13.05.2019 - Gaspar Freitas Kassa is Library and Museum Manager at the Xanana Gusmão Reading Room (XGRR) in Dili, Timor-Leste. The Reading Room was founded by Kirsty Sward Gusmao, the wife of Timor-Leste’s first post-independence President, to support literacy and cultural heritage.


How long have you been with XGRR and how did you get involved?

I have been working at XGRR since June 2015. Previously, I was a Youth Programme Manager at Search For Common Ground (SFCG), an International NGO branch in Dili, which closed down in 2015. This is an amazing place to continue my work for youth in Timor-Leste.

 How has working for XGRR made a difference for you?

It is a unique place for sharing knowledge, access to information and technology, and most importantly for me it is an opportunity to support young generation to have a better future for them. It also provides a safe place for people to meet and having discussions, doing research and conduct various educational activities. 

 What kind of impact does it make in the community?

The XGRR has played a key role in promoting life-long learning and a safe place where people can obtain information, knowledge, read and borrow books, and where the museum can provide information about Xanana Gusmão and his struggle for independent Timor-Leste.

From January to July 2018, the total number of our users was 18,366, with 41% women. We are encouraging more women to participate through creating a women-focused group and more activities for women.


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Students using the library. Photo: Wayne Lovell


Do you have a highlight from your time there?

  • An instalment of Digital Library System ‘Koha’ in 2016
  • Successful fundraising in 2016 and 2018
  • Participated in Pacific Libraries Network and capacity building trough an online course of INELI-Oceania (International Network of Emerging Library Innovators)
  • Established partnership with Northern Territory Library, Darwin to develop a future collaboration on staff exchange programme and library projects.
  • Created new space for children called ‘Bebeteca’ and have developed more education activities for children.
  • Have started publication of a new science book project for children with XGRR funding.


What do you hope for your community’s future?

I have learned the importance of this space for learning about the culture, history of independence, love of reading and promoting life-long learning through our services.

I feel privileged to work here by serving those children and youth who will become future leaders of my beloved country.


We serve a safe place for all people to meet and talk, access to information and technology. I hope our community can utilize this space for improving their lives through empowered each other by sharing knowledge, access to educational resources and training, a community with a more advance knowledge with science and technology, preserving our culture and express the pride of self-identity as Timorese by building culture of dialogue, democratic society, a development based on research facts and solidarity to act together with the community at grassroots level. 


The Xanana Gusmão Reading Room has been a VSA partner since 2015, with five volunteers in that time. Hugo Egan volunteered as a Marketing & Library Coordination Assistant with the Xanana Gusmao Reading Room in Timor Leste. He was part of our UniVol Program and completed his assignment in December 2018. 

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XGRR staff member Hortencia and VSA volunteer Hugo Egan. Photo: Wayne Lovell