The district of Lautem is situated on the eastern tip of Timor-Leste and has a population of around 60,000 people. Our work is currently centred in Lospalos, the capital of Lautem, with outreach into other parts of the district. 


Lospalos is home to the Fataluku language group and has a population of approximately 17,000 people. Like most towns and villages in Timor-Leste, Lospalos has high unemployment, low income and poor access to education, health services, clean water and sanitation. The incidence of maternal and child mortality, preventable and curable disease and domestic violence are all high. Rates of literacy and civic participation are low. Young people lack occupation and so suffer from boredom and a sense of hopelessness. 

Lospalos also has a strong and unique cultural identity. Many of the older generation remember the cultural practices that predate occupation, including rituals, music, dance, food production and the nurturing and harvesting of other local resources. However, genocide, dislocation and socio-economic pressures has meant that much of this cultural knowledge is now not being passed on to younger generations. Without that, much of this knowledge will be lost.

Known as the 'Jewel in the crown of Timor' for its unique environmental assets, Lospalos and the district of Lautem are rich in forests, mountains, rivers, plains and beaches. There are sites of cultural significance, such as rock art and other sacred sites, and a mixture of traditional and colonial architecture. It is a place of great beauty.

Within Lospalos there are skills and knowledge in basket and tais weaving, needlework, jewellery making, pottery, carving, traditional medicine, natural dye production, traditional natural resource management, storytelling, music and dance, amongst others. With training, these can be developed and used in activities that generate or increase income.

Many Hands International has identified three needs in Lospalos:

  • Cultural heritage maintenance/protection.
  • Livelihood development.
  • Youth engagement and empowerment.

Through the development of a Centre for Traditional and Contemporary Arts and Culture, we seek to address these needs and build on the opportunities of Lospalos.

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