CHL’S GROWTH IN TIMOR LESTE CREATES IMPORTANT LEGACY
By Steve Bevington
Community Housing Limited (CHL) has benefited greatly from the increasingly stable environment in Timor Leste from 2008-10. Since its initial entry into the country in 2004, our observation is that both the Government and CHL are able to implement projects far more readily as the momentum for the development of civil and commercial society grows.
There are large numbers of construction sites throughout Dili and the surrounding districts, both urban and rural. With virtually all the displaced people from the 2006 unrest having been resettled back into their communities, CHL is helping stabilize the community through the development of commercial residential design and construction projects. This increased construction activity has meant large growth for the company and the need to develop new skills in our workers.
The Government has shown leadership in implementing housing projects for vulnerable people and has worked with CHL to persist with housing and construction programs despite more urgent political priorities at various times. With an extremely limited ding for civil projects, and also provide advice on developing and finding additional finance for housing. As a result, CHL has also focused on partnerships with other NGO’s and community groups to develop and implement projects.
CHL-Timor Leste (CHLTL) has established a Timorese construction company called CHL Industries. It is through this company that CHL delivers all construction projects, while CHLTL plays a support and development role. This has included support and expertise to further expand its workforce from 120 in 2008/09 to now more than 200, 98% of who are Timorese.
This includes the hiring of Jocelino Alves for the top position of Country Director for CHL Industries. In addition, CHL has created a number of supervisory positions to support our increased activity all filled by nationals. This growth has meant the development of new policies and procedures across the organisation and the development of construction standards on which CHL’s work is based.
CHL has also entered a period in Timor Leste where it has started to grow its public profile in line with the increased construction activity. As our construction boards have popped up throughout the community, the public has wanted to know more about who we are and the work we’re doing. One of the first changes we made was to set up a new office on Rua Matires de Patria, a high traffic road leading out of Dili towards the airport.
Combined with the increasing profile of local leaders like Jocelino, CHL Industries in 2010 is very much seen as part of the Timor Leste business landscape, and playing an active and high profile role in helping the country move forward.
Construction activity has increased threefold over the last year and we’re expecting further growth in 2010. The availability for skilled staff is essential at all levels of the organization for this growth to continue, and in response we established a training framework to educate staff across the organisation. This involves professional internships in site supervision and drafting, as well as workplace training of trade staff.
As a Timorese company CHL Industries is able to tender for government projects, and this position has helped form a stable base for our operations, which includes refurbishments of government facilities and civic projects.
In addition, CHL Industries has almost completed two large multi unit projects with a third that began toward the end of 2009. In addition CHL Industries recently completed the design, project management, and construction for three private residences.
CHL Industries also works with a number of NGOs to develop projects. These have included:
CHL continues to look for opportunities to develop partnerships with other organisations in order to provide technical expertise to those already involved with communities in Timor Leste.
It has been pleasing to see staff maintain a high level of morale despite the rapid growth and stretching that has been felt through the organisation. CHL Industries is playing an important role in the recovery of Timor Leste and in its own small way is helping the nation take responsibility for its own future.
To this end, we lose staff for the best reasons: certain individuals become skilled and experienced enough to set up their own small businesses and subcontract back to CHL Industries who becomes their first client. In their place, more people are trained and so it goes on. While the completion of buildings and facilities that increase the confidence of the community is wonderful, there is no greater legacy that CHL Industries can create than the development of the Timorese people into builders, tradesmen, and business people.