(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Foundation in Timor-Leste received funding from Rise Against Hunger to provide healthy food for 1,375 beneficiaries in vulnerable situations in Dili, Liquica, Ermera and Maliana during the first quarter of this project. The overall goal is to reach 4,000 people. The funding came about from a Rise Against Hunger partnership with Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
With the funding, Don Bosco Foundation was able to help individuals across several programs including schools, orphanages, street children’s programs, refugee camps, programs for people with disabilities and directly to those living in rural areas including the elderly. Those who received assistance were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the flood that occurred on April 4, 2021. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Salesians went directly to the programs and individuals to deliver the food while ensuring all safety precautions were in place.
One of the recipients of the donation was the Don Boco Halicuo Orphanage run by Father Belzito dos Santos. The orphanage is located in a rural area within the Maliana district and cares for young children who are without parents or were not wanted by their families. In the 2021 academic year, the orphanage accommodated more than 150 children who stayed in boarding houses and attended school. As a newly established community, Don Bosco Halicuo Orphanage has had difficulties, especially in securing food and health care because the location is remote and lacks nearby public facilities.
Fr. Belzito has tried to find all possible food, clothing and other basic needs for the children, but the pandemic has greatly reduced the few incoming donations he had secured. He said, “It has already been some months that we have lacked food, so we are really thrifty in managing the little food we have aside from working harder to cultivate vegetables and exchange it with other food options. We have also sold some of our cows in order to buy food, but you made the children aware that we are not alone. Even though they are orphans, there are still many brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and families willing to feed us.”
Mario Ruken, one of the direct recipients of the donation, is attending the Don Bosco Comoro Technical and Vocational Education Center. The center received 60 emergency packages of food. Ruken is a poor young man who lived in Comoro with his brother and sister in a small hostel. Every month, the three siblings paid their own rent while attending university. To earn money, the siblings helped their neighbor, and Mario worked as an on-call driver.
However, everything changed for the siblings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many others studying in Dili, Ruken lost his job. Additionally, the hostel was completely destroyed from the flood in Dili, and Ruken and his siblings lost everything they owned. Because of the pandemic lockdowns and closure of the university, Ruken’s younger brother and sister returned to their home in Oecusse. Ruken stayed in Dili to find work and sends money home to his impoverished family. With the food donation, Ruken has been able to sleep well again and is well nourished.
Ruken said, “Sincerely, I really don’t know who you are very well but for the fact that you support us with food, to extend our life if even only for a short period of time, you make us feel dignified.”
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.
Salesian missionaries in Timor-Leste have been providing programs to help residents recover and rebuild in the wake of a devastating civil war in the country that claimed countless lives, decimated entire communities and resulted in living conditions that are among the worst in the world. Now that the violence has subsided, efforts are being focused on helping the poor, restoring hope and providing new opportunities for the future.
Photo courtesy of Salesian Missions (contact for usage permissions)
Salesian Missions – East Timor
World Bank – East Timor/Timor-Leste