Many Hands International (MHI) is a non-government organization established in 2008 to address a need for a focus on culture in development, having observed that much work of development organisations was ineffective or under effective because insufficient attention was paid to the influence of culture on people’s way of life and choices.
MHI was established to prioritise cultural assets-based community development, recognizing culture as a highly-valued aspect of Timorese life and a sustainable asset. MHI saw the potential for culture as a base for long term development that may have beneficial cultural, social, economic and environmental outcomes.
MHI’s Board of Directors includes anthropologist Holly Schauble, cultural development professional Kim Dunphy, and former Head of Mission, AusAid Timor-Leste, Vin Ashcroft.
MHI also has input from a team of special advisors with expertise in curation of indigenous museums, arts and education, architecture, youth development and international development. Director Kim Dunphy has a PhD on the role of arts in social change in Timor-Leste, and her research has contributed to the knowledge base for the organisation.
MHI is an Australian registered not-for-profit organisation seeking to improve the lives of people in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities. MHI works with communities through participatory and empowering processes to identify their cultural assets and apply traditional knowledge in new and innovative ways to create economic and social opportunities and assist in the maintenance of culture.
MHI seeks to make a positive contribution to communities with whom they work by:
· Fostering cultural vitality through supporting cultural maintenance and opportunities for creative expression. Improving social cohesion through activities that engender health, wellbeing and co-operation. Stimulating economic development through skills, job and enterprise creation in the arts, crafts and culture based tourism industries. Exemplifying environmental sustainability through sustainable project design and implementation. MHI promotes the role of culture in development through community projects, professional training and public advocacy.
· MHI currently works primarily in the districts of Lautem and Dili. Their major activity has been the establishment and operations of the Centro Cultural Lospalos, supplemented by a range of community programs and training to promote the development of a vibrant culture, peaceful society and families and functioning economy. They prioritise the publication of resource materials after all their projects so that others can learn from their work.