World Vision 40 Hour Challenge Ambassador and TikTok content creator Win Wolf recently travelled to Timor-Leste to learn about the work funded by World Vision.

He spoke to Re: News about how the trip revived his connection with his Filipino roots and spurred him to take action to fight the climate crisis. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of New Zealand’s largest youth fundraising movement, the World Vision 40 Hour Challenge, which takes place from 21-23 June.  All funds raised this year will go towards fighting the impacts of climate change. 

Win Wolf in Timor-Leste. Photo: Supplied

What is your lasting memory of Timor-Leste?

What struck me the most was the people I met.  Timorese are very happy and positive and see the bright side in every situation despite living in one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries.

Deforestation has seen the loss of more than 90% of Timor Leste’s forests. 

World Vision is working with communities to restore some of these forgotten forests in Timor-Leste. 

These revived forests can help to provide cleaner air, prevent landslides, and protect water sources. 

This work will help to create a much more resilient environment for communities in the face of a dramatically changing climate.

You witnessed first-hand the impacts of the climate crisis on the people of Timor-Leste. How did this make you feel? 

This trip reminded me how I had become detached from the issues facing communities affected by climate change. 

It’s something I’ve put to the back of my mind since I moved to New Zealand seven years ago from my homeland, the Philippines.

When we were in Timor-Leste, we experienced heavy rain on a near-daily basis. In New Zealand we don’t experience the same intensity of adverse weather events. 

When Cyclone Gabrielle hit last year, that was the first time that I encountered anything like that in this country. 

New Zealand was able to start the recovery and the rebuild more swiftly because we have the resources and support we need in this country. 

In Timor-Leste the heavy rain and flooding reminded me of the reality of what people in Timor-Leste and other countries in the Asia Pacific region experience on a regular basis. 

Flood waters raging in Timor-Leste. Photo: Supplied

They are on the frontlines of the climate crisis, leading to an increase in cyclones, heavy rain, and landslides.

This is a humanitarian issue and one we all need to work on.

How did the people you met impact you? 

I met Pasquela, [who is] 21, who lives in a remote village. Her family's rice fields were destroyed by a cyclone a couple of years ago. 

The river overflowed, caused a big hole in their fields, and destroyed the irrigation system, making the fields unfarmable. That was her family's food source, their livelihood – all gone. 

Prior to the cyclone, Pasquela had big dreams and was attending university, but now has to stay at home to help her family while her father goes to work. She’s a highly capable young woman but the environment is holding her back and she can’t move forward in her own life.

It was heartbreaking to see her give up on her dreams. 

Did you see any similarities between your early life in the Philippines and what you experienced in Timor-Leste?

My parents started out with very little. We were a family of seven in a two-bedroom house. 

Growing up, my siblings and I shared a double bed. My parents worked hard for us to eventually get a bigger home, so I could share a room with my brother, and my three sisters had their own room.

Growing up, we experienced 18 to 20 typhoons a year and sometimes our home would flood. 

We had a small rice plantation, but the rain would wash all the plants away. Everything was just gone, and we’d have to plant again – it was lost money and time.

I remember walking home from university in Manila, it was not uncommon to walk in knee-to-hip-high flood waters. 

The apartment I was living in at the time flooded and our furniture was saturated. 

We had to lift our refrigerator up to the second floor and sometimes we’d go for a week without electricity.

Back then, I just accepted that as ‘normal’ but now I realise it was not okay and it was not normal.

What are some of the things World Vision is doing in Timor-Leste to help with the climate crisis?

World Vision is working with communities to regreen the environment through its Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) approach. 

This is such a simple technique that taps into existing root networks to regrow trees. 

Win Wolf learning about Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration in Timor-Leste. Photo: Supplied

It’s amazing to see such a simple idea completely transform large areas of land and give communities hope for the future.  

Revived forests can help provide cleaner air, prevent landslides, increase biodiversity, and protect life-giving water sources during droughts.  

FMNR has shortened the time it takes to grow trees and it’s more cost-effective than planting from scratch. 

I loved seeing locals being educated in this process and that it’s giving people in those communities more hope.

Now they have good soil where they can grow fruit and vegetables, they don’t have to walk as far to find food and they have more time for other things like education.

Farmers in Timor-Leste working on Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration. Photo: Supplied

What can young New Zealanders do about the climate crisis? 

Connecting yourself to more resources to learn about what's happening around the world is a great place to start. 

I truly believe education on the climate crisis will pave the way for rangatahi to change the way they live.

Joining the World Vision 40 Hour Challenge is a great place to start. It's such an awesome way to make a difference. 

I’d really encourage young people to sign up to do a challenge that means something to them – whether it be 40 hours of cooking for those in need, planting 40 trees in 40 hours, 40 hours in nature, or 40 hours 4km beach clean up – it's about having fun while making a real difference in fighting the impacts of climate change! Get in there and register now at  

More stories:

A friendship forged in flood waters

“I used to stay quiet when the conversation turned to climate change."

An employment lawyer on what you need to know before your first job

Contracts, pay negotiation, HR and more.

Why I wore cultural clothing to graduation

“My outfit means representing my family at graduation and showing where I am from.”