Flabiana's story

Flabiana's inspiring story featured in Caritas Australia's Project Compassion 2012.

Flabiana and Family

In the conflict that followed Timor-Leste’s declaration of independence in 1999, Flabiana and her family lost everything. Fleeing the violence that engulfed their village, Flabiana’s family spent three months hiding in Timor-Leste’s rugged mountains.

When it was safe to return to their village, Flabiana’s family arrived home to a scene of destruction. “We were very sad when we came back and saw our house destroyed,” Flabiana told us from her home in the isolated province of Oe-cusse. “All our things were destroyed or stolen.”

Over time, Flabiana’s family managed to recoup a small number of goats and pigs which they sold to rebuild their house and establish a small kiosk.

But as Flabiana explains,“We didn’t have enough food for the whole year and didn’t make much money from our kiosk or selling betel nuts. We couldn’t send all our children to school.”

Peace is essential for development”
Pope John Paul II, 2002

In Flabiana’s community, Caritas Australia coordinates ‘Integrated Rural Community Development’ trainings to unite villagers on a path to self-reliance and strengthen the community’s participation in their own development. Throughout the training, villagers learn new techniques for managing fast-growing crops, processing food, producing traditional medicines and breeding animals.

“When Caritas came to my house to explain the program, I was interested in information and trainings to improve our life and increase our nutrition. I wanted to join,” says Flabiana.

“I learnt to grow fruit, animal food and timber trees for our future. We did trainings on group savings and loans so we don’t need to go outside the group to borrow money anymore.”

Empowered to take ownership of their own future, Flabiana’s group developed a plan to produce nutritious tofu and tempeh. The group approached Caritas for a $500 grant to purchase a soybean processor and worked with Caritas Australia to construct a sanitary building for food processing. The group now makes and sells these and other foods for profit, and works in solidarity with the community to train other groups to do the same. Each newly trained group can then access the machine; sharing sales between group members and contributing to the group’s savings program.

“The most important thing I’ve learnt is to make tofu and tempeh, as I can do this every day. Besides eating the tofu I also sell it to make money for our household needs, schooling and traditional ceremonies,” said Flabiana. 

Flabiana cutting tofu

Life has changed dramatically in Flabiana’s community

Flabiana’s group – of which she was elected leader – meets every Wednesday to work on gardening projects, and to plan their future activities. Today, Flabiana’s family has saved enough money to expand their kiosk, repair their house and buy several pigs, goats and chickens to breed: “My family’s life has changed so much, I feel very happy. We have much more confidence in our lives.”

Flabiana explains that through Caritas Australia she and her family have been able to reclaim their human dignity and build a brighter future for themselves.

After joining Caritas we’ve found many changes. Now we have food for the whole year because we grow vegetables and earn money from food processing – our health has improved. We can send all four of our children to school now. My husband and I didn’t go to school but we hope our children can make a better future.”

Across Timor-Leste, communities like Flabiana’s are working together towards full self-reliance. With your ongoing support, Caritas Australia will expand the project to include a fishing group and cow ‘swap’ project in Flabiana’s village.

"Living in peace we can do everything for our future, we can send our children to school, we can do our work well. I thank Australians and ask that they continue to support us.”