Last fall I travelled to three countries in Asia where I filmed the work of a remarkable NGO, World Neighbors (WN). In 13 countries around the world, WN focuses on training and educating communities to find lasting solutions to the challenges they face — hunger, poverty and disease — rather than giving them food, money or constructing buildings.They ask marginalized farmers in isolated villages what they want to improve in their lives, and then show them how to use better agricultural techniques, how to form savings and credit groups, and how to develop better health and hygiene.

This ten minute film, which I shot in the Oecusse region of Timor-Leste (East Timor), focusses on the efforts of villagers to overcome the difficulties of a two year drought. Anita is a leader in her village’s savings and credit group, which has amassed a sum of $36,000. By banding together, this resource provided an essential lifeline to help the community make it through the hard times.

With unpredictable weather patterns due to global warming, WN is helping the farmers of Oecusse to protect their water sources, re-plant trees that will anchor their land, and develop crops that can grow year-round through the dry weather. Women are playing a central role in rallying their communities around common goals, and emerging as leaders representing their interests to the local government. The drought finally ended in January, and the region has had a healthy amount of rain in the first six months of 2017.

Timor-Leste became the first new country of the 21st century in 2002, and WN began work there in 2006. The film shows the inspiring hard work and resilience of these people in bettering their lives.

Please press the arrow to watch the video

Lazaro is a farmer helping to bring water to his village

Dry river bed in Oecusse, Timor-Leste

Mountains and ocean in Oecusse

Oecusse landscape from on high

Terracing to prevent erosion

Mahogany seedling

Mama Dora in Oben village with coffee seedlings

Traditional homes in Oecusse

Seed corn drying inside

Dry weather crop — sweet potato

Fences keeps livestock in

Well at Buqui village

Anita presenting work of credit and savings group

Loading up water at well

Heading home from well

Parting smile