Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste: Salesian sisters help country rebuild

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Salesian sisters provide education and medical care to help women and children

(MissionNewswire) Salesian sisters living and working in Timor-Leste have a medical clinic, a women's training center, and orphanages for poor and homeless youth in the country. In the wake of the devastating civil war that claimed countless lives, decimated entire communities and resulted in living conditions that are among the worst in the world, the Salesian community has been providing programs to help residents recover and rebuild. Now that the violence has subsided, efforts are being focused on helping the poor, restoring hope and providing new opportunities for the future.

The Maria Auxiliadora Medical Clinic remains the only facility to provide medical care to patients in the villages in the Venilale district. The Australian Salesian Missions Overseas Fund has provided financial support so Salesian sisters can purchase medicines and milk powder for babies, as well as pay salaries. Almost 9,000 patients visit the clinic each year, often for skin conditions, malnutrition and tuberculosis.

The clinic's priority is to care for mothers and children. Because a high percentage of the population lives in conditions of poverty and experiences food shortages, access to the Salesian clinic is an important alternative to a costly hospital visit. The clinic also promotes health education classes in local schools and nearby villages, while the mobile medical clinic serves remote villages conducting health checks.

Salesian sisters also operate a Women's Training Center in Fuiloro, which offers courses in computing, basic office management and sewing. Students entering the program are mainly from rural poverty-stricken families. A high proportion of graduates secure work in Dili or Baucau.

The Venilale Salesian Sisters' Orphanage accommodates 116 girls, aged 6-16. The girls are given an education and are encouraged to participate in recreational activities. Through the generosity of donors, two new rainwater tanks have been purchased and installed, saving the girls a daily 1.2 mile (2 km) walk with buckets to collect water. The water is used for drinking, washing clothes and showering.

The Laga Laura Vicuna Orphanage also ensures girls have a safe place to live and an education, and it is home to 98 girls, ages 6-16. Through education incorporating theater, dance, music, sewing and sports, girls are encouraged to develop their skills and talents. Nutritional meals are provided five times a day thanks to support from donors.

Laga has an extensive parish and consists of more than 40 villages, 24 schools and 38 pastoral centers, with many of them difficult to physically access. Parents connect with Salesian programs so their children receive an education that will help them find and retain stable employment and contribute positively to their communities.

"Salesian programs are so successful in part because they remain flexible and diversified to meet of the needs of the community," said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. "Being an integral part of the communities in which they work, Salesian missionaries are aware of local needs first-hand and are then able to develop programs to directly address those needs."

Timor-Leste is home to 1.3 million people and has close to 49 percent of its population living in poverty with over one-third of the population regularly experiencing food shortages. In addition, close to 50 percent of the population is illiterate, according to the World Bank.

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Sources:

Photo courtesy of the Australian Salesian Missions Overseas Aid Fund

Australian Salesian Missions Overseas Annual Report 2020

Australian Salesian Missions Overseas Aid Fund

Salesians of Don Bosco Indonesia-Timor Leste

Salesian Missions -- Timor-Leste

World Bank -- East Timor/Timor-Leste