Timor Leste: Neighbours come together to remember a friend
17 March 2011

Though blind and dependent on neighbours, João will be remembered for his lively attitude in his village.
"We have great memories of João. We remember the good company that João gave the community at night. João sang, told stories and was usually happy despite the disability he had."
Hera, 17 March, 2011 – While João was never able to enjoy the home he was going to build with his neighbours, the entire village came together to build in his honour. He died before construction was able to begin, so his friends used the supplies to build him a coffin and grave marker.

“We have great memories of João. We remember the good company that João gave the community at night. João sang, told stories and was usually happy despite the disability he had,” one neighbour said.

João was living alone in Hera Village. As an old man who had lost his sight he depended on neighbours to assist him. JRS supplied him with building materials to build a new home. Because he was blind his friends in the village decided to build the house for him. 

João was born in 1944 in Hera Village. He worked as an iron welder for many years, earning enough to sustain himself.

In 1983 he realised his vision was becoming unclear and not so long after he lost his sight completely. His blindness came from welding without proper eye safety. With help from his friends he bought traditional medicines to treat his eyes and cured his sight. His friends urged him to find other work. But in 1994 he went back to his iron-welding job because he was skilled and earned good money. Years later he lost his sight again and remained blind.

João had no family to lean on and lived alone. When JRS workers met João they noticed his home was bare. JRS then decided to help him when implementing its building activity programmes in the village. JRS decided to assist João construct his house and visited regularly; he said he felt very happy because although JRs were not his family or neighbours, it was good to know that people were around to help others to live and enjoy their lives.

With the building materials in place, local authorities and youth groups in the village started to build the foundation and walls of his house. He died before it was completed.

“João seemed well at the time he died. He was singing with the children and suddenly fell ill and went into the house, and he didn’t recover,” one neighbour said.

With permission from the community JRS decided to use the remaining construction materials to build his grave. Members of the community who were helping João build his home stopped and helped complete one final project for their neighbour.

“João was a great worker in the village before he went blind; he never tired from helping others,” one neighbour remembered.

Mario, JRS’ Timor-Leste field officer


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