Timor Leste: a new home leads to a new future

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Dili, 11 May, 2011 – Ms Angelina Fernandes was born in 1970 in a district near Dili. When she got married she and her husband moved to Suco Camea, Dili. Not long after that, her husband died, leaving her alone with her three children, 15, 13 and two. During the 2006 fighting with Indonesia, she fled with her kids and took refuge at the parish of Santa Teresinha in Camea.

When the situation began to seem peaceful, she returned. Angelina found life was difficult with her three young children. There were no houses or a decent water supply, but she was determined find a way to raise her children.

After my husband died, I was left to raise my three children. The only way I can feed my family is by running a small vegetable stand, which is the only source of income for our household. Sometimes I make Tais (Timorese cloth) at home when I have enough money for supplies. By making Tais, I can afford to buy noodles for my kids rather than feeding them rice and vegetables every day.

Receiving support from JRS changed my life. With their help, I was able to get documents for my son, Juvito Nixson dos Santos, to get a scholarship from the government to attend school. Since then, my son has been receiving US$80 a year for his studies.

He can continue receiving a government subsidy if he maintains good grades. This offers me great hope. Now, I can take some rest knowing that at least one of my children can finish secondary education. I can see that he has a bright future ahead of him. In 2010, a heavy rainstorm caused flooding that destroyed my house and my vending stall.

Overcoming difficulties

Although my home was very small, and the conditions were very poor, it was still unbearable to see it washed away. I immediately went to the government and other organisations to request support to help me re-build my house so my children could have some place safe to live.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity has programmes to help victims of natural disasters. However, I was not lucky enough to get support. In my village, many vulnerable people received assistance from the government and NGOs, but not me. Besides, I could not rebuild my own house alone.

In 2010 JRS, in cooperation with local authorities, started a housing programme for needy families. JRS paid for some building materials and funded a construction team to rebuild my house. It is sturdier and cleaner then my previous home and I am happy for my children to call it home.

After receiving this assistance, I feel encouraged again. I want to do bigger things for my family, so I have decided to expand my vegetable stand into a shop. This will hopefully generate a better income for me to care for my family.

With assistance and information from JRS, I was put in touch with Caritas Australia, who gave me funds to start this small business. I have also joined an eight-member widow group supported by Caritas Australia who gave us US$20 as capital to support one another. With a new home, a nicer shop and the support group I am excited about the future for my children and I.