Timor Leste: Ageing couple receive new home
26 July 2010

Maria and Simao outside their new home (Oliver White/JRS)
The majority of Timor-Leste’s population live in rural areas. Many of these communities are isolated and have limited access to government services in Dili
Dili, 26 July 2010 – Maria Simao and her husband live with their 40 year-old daughter, Jacinta, in the hamlet of Moris Foun, about an hour’s drive, along a mountainous and pot-holed road, from the capital, Dili.

The majority of Timor-Leste’s population live in rural areas. Many of these communities are isolated and have limited access to government services in Dili.

The logistical challenge of providing electricity, water and education to rural areas in Timor Leste is proving next to impossible for the current government.

“If you are the government, how do you give electricity and water to these people? How do the children get to school?” asks the JRS Project Director, Isidoro Vianna da Costa.

While the government works out how it can deliver these much needed services and infrastructure, JRS staff do their best to support the most vulnerable Timorese returnees living in four villages (comprising forty hamlets) on the periphery of Dili district, one of the 13 administrative districts in the newly independent Timor Leste.

JRS teams in Timor Leste accompany communities in communities in four villages, serving a population of more than 35,000 of which nearly 4,200 are internally displaced persons. Staff there provide material assistance to the older persons, persons with disabilities and widows, as well as assisting the new local authorities and civil society groups to improve the management and administrative structures.

Maria and her family are one of the many families in vulnerable who have benefited from JRS assistance. Teams provided them with construction materials to build a new home. In cooperation with the village chief, the house was designed and constructed by local villagers. Maria and Simao proudly showed JRS staff their new home, even if they have yet to move in as the cement floor had not set.

Despite receiving material assistance, life for Maria and her family remains harsh. Both are elderly and they have to look after their disabled daughter without any support from the authorities. The only services available for persons with disabilities are located in Dili, making them inaccessible for Maria and her family.

The family survive on a few vegetables grown on their plot of land and the occasional fish brought from or donated by their neighbours. Despite the daily hardship faced by Maria and her family, they are looking forward to moving into their new home and are hopeful about what the future might bring.

Oliver White, regional communication advocacy officer