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Projects in Timor-Leste

Community Economic Development

CED PCV doing activity with students.

Timor-Leste, a newly democratic country that gained independence in 2002 after 25 years of conflict, faces unique challenges in solidifying economic growth within the region. While much of Southeast Asia has progressed out of poverty to a lower-income development level over the past two decades, Timor-Leste grapples with post-conflict obstacles. These include high poverty rates, a significant youth demographic, and a lack of employment opportunities.

Timor-Leste has one of the world's highest ratios of youth per population, with 68 percent of its population under 30 years old. The youth unemployment rate is 14 percent, and a significant portion of the population, 66 percent, is classified as having vulnerable employment, lacking access to employment benefits and stable work. Many of these young people struggle to secure meaningful employment, highlighting the urgent need for initiatives that address youth unemployment and create pathways to economic stability.

Many household members, particularly youth and women, lack the skills for available job opportunities, the ability to create their own employment, and the essential money management skills for household income and expenses. Moreover, Timor-Leste has a history of organizations initially funded by donors, where donors played a vital role in capacity building. Now, as donors step back, organizations increasingly need to develop sustainable revenue streams and enhance their capacity as social enterprises.

Community Economic Development (CED) Volunteers address these challenges by working at the household and individual levels, especially focusing on youth and women. They engage in income-generating activities, skills and employability development, and organizational development within communities and associations. For households and individuals, Volunteers teach English language skills, household budgeting, financial record-keeping, evaluating borrowing options, career planning, and identifying income-generating activities. For organizations, Volunteers strengthen capacity by improving skills, systems, learning, and relationships necessary for adaptability, effectiveness, and sustainability. This includes training in computer and internet use, English language teaching, basic bookkeeping, business planning, and market analysis.

Project Goal
Households achieve economic security and upward economic mobility.

Project Objectives  

  1. Increase individuals’—especially women’s and youth’s—capacity to implement income generating activities (IGAs).
  2. Increase individuals’ capacity for personal money management.
  3. Increase individuals’—especially women’s and youth’s—preparedness for available jobs.
  4. Strengthen organizations’— including government, NGOs, cooperatives, CBOs, and social enterprises—internal capacity.


Education PCV doing activity with students.

Timor-Leste's linguistic landscape is shaped by its colonial history, with Portuguese maintaining its status as an official language since independence in 2002. Despite its colonial legacy, Portuguese is not widely spoken among the population, with only a third considered fluent. The country's decision to enforce Portuguese in schools reflects a desire to maintain ties with other Portuguese-speaking nations and potentially reap economic benefits, although this approach poses challenges due to the language's limited use among students and teachers.

Recognizing the need to broaden its linguistic reach, the Timor-Leste government acknowledges the importance of English proficiency for national development. English opens doors for Timorese youth to access scholarship programs and temporary work opportunities in countries like Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Moreover, as Timor-Leste pursues ASEAN membership, English proficiency is crucial for regional integration, both economically and politically.

Despite the efforts to prioritize English education, challenges persist. English is introduced as a foreign language in middle schools, but many local teachers lack proficiency. The current English curriculum, developed by Portuguese instructors, relies heavily on Portuguese translations and lacks contextualization for Timorese students, and favors text-based instruction over practical exercises.

To support the Ministry of Education's goals, Education (ED) Volunteers co-teach with middle school and secondary school English teachers to enhance overall their English teaching skills and improve student performance on national exams. ED Volunteers’ efforts extend beyond the classroom, engaging with communities to promote literacy and English language proficiency.

Project Goal

Students attain communication skills in English necessary to access academic and/or professional opportunities.

Project Objectives


  1. Increase the capacity of teachers to use general and English teaching skills.
  2. Increase the English proficiency of English teachers (as measured through use of classroom procedural English).


  1. Increase achievement of students in English.

Learning Environment and Community

  1. Increase the ability of community members to support students’ access to learning.