Timor Leste: Raising children into old age
10 March 2011

Teresa Alves and Erosménio are building a new home, where this grandmother will raise her grandson after raising 10 children.
“My day is spent with my grandson. Everyday I take care of his health and prepare and feed him food because he cannot do it alone.”
Dili, 17 March 2011 After raising ten children, Teresa Alves, now 65, is not thinking of relaxing. Instead, she works every day caring for her grandson.

Erosménio Pereira was born healthy in Dili in 1983. When he was three he began having seizures. His parents chose to treat his condition traditionally, exhausting many local remedies over the years. But nothing cured him, leaving his feet and hands senseless and unable to walk or understand the world around him. When his parents did not succeed in treating him with traditional medicines they took him to hospital but doctors told them that the disease was untreatable.

In 1999, after Indonesia relinquished control of the territory, Erosménio’s Indonesian father returned to his home country and left him with his mother in Timor Leste.

Ten years later, his mother remarried and travelled with her husband to Ermera District, far from Dili and Erosménio, leaving him alone with his grandmother. After Alves' last child had left home she took on the responsibility of caring for her grandson.

Alves now spends her days with Erosménio, feeding and clothing him and assisting with his daily needs.

“My day is spent with my grandson. Everyday I take care of his health and prepare and feed him food because he cannot do it alone,” Alves said.

Alves, now too old to work and caring for Erosménio full time, depends on her children financially. She worries that Erasmenio’s life will be very difficult if one day she is suddenly gone.

“Who will be able to take care of him when I’m gone?” she said.

JRS contacted the Ministry of Social Solidarity on his behalf so that he could receive social subsidies from the government.

JRS also provided transportation to the hospital for Erasmenio and Alves and assisted him obtain his electoral card and the necessary documents in order to receive social assistance.

“His mother will not come back to Dili to help me care for him. All I need is help,” she said.

Joaninha, JRS’ Field Officer