling or parent to be able to read the book to any child, anywhere – home, community group, ‘shelter’ or school. The book was ready to go to the printer in 2012, but we struggled to find the funds needed to go to print.
Now, thanks to the late and wonderful Kevin Burgemeestre and his wife Lee, and the Rotary clubs of Melbourne and Kyneton, The Timor Sparrow has now been printed and distributed in villages, schools and homes throughout Timor Lesté. As my friend Pam Horsey once said, ‘Words are so powerful, and the words in children’s books can help shape or change lives’. This is what I hope for.
Apart from those already mentioned, I want to thank Albert Ullin, Helen Chamberlin, Tina Denham, the late Jeff Prentice, the NEEF Foundation, The Timor Lesté Government, the University of Melbourne, and the driving force behind everything, Sra Kirsty Sword Gusmáo and the Alola Foundation.
With all my heart, I thank you all.”
– Author/Illustrator and Vic IBBY member