Ambassador Kathleen Fitzpatrick Remarks on the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of Sarlala Balibo Primary School

My respects to the Ministry Of Education District Director of Ainaro Celestino Magno Pereira, Sub-district Administrator Luis Casmiro Lopes, Maubisse School Coordinator Joao Maria Mendonca, Suco Chief Wilson Nivio Mendonca, our partners in local and national government, community members, and of course, the F-FDTL CAS and the U.S. Navy Seabees.  Good morning.

I am happy to be here with all of you today to open Escola Ensino Basico Filial Sarlala Balibo (Maubisse Balibo School’s) new three-room building. This is the first of two phases of construction for the school. Phase II will be NMCB FOUR and F-FDTL CAS Engineers constructing a detached head facility. I would like to thank the NMCB THREE personnel that poured their heart and soul into this project, working seven days a week in all different types of weather to make sure the school was built before their departure. Along with NMCB THREE were the F-FDTL CAS engineers who worked side by side with the Seabees, ensuring the mutual goal of completing the project. We also appreciate the support from the Ministry of Defense for once again having the F-FDTL assist the Seabees in their projects.

This new building will greatly benefit children’s education and serve as a valuable resource for members of the local community. This school is the 94th project that the U.S. Navy Seabees have completed in Timor-Leste since 2009 – all while working side-by-side with the Timorese government and civil society members. The work of the Seabees also demonstrates the United States’ strong support for the development of the F-FDTL’s engineering capacity. We hope to continue our work with the F-FDTL and other partners to develop more projects like this in the future, which benefit both the Timorese and the American people.

There are several other examples of how the United States of America is working to assist Timor-Leste in achieving its own goals. USAID’s Avanasa Agrikultura project is helping local farmers to learn about new practices and technology. I personally saw the results of this project during my visit to Maubisse in 2018. Thanks to this project, strawberry farmers from California could connect with Timorese farmers to grow strawberries in Maubisse. When Timorese crops grow, Timor-Leste grows! I’ve also seen how tourism is developing in Maubisse through USAID’s Tourism For All project. This is helping to develop the tourism industry which will significantly contribute to economic diversification and help Timor-Leste reduce its reliance on petroleum funds.

I have personally met with our Peace Corps Volunteers in Maubisse and across Timor-Leste. This group of American volunteers share a strong commitment and determination to serve both the Timorese and American people. Now, Peace Corps has extended into two new municipalities and welcomed English Language Volunteers for the first time. The U.S. Embassy also provided support to Maubisse Community Radio to purchase equipment in 2012. I was happy to visit the radio station during my first visit to Maubisse last year. We are very proud of these efforts and we look forward to even more successful collaboration in the future.

Thank you for allowing me to share this wonderful achievement with you today.  Congratulations to all of our partners and friends.

 Thank you very much.