Education for the future.
- Timor Leste (or East Timor) is about a one hour flight from Darwin.
- It became a sovereign nation in May 2002 following a long and bloody struggle against Indonesian occupation.
- The country continues to grapple with issues of poverty and child malnutrition and is now considered the poorest in Asia.
- It has one of the youngest populations of any countries on earth.
- Education is a major concern – more than half the population have had no schooling.
The Good Samaritan Foundation provides education scholarships for over 120 Timor Leste children and young people.
Good Samaritan Sisters Rita Hayes and Michelle Reid travelled to Timor Leste at the end of the Indonesian occupation following an appeal for assistance from (Nobel Prize winner) Bishop Belo. They travelled with Australian soldiers in the hold of a Hercules military plane and arrived to find a country in ruins.
Initially they helped with emergency services, assisting Australian soldiers to deliver canvas shelters to families whose homes had been destroyed. After hearing that the children and older teenagers had missed out on schooling during the occupation, they started providing basic education from a burnt-out shelter in the capital, Dili.
Sr Rita Hayes was to stay in Timor Leste for fifteen years, mostly living in the remote coffee growing region of Railaco, in the Ermera district. One of her lasting legacies is the scholarship program she started which has so far supported over 1,000 young people to complete school and tertiary qualifications. Thanks to her initiative and the support of many generous donors, students have gained qualifications in teaching, nursing, agriculture, engineering and other fields.
With a start of just $1,000 it has grown to provide scholarships for 63 students this year. We’re seeing how small seeds can bear rich fruit. Last year, the very first scholars of this program received their tertiary qualifications. Each of our students were given the kind of practical support that can mean the difference between continuing education and dropping out – allowances for fees, books and living away from home expenses.
We are grateful to partner with the local Jesuit community in Railaco and the Alola Foundation Dili to deliver this program.