Timor-Leste

Strong Friendships Begin With Sponsorship

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Henry and Judi Ferstl began sponsoring two 5-year-old Brazilian children, Jovino and Suely, through ChildFund (then Christian Children’s Fund) in 1981. Henry was a dairy farmer living 45 miles west of Madison, Wisc., where he still lives. He hadn’t been to Brazil before, but he was curious about other cultures, and helping children appealed to him and his wife.

75th ChildFund logo“They’re so grateful to have somebody care about them,” he says. As the years passed and their sponsored children aged out of the program, the Ferstls kept sponsoring; they have helped 10 children in all, and in the past decade, they took on two more sponsorships. Today, they assist four children and write letters every two months on average. The Ferstls’ son is continuing the tradition by sponsoring a child in Timor-Leste.

“I’m a big gardener,” Henry says. Just sharing ordinary details about weather or the vegetables he grows in the garden are interesting to the children. “The kids are amazed,” he notes, especially when he sends a picture of snow or, say, a moving truck in the neighborhood.

Wisconsin to Brazil

A 2004 visit to Brazil (from left): Lidiane, Henry Ferstl, Neidiane and Judi Ferstl.

Henry says that he likes sponsoring through ChildFund because he knows where his donations go, and his assistance contributes toward children’s dreams.

“One girl wrote one time, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to sponsor a child, just like you sponsored me,’ ” Henry says.

Lidiane has a special place in the Ferstls’ heart; they started sponsoring her in 1995, and she’d aged out in 2006, but they maintain contact today, often through email. Lidiane attended college and started a clothing business in Brazil. She and her husband now have a daughter, and the Ferstls had the honor of choosing her name, Emily.

“She’s just a wonderful young woman,” Henry says of Lidiane. “It’s one of the great satisfactions. I learn as much or more as the children do. And that’s probably how it should be.”

2009 in Brazil

As the years continued, the Ferstls remained in contact with Neidiane (left) and Lidiane (second from left), as well as taking on new sponsorships, including Marielly (center). In 2009, they visited Brazil a second time.

Reflecting on ChildFund’s Impact in Timor-Leste

By Sylvia Ximenes, ChildFund Timor-Leste

In Timor-Leste, staff members at ChildFund’s national office recently created a wall decoration in celebration of the 75th anniversary of our organization and looked back at what ChildFund has meant in our country, which has seen major changes in the past decade, including its political independence. 

75th ChildFund logo“In the life of a child, every year is significant,” says Geoffrey Ezepue, ChildFund Timor-Leste’s national director. “Each year, children need access to education, good nutrition, health services and a safe and supportive environment in which to grow and learn. This is something that ChildFund has been striving to achieve every year for 75 years.” 

Reflecting on our organization’s history, Vicente Alves, in sponsor relations, also looks forward to its future growth. “Commit and move ahead,” he says. “We can do it!”

Marcos Fatima has worked with ChildFund since 1991, when it was still known as Christian Children’s Fund. At the start, Marcos was employed with local partner organization Assistentia Caritas, and he has held several positions with ChildFund in the intervening years. In 1999, a time of political upheaval in Timor-Leste, Marcos was an assistant manager for a shelter program. His team provided assistance to families in need of homes, distributing materials such as zinc roofing sheets, timber and cement in two districts.

Timor-Leste staff

Some of our staff members in Timor-Leste show off their wall decoration for ChildFund’s 75th anniversary.

In 2006, another conflict broke out in Timor-Leste, causing the displacement of many families; at that time, Marcos became a youth facilitator, providing training and games for youth and children to reduce stress and feel more at ease while they lived in Internally Displaced People, or IDP, camps.

Since 2007, he has been a senior assistant for ChildFund Timor-Leste. “I enjoyed my work from the beginning, because this is a great job,” Marcos says.  “We dedicate our time to work directly with children, especially the ones who are deprived, excluded and vulnerable.” Furthermore, he adds, we can help to empower children through our programs and activities.

Timor-Leste staffAs a father of six children — two boys and four girls — he acknowledges the importance of education to all of his children. “I started with nothing, but after working with ChildFund, I feel confident to provide a better education and support to my own children from the benefits that I receive,” Marcos says.

Happy and Hopeful in Rural Timor-Leste

By Jose Felix and Natasha Cleary, ChildFund Timor-Leste

“I like to come to the center because I want to play and learn. Mostly I like to play,” 5-year-old Roni says of the early childhood development (ECD) center he’s attended for two years in rural Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste boy

Roni at his ECD center in Timor-Leste.

At Roni’s age, access to appropriate play, stimulation and social interaction is crucial to his lifelong development and success. At home, his favorite activity is playing with his neighbor. He also helps his mother and father with some simple chores. However, the government of Timor-Leste reports that only one in 10 children have access to pre-primary educational services that help ensure they develop socially, mentally and physically.

To address that challenge, ChildFund helped establish the Chauluturo ECD Center in the rural Lautem District, which Roni attends. For seven years, the center has provided a safe and supportive environment,as well as trained teachers and high-quality learning resources. “In the school, I feel good because I have a lot of friends,” says Roni, who wants to be a soldier when he is older.

Chauluturo is a community of about 1,200 people who survive mainly by subsistence farming. It sits about 143 miles from Timor-Leste’s capital, Dili, but the village is a five-hour journey by car from Dili because of poor roads and rugged terrain. Due to its isolation, Chauluturo hasn’t always had the resources to support an ECD center.

Timor-Leste ECD

Roni (center) and his friends at the ECD center.

ChildFund currently supports 76 ECD centers throughout the country, putting more than 3,300 children under the age of 5 on the pathway to reaching their full potential. The ECD program, which began in Timor-Leste in 2006, focuses on building awareness of children’s developmental needs among parents and center coordinators. Many parents from Chauluturo have received training to help them better understand their roles and responsibilities and how they can contribute to a child-friendly learning environment.

“I know this project will help the community, because before, the children didn’t have a center, and they just stayed home,” says the volunteer ECD coordinator, Sonya da Silva Ximenes, who receives ongoing training through ChildFund. “I am happy and hopeful about the current project. I learn a lot from the trainer, and I feel that the project is very good quality.”

Quenching the Thirst for Clean Water in Timor-Leste

Some of you may have camped in the woods without a nearby water spigot. Perhaps you had to walk to a lake or river and then boil the water to sterilize it. For a day or two, that’s an adventure. But imagine having to do the same thing every day of your life.

That is the situation for many people in Timor-Leste, which became independent from Indonesia in 2002. Some villages have little infrastructure, and families are forced to walk in extreme heat or heavy rain to get water for cooking, drinking and washing. Sometimes the supply is contaminated, which leads to disease.

ChildFund has provided wells and water towers to several communities, helping thousands of families. John Chuidian, a graduate student who interned in Asia this summer, traveled to several countries and made videos for ChildFund. This one shows the challenges a Timor-Leste village faced, as well as the relief a nearby source of fresh water brings. 

Quenching the Thirst for Clean Water in Timor-Leste

Some of you may have camped in the woods without a nearby water spigot. Perhaps you had to walk to a lake or river and then boil the water to sterilize it. For a day or two, that’s an adventure. But imagine having to do the same thing every day of your life.

That is the situation for many people in Timor-Leste, which became independent from Indonesia in 2002. Some villages have little infrastructure, and families are forced to walk in extreme heat or heavy rain to get water for cooking, drinking and washing. Sometimes the supply is contaminated, which leads to disease.

ChildFund has provided wells and water towers to several communities, helping thousands of families. John Chuidian, a graduate student who interned in Asia this summer, traveled to several countries and made videos for ChildFund. This one shows the challenges a Timor-Leste village faced, as well as the relief a nearby source of fresh water brings.

Getting Parents Engaged in Their Children’s Schools

By Aydelfe M. Salvadora, ChildFund Timor-Leste

At a primary school in Timor-Leste, parents are becoming more involved in their children’s education through the Parent-Teacher Association.

Timor-Leste mother and children

Madalena Soro and three of her children, who are benefiting from renovations to their primary school.

“As a member of the PTA, I have to help so that my children will have a comfortable classroom,” says Madalena Soro, a mother of four. Two of her children are at EBC Samutaben, a primary school in the Bobonaro district, where AusAID and ChildFund Australia fund a project to promote child-friendly preschools and primary schools. Seventeen Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers and 13 primary schools participate, with more than 4,000 children benefiting.

One of the program’s objectives is to strengthen schools through active PTAs. Parents and teachers are expected to understand their roles and responsibilities and how they contribute to a child-friendly school.

ChildFund is not new to Madalena; her children all benefit in different ways from projects run by our national office in Timor-Leste and Hamutuk, a local partner organization.

Her second child is a fifth-grader, and her third-born is in second grade. The youngest attends an ECD center in the same compound as the children’s school. Ricardo, the fifth-grader, has had a sponsor from Australia since 2007. 

Madalena helped cook and provided vegetables and bread for workers who were renovating the school recently. She also was happy to assume the responsibility of supervising quality control whenever the workers asked her to check the alignment of blocks and proper placement of ceilings.

She excitedly anticipated the end result: a comfortable learning space for the schoolchildren. Before, children endured leaking roofs, which disrupted their learning, as well as unsecured doors and windows, which allowed the entry of stray animals into classrooms. Madalena says that before starting classes in the morning, the children had to clean the classrooms and the land around the school, putting their health at risk and reducing learning time.

Positive Changes

But, today, with the help of parents, teachers and students, EBC Samutaben is more comfortable and has proper chairs and tables for the children. Teachers now have space to prepare their lesson plans and keep school records in a renovated faculty room. Madalena added that rehabilitated classrooms are not only good for students but for the entire community.

Still, the school has remaining challenges; animals continue to enter the school premises because there is no perimeter fence, and there’s no safe drinking water. Children also are at risk because the school is dangerously close to the community’s main road.

The PTA’s participation continues to be very important in improving the condition of the school, Madalena notes, and she hopes more parents will participate as time goes on.

A Frightening Brush With Malaria

By Silvia Ximenes, ChildFund Timor-Leste

Cristina Moniz was busy as usual one morning three years ago, getting her children up for school and preparing breakfast for them and her husband, Joaquim Lopez, a police officer in the Timor-Leste district of Covalima. She passed by her 7-year-old son Deonizio’s room, and to her surprise, he was still in bed asleep.

Approaching his bed, Cristina discovered that Deonizio had a fever.

mother and sons

Cristina and Deonizio (with his youngest brother) spend time at their home in the Covalima district.

“I felt not well at all, got headaches and vomited all the time,” Deonizio recalls today. “With all those conditions, it prevented me from going out; I couldn’t go to school or play around with my friends.”

It turned out that Deonizio had malaria, one of the deadliest diseases in the developing world, especially for children. He and Cristina first went to the village health post, Salele Community Health Center, which referred Deonizio to the hospital, where he had a blood test analyzed.

Cristina was shocked that her son had malaria, but the health center’s staff advised her to give Deonizio anti-malarial medication on time and keep the home clean and mosquito-free. This isn’t an easy task for Cristina, who now has five children and many duties. But insecticide-treated bed nets that arrived from ChildFund in 2011 have helped.

“Before getting the bed nets, there were many mosquitoes around the house,” Cristina says. “We are happy because there are no more mosquitoes, no more sickness.  Now, my family and I can sleep safely away from mosquitoes. No more malaria in our family. Deonizio can go to school any time,” she notes.

boy and baby on bed

Deonizio and his baby brother are protected by a mosquito net.

“I feel sure that mosquito will no longer bite me when I sleep under the bed net,” adds Deonizio, who is 10 now. “I’ll be freely doing my daily activities as usual, going to school, playing with friends.”

Having recognized World Malaria Day recently, we’ve learned about how many children are at risk of contracting this preventable disease in developing countries like Timor-Leste. Malaria kills 200,000 children worldwide each year, and many more become sick. However, the gift of a medicated mosquito net can mean good health, education and fulfilled potential for children in need like Deonizio and his brothers.

Help Stop TB in Their Lifetime

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communications Specialist

Tuberculosis is rare today in the United States and other developed countries, but in developing nations, it is a killer. Globally, TB has created 10 million orphans and is one of the top-three causes of death in women ages 15 to 44.

Today, March 24, we mark World TB Day by joining with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and other international organizations to raise awareness and mobilize political and social commitment toward progress in the care and control of tuberculosis.

children in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has the world’s highest tuberculosis incidence and mortality rates by far.

Caused by an airborne bacteria, TB often attacks lungs and has developed strains that are resistant to multiple drug treatments. It also strikes people with weak immune systems, particularly those infected with HIV. In the 1800s, Western Europe saw the number of tuberculosis deaths peak at nearly 25 percent, but with better medical treatment and understanding, the TB mortality rate fell by 90 percent by the 1950s.

Now, as the virus mutates and resists standard drug therapies, developing nations are experiencing the same level of risk as Europe did a century ago. This year marks the second half of WHO’s two-year campaign Stop TB in My Lifetime, a program that is significant to countries ChildFund serves in Africa and Asia.

Globally, tuberculosis is second only to AIDS as the greatest killer from a single infectious agent. At least a third of HIV-infected patients worldwide are also diagnosed with TB, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, tuberculosis is often the infection that is directly responsible for death. In fact, testing positive for tuberculosis often masks HIV-positive status, which makes proper medical treatment far more difficult than for patients who have one disease or the other.

Ugandan girl holds memory book

In Uganda, TB and HIV infections are often combined, making treatment difficult. This child holds a memory book her HIV-positive parents created for her.

Despite the overall decline worldwide in incidences of TB and the development of rapid diagnostics, the combination of HIV and TB and its accompanying challenges have kept Africa from being on track to halve its tuberculosis deaths by 2015, a WHO goal.

WHO estimates that 500,000 children were newly infected in 2011, and 64,000 died. Tuberculosis is particularly difficult to diagnose in children; current TB tests are largely inaccurate for children.

Poor communities and vulnerable populations also suffer disproportionately from TB. At highest risk are young adults, infants, diabetics, smokers, those infected with HIV, people who are malnourished and anyone living in crowded or unclean conditions — such as refugees and others displaced by a natural disaster, political oppression or civil unrest.

Because TB threatens the well-being of children where we work, ChildFund supports local government initiatives and public messaging. Here are some facts about ChildFund-supported countries and their exposure to TB:

Sierra Leone has the world’s highest prevalence and mortality rates; tuberculosis incidence there is one and a half times as high as in the second-ranked country, and Sierra Leone’s mortality rate is almost twice as high.

mother and child in a Timor-Leste garden

Timor-Leste has the world’s eighth highest incidence rate of TB, but good nutrition can make families less vulnerable to infection.

Cambodia ranks fifth for prevalence and Timor-Leste eighth, but both countries tie for fifth-highest mortality rate because Cambodia has an edge in successful treatment.

Joining those three nations as very-high-incidence countries are The Gambia, Liberia, Mozambique, the Philippines and Zambia.

Areas of high prevalence include Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Thailand, Uganda and Vietnam. Uganda, where TB and HIV infection forms a lethal combination, has a treatment success rate of only 71 percent.  Ethiopia and Guinea also have lower-than-average success rates: 83 percent and 80 percent, respectively.

The story isn’t entirely bleak, though. Some countries have made impressive progress. Between 1995 and 2011, 85 percent of all new infections and 69 percent of relapsing cases were successfully treated. And between 1990 and 2011, the overall mortality rate fell by 41 percent.

However, every year funding falls $3 billion short of WHO’s goal to make quality care accessible regardless of gender, age, type of disease, social setting or ability to pay. International assistance is especially critical for the 35 countries designated as low-income — including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Uganda. Of these, The Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are not currently among the top 50 recipients of Official Development Assistance.

Please join us in taking action to end the burden of tuberculosis in the lifetimes of the children we serve. When you sponsor a child or make a donation to Children’s Greatest Needs, you’ll be helping to ensure that children in our programs live healthier lives.

Timor-Leste: Bringing Lessons Home

 By Silvia Ximenes, ChildFund Timor-Leste

Novito, a 5-year-old boy from Timor-Leste, describes “scribbling and drawing a house” as his favorite activity in his Early Childhood Development (ECD) center in the Manatuto district.

five-year-old boy

Five-year-old Novito.

This district in central Timor-Leste has a population of about 42,000, and the economy is based on agriculture, fisheries, small handcraft industries and minerals. Many in Aiteas, the village where the ECD center is located, are involved in farm production activities, such as planting coffee, coconut, vegetables, cassava, corn and rice.

Novito rides his bicycle back and forth to the center, and he also likes to play soccer. He hopes one day to be a professional soccer player.

One of 60 students who attend ECD Aiteas six days a week, Novito is taught by Manuela, Divia and Joana. With ChildFund’s support, the teachers received training in teaching methodology, curriculum design and the Portuguese language.

three boys and two female teachers

Novito, his classmates and teachers at the ECD center in Aiteas, Timor-Leste.

Two years ago, ChildFund helped renovate the ECD center, expanding the building to house three classrooms. ChildFund Timor-Leste supports this center by providing school materials and furniture, school uniforms, snacks and supplementary food. The center also receives a subsidy from the Timor-Leste Ministry of Education every four months to help maintain the facility and update educational materials.

Maria, an ECD coordinator, notes that the center provides learning materials, a proper playground and qualified teachers who work well with the children. Novito often brings home lessons he’s learned at the center and has shown his siblings how to draw a house. He says he is looking forward to moving to the next level of education: primary school.

Home Gardens Boost Nutrition and Income in Timor-Leste

By Aydelfe M. Salvadora and Dirce Sarmento, ChildFund Timor-Leste

Highly nutritious food is often unavailable in Timor-Leste. Many children are malnourished because they don’t have a proper mix of vegetables and protein, but a ChildFund home-gardening program, begun in 2012, is helping improve nutrition and provide needed income for families.

Irene, the eldest daughter of Rosalia and Felipe, started a garden in the backyard of her parents’ small farming compound located in the sub-district of Tilomar. Like others in this community, Irene’s family depends on farming for their livelihood, yet their earnings are meager and uneven.

Irene, who is married with a child of her own, recognized the opportunity for growing nutritious food and helping her parents achieve more steady income. She invited her friends, Felicidade and Guillermhina, to join in the backyard garden project and also share in the benefits.

Before they started the garden, Irene and her two friends received training in farming techniques through Graca, ChildFund’s local partner, with funding from ChildFund Australia and AusAID’s Maternal and Child Health project. The women received tools and seeds for bok choy, kangkung (a type of spinach), eggplant and tomatoes.

woman in garden

Rosalia tends the garden.

Irene and her husband shuttle between her parents’ home and his home in another district, which makes it difficult for Irene to tend the approximately 300-square-foot garden all the time, so her mother, Rosalia, also helps the other two women.

leafy green vegetables

Bok choy grows well.

Last year, the women harvested twice, generating income of US$110 that was shared among them. Irene and her friends now have money for family essentials and a bit left over to buy seeds for the next growing season.

With Irene’s help, her parents now earn $20 monthly from the combined harvests of the home garden and the farm. Sometimes, Rosalia and Felipe also sell chickens raised in their backyard. This income is augmented when bananas are available; the family cooks pisang goreng (banana fritters) and offers them for sale to neighbors.

Without the garden, notes Felipe, the family would not be able to afford extra household items. He and his wife can buy food items like rice, as well as shoes and clothes for their 3-year-old grandchild.

Reflecting on their first year of gardening, the friends noted that their main challenge was access to water. During the dry season, the women had to take a brief break from gardening, and even during the rainy season, they have to fetch additional water for their plants from the neighboring aldeia (village), which is approximately 2 kilometers away.

And, yet, the garden thrived. The division of labor is fair, Rosalia says, and the gardeners look forward to this year’s first growing cycle, which began this month and runs through March.

The Mama Effect

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