Springing life to villagers
Júlio António Sousa Costa, SJ - Jesuit Social Service, Timor Leste - Region of East Timor
[From “Jesuits 2022 - The Society of Jesus in the world”]
A social Jesuit project in Timor-Leste that brings water and the love of God to many.
I am the present executive director of Jesuit Social Service - Timor Leste (JSS-TL). In April 2020 during the upsurge of Pandemic Covid-19, I went to Tocoluli, a village in Ermera district, where I saw a scene that occurs nearly everywhere in the country. In fact, I was significantly disturbed as I saw a group of women carrying buckets of water heading towards their house. Minutes later, I got even more concerned as I saw a large number of students, kids in fact, walking towards a nearby primary school carrying 5 liters of water in one hand and books and stationery in the other.
As my curiosity grew, I looked for the cause of
such a distressing situation. I discovered that like many other schools, that
primary school lacked a basic water facility. Consequently, each student was
required to bring 5 liters of water to school daily. These disheartened scenes
promptly stirred within me a convincing call to respond to the need of these
people. At once, our team decided to implement a water project in Tocoluli, and
5 months later, it was successfully completed. I feel great joy that the
students and 62 households now already have access to clean and potable water.
Tocoluli is one of 18 localities where JSS-TL has implemented its water
“Normally we would go to the stream down the hill to wash clothes and take a shower. When darkness falls, it becomes really unsafe to walk uphill. Now it is easy because water facility is close to our house,” said Etelvina de Jesus, a mother of seven children.
“As a resident in this area, it was sad seeing the miserable condition of our people. They struggled daily even just for a bucket of water. JSS-TL water facility is such a relief and a life change for many of us, especially women and children. For years, it had been difficult just to get a bucket of water. Now it is easy, water has come to our door, like Jesus who comes knocking at our door to give us life,” said Ms. Mikaela, the president of the Ermera Women Association.
Finally, hours of walking across treacherous
cliffs and valleys for a bucket of water is over. They can even innovatively
use this facility to explore potential income-generating activities like
growing crops. Indeed, water not only quenches the thirst but also springs a
new hope for a better life.
Besides public health, agribusiness, and social innovation, one of our main missions is to provide basic water facility to isolated communities in remote villages. As JSS-TL has been working on water project since 2013, we also realized that water scarcity and poor sanitation lead to common preventable diseases like cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio in the communities. These health issues could easily be solved just with the presence of basic water facility. So, our water project addresses the water shortage problem and generates a solution to social problems. It unites and builds strong bond among communities from different groups.
“Our village was once so divided due to personal interests and political affiliation. Thanks to JSS-TL we are now united and work together as one community. This unity is a life-changing experience for us and our children,” said one of the beneficiaries. These simple words echo the Jesuit vision of “seeing all things new in Christ.”
Since its independence, the Timorese government
has been trying to improve the livelihood of its people, but the meager
development and access to basic services are heavily concentrated mostly in the
capital, Dili. People in rural areas are often forgotten and more vulnerable to
economic exclusion. Consequently, even after 19 years of independence, some
rural residents still lament that the independence only benefits urban
It is the desire of the JSS-TL team to contribute, no matter how small, to the realization of the goals set forth by Timor-Leste Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030. Inspired by the vision of the national development plan, JSS-TL hopes to participate in developing the country’s social capital, infrastructure, and economy. In union with the government’s vision, and with renewed zeal and vigor, we work in four key areas of social service that identify JSS-TL as Jesuit apostolate in Timor-Leste. Our mission goals are ways to embody the social vision and the loving acts of Jesus Christ - our ultimate model for social action. Guided by the vision-mission and goals of the Jesuit Region in Timor-Leste and aligned with the Jesuits’ Universal Apostolic Preferences, we are poised to offer our services to the people of our country.
After being in JSS-TL for one year, I strongly
believe that God is present in the unexpected moments and among the ordinary
people in our lives. Thinking back on my experience, three questions remain
important in my mind: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ?
What will I do for him?
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