In October 2012, my wife Dorothy Culloty accepted a job in Timor Leste, through New Zealand Volunteer Service Abroad.
I joined her there as her "accompanying Spouse", but without a job to go to.
I decided to try and make a contribution to this struggling new nation by offering my services as a photographer to the community of development NGOs that work in Timor, trying to restore the country after the long and destructive occupation and war with Indonesia.
When the Indonesians left ten years earlier, they laid waste to the country, almost completely destroyed the infrastructure.
they destroyed roads and bridges, public buildings and hospitals, power supply facilities, and took with them whatever they could carried. In the last few months of the occupation they also killed thousands of innocent people, leaving no family unmarked by the tragedy.
It takes a long time for a country to recover from this ordeal.
A number of large international NGO as well as local Timorese organisations are trying to deal with the rebuilding of the country, many offering social, educational and health services for the largely rural population. Food security is a major problem, making the country once again self sufficient in its food production. malnutrition undermines the health of a substantial part of the population. This manifest itself in typical poverty based health problems such as tuberculosis.
I worked for about 12 different organisations in the 14 month we lived in TL, but the oen with whom I felt the closest affinity must have been Klibur Domin ("KD").
KD is a service run and financed by the Australian branch of the Cheshire Ryder Foundation, and runs both residential as well as outpatient services for rural people with health or disability problems.
I documented their residential facility in Tibar, about 20 km West of the capital Dili, and went on numerous field trips by their mobile health team. The main purpose of my work for them was reporting and fund raising. Part of my photography covered 'technical' health and rehabilitation services, assisting patients with physio therapy, medical assessment in clinics held in villages etc, the otehr part was photographing the villagers who used the services. For the purpose of this exhibition, I have concentrated mainly on the human aspects of my documentary, the portraits.
Every person I photographed has received at least one printed photograph, since I am aware in many remote villages people have very few family photographs. I finally left timor late November 2013 after 14 months.
I hope I have contributed something useful to the local community.
My sincere thanks to the staff of KD, whose professionalism and dedication were exemplary. And thanks to all the wonderful peopel whom I met and photographed. They were remarkably open to being photographed by a total stranger, and graceful in their hospitality.
© Kees Sprengers - Ethnic Diversity in Luang Namtha - Laos