East Timor

Population:1.1 millionLiteracy Rate:51%Religion: Roman Catholic (98%)

The Salesians are helping East Timor recover and rebuild in the wake a devastating civil war that claimed countless lives, decimated entire communities, and resulted in living conditions that are among the worst in the world. One-third of the population faces food shortages and many of the schools have been destroyed. Now that the violence has subsided, our efforts are focused on helping the needy, restoring hope and providing new opportunities for the future.

Featured Mission

Teach Agricultural Skills

At the Salesian Missions agricultural school, students learn theoretical agricultural methods and work on the college farm. In addition, an exchange with a university in Australia helped develop a more relevant curriculum. Students such as Olavio Morais look to serve their people in East Timor. Olavio plans to study animal diseases and would like to return to school at the Fuiloro to run an animal health laboratory.

Agricultural skills are also being taught in parish centers and schools. In Baucau, young people have set up a cooperative to plant rice on land owned by parishioners. When they started, they had no tools or machinery, just their bare hands. With the assistance from the Salesian Missions and AusAid, they were able to purchase hand plows, threshing and milling machines. A portion of the crop belongs to the workers, a portion goes to the landowners as rent and the rest is sold for profit. 

More Missions in East Timor

Feed Hungry Children

 In East Timor, over one-third of the population regularly experiences food shortages according to the United Nations World Food Program. Therefore, providing nourishment to students is an important part of educational programs. In a Salesian school in Fatamuca, students receive three meals a day in addition to technical training. 

Teach Job Skills to Youth

Historically, former East Timor guerillas were given an opportunity for a new life through job training at Salesian Center. The following summary is taken from an interview with one of these youth by Sydney, Australia-based journalist Christine Kearney who traveled to East Timor in 2002 with Austcare, an Australian aid group. Cipriano Alves Amaral seems an unlikely freedom fighter. The soft spoken, 26-year-old grew up wanting to become an electrician. Instead, he became a guerilla joining East Timor’s armed resistance movement. The guerillas, known by their Portuguese acronym “Falintil,” disbanded in February 2001, more than a year after the East Timorese overwhelmingly rejected Indonesian rule in a 1999 UN sponsored referendum. Now, more than two years after the referendum, Amaral is learning to become an electrician. He is one of 21 former Falintil guerillas learning to become electricians, carpenters and welders in a 10-month program at the Don Bosco Technical Training Center, which is operated by the Salesians in the Dili suburb of Comoro. “We feel happy here because it will be good for our future, even though the future isn’t totally clear,” he said. The students receive a monthly stipend while attending the technical training. After graduation, they will be paid $15 a week for a one-month job. Some of the students are planning to form cooperative businesses in their villages and towns after graduation. A number of carpentry graduates will also be employed in the Don Bosco workshop. The center is doing brisk trade supplying schools with chairs and tables to replace those burned in 1999, when the Indonesian military and militias implemented a “scorched earth” policy at they withdrew from East Timor.

Build Youth Centers

According to the United Nations Development Program Human Development Index, which focuses on a country’s proportion of people below certain levels in living a long and healthy life, having access to education and having a decent standard of living, East Timor ranked 162 out of 182 in 2007. Salesian Missions is engaging in a wide range of programs to improve the lives of the people of East Timor, following years of ravaging war. For example, children, youth and families receive support through community health centers, orphanages, parishes and youth centers. In addition, classes are conducted in primary, secondary, technical and agricultural schools – many of which provide room and board to their students. All Salesian Missions programs focus on helping the people of East Timor rebuild their lives and their country.

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