The streets of Dili are filled with more cars than ever. The capital of tiny Timor-Leste, Southeast Asia's newest and poorest nation, has never bustled like this before. New buildings are going up and the city even boasts its first mall.
Elder lives in a small village outside Los Palos in eastern Timor. He hopes he still has time to play when he finishes school.
But beneath the surface and away from Dili's newfound traffic jams, there's a nation still recovering from the 24-year occupation by Indonesia that culminated in 1999 with the destruction of most of the country's infrastructure as the Timorese voted resoundingly in favour of independence.
Two-and-a-half years of United Nations (UN) administration later and Timor-Leste was formally declared independent on May 20, 2002. Since then, it's been a rocky road to recovery and development has had its twists and turns, with internal strife leading to violence along the way.
But as the people of Timor-Leste look back on what 10 years of independence has brought them, the country is experiencing its longest period of peace and there is a renewed sense of optimism in the air.
The government was scheduled to organise a big party yesterday in Tasi Tolu, a beachside area on the outskirts of Dili that has special significance as the spot where Timor-Leste first proclaimed independence from Indonesia. Looking forward to the celebration was 21-year-old Tarcisio da Concecao, a student who likes to hang out at Tasi Tolu in the afternoon.
Another threat to childrens safety comes from not having a birth certificate. This document is critical for getting healthcare, education and other government services, but only 30% of Timorese children currently have it.
"It's a chance for us to show other countries that we have our independence and we are getting stronger," he says. "In the past, we had a lot of conflict, especially when elections came. But this time it's different. Everything has run smoothly and we feel proud."
For a country with a history of electoral violence, 2012 is a big year for Timor-Leste. Two rounds of peaceful presidential elections were held in March and April, with guerrilla resistance hero and former head of the armed forces Taur Matan Ruak winning the top prize. Parliamentary elections will take place in July.
With more than $10 billion of oil money in reserves and strong economic growth over the last few years, people are hopeful the peace will last.
Aurelia Pereira, 70, has been living behind Tasi Tolu since 1979.
"When I moved here, it was all just forests and fields," she says. "Then people came and built shops. But in 2006, they were all burnt down."
She's referring to the crisis six years ago, when a split in the armed forces turned into a two-month conflict that spilled on to the streets and divided the country. About 150,000 people fled their homes and Tasi Tolu became host to a huge camp for internally displaced persons, with thousands living in tents with limited facilities.
"I saw the shops burning. They burnt right in front of my face. Then we ran to the church because it's a neutral place. In the mornings we'd come back to check our homes, but at night we always went back to the church. They put a tarpaulin on the floor and we slept on that," she adds.
As the substantial UN mission in Timor-Leste prepares to withdraw by the end of the year, passing responsibility for security to the hands of the country's police and army, what's needed now are long-term solutions.
Child rights organisation Plan International runs projects in two districts, Aileu and Lautem, covering education, health, youth empowerment, water and sanitation, early childhood care and development, and child protection.
While the hustle and bustle of economic activity continues to ramp up in Dili, out in the districts subsistence farming is still the main means by which people feed and care for their families. Isolated by poor road infrastructure and mountainous geography, families in remote villages have limited access to vital services, markets or employment.
Many kids get diarrhoea or other diseases from unclean water carried from local pools or rivers. This is a leading cause of death for under-fives.
In Soikili village, up in the hills of Lautem, Timor-Leste's easternmost district, Plan supports a community preschool and has helped mothers set up a sewing group so that they can earn an income while their children get an education.
The six young women in the group have been trained and given pedal-powered sewing machines to use because they don't have a constant electricity supply yet.
The women have set up a small business in the village patching up and repairing clothes for their neighbours, taking on about 40 jobs a month. The extra income is a big help. Some of it is used for maintaining the equipment and buying new materials, while what's left over goes towards everyday household items like soap, vegetables, rice and cooking oil.
Amelia, one of the women, says that being in the group brings other benefits, too.
"Now we don't just stay in the kitchen, cooking and looking after the children."
These women have set up a tofu business. There are five women in the group and, although they are all under the age of 30, they are bringing up 10 children between them. They use money from the tofu business to buy daily essentials like soap and school books.
Being able to earn an income boosts the confidence of women like Amelia so they have more of a voice in their homes and communities.
Amelia has a daughter in the Plan-supported community preschool, where she is being taught basic maths and reading skills through songs, games and dance. This will make it easier for her to enter primary school, says Amelia, who dropped out of school because she was raised to speak one of Timor-Leste's 20 or so mother tongue languages and couldn't follow what was said in class.
Plan supports community preschools in 32 communities across the country and there are also 40 youth groups, but with 1.2 million people here _ most of them poor, many of them traumatised by the past _ there's still a lot of work to do.
Schools and jobs will help, but there will need to be more opportunities created to meet the expectations of the country's resilient population.