Generosity makes life (and hope) go round in Ostico, Timor-Leste
Suco Ostico is a relatively small village of approximately 2,000 people, roughly 15 kilometres southwest of Baucau, where the road climbs towards encroaching, barren mountains. The land is mainly flat and very fertile but has until now only been used for subsistence farming. The village still bears many reminders of the ravaging of Indonesian forces in retaliation to the vote for independence.
It was two years ago that Bishop of Baucau Diocese, Bishop Basilio Nasciamento, asked the Ostico community if the Loreto Sisters could move from their rented accommodation in Baucau to live within their community. From this moment, a mutually supportive friendship began with a warmth of welcome and a generous offer to freely give land to the Sisters to build according to their needs.
So, the planning began, with the Sisters’ desire not only to build a house for the training of young Timorese women who wish to become Loreto Sisters, but also a centre for the Ostico community to use for various development projects.
In 2018, in response to the generosity of the Ostico community, and in consultation with its leaders, Loreto and MWIA tried unsuccessfully to attract Australian government funding for the community to develop an agribusiness. This disappointment led to a very generous donor hearing of the dream and assisting with funds for the purchase of a tractor, training, and horticultural supplies.
The saying ‘generosity makes the world go round’ was starting to become a reality within a circle of relationships connecting the Ostico community, Loreto Sisters, MWIA, several incredibly generous donors, and our Loreto schools. Over the last two years, our Mary Ward circle has gradually expanded its support of Ostico with generosity of spirit at its core.
Right now, a major donor is funding the building of the Sisters’ Community Centre and Residence, the agribusiness is going from strength to strength, and the Primary School, well, that is another story!
Some of the school buildings were destroyed in 2000, and, as a stark reminder, their unsightly foundations remain a hazard within the school grounds. Over the last twenty years, children have attended school in the two remaining blocks of classrooms that visitors describe as being ‘fit only for demolition’. Again, a very generous donation from yet another Australian family has funded the renovation of one of the blocks and brought such joy and hope to the community; their happiness is infectious, as children, teachers, and families observe the transformation in amazement.
All involved consider this renovation to be a hugely significant development, giving witness to the importance of education and bringing life and colour to the school environment. These refreshed classrooms will serve as a symbol of hope in a country where educational resources are few, and standards of education so low (37% illiteracy among young people). We trust that this injection of new life will serve to inspire levels of teaching and learning that lead to bright futures for many young people in Ostico.
The community is so proud of this development, it is planning for an inauguration festival to which they will invite the Minister of Education. Meanwhile, community leaders are thinking of ways they could further advance access to education in such a life-giving space.
The Loreto Sisters teach English to members of the community, and thanks to several donors, they are training women to develop business and cooking skills to support the agribusiness project with the sale of products.
From the beginning, generosity has indeed made ‘life go round’ across the Timor Sea to include a wide circle of friends from Ostico, Timor-Leste, to families, friends, and Loreto schools in many parts of Australia. Donor families receive great fulfilment from visits, and we hope when travel is once again possible, that we can welcome all those who have given such life-giving support, so they too can feel the joy and hope that their generosity has created.
A big ‘thank you’ to all in our Loreto and MWIA network for this story of kindness and hope, which I believe, has many chapters still to come!
Author: Sr Margaret Mary Flynn ibvm
Feature Image: Newly renovated and ready for students