I arrived in East Timor almost three years ago! After spending one year in Bazartete, in the mountains, since January I began living in Dili. The town is a completely different reality! As in every country, its main appeal is its horizons and new opportunities. But besides this there are its addictions and the access to what often we call “civilisation” and these may ruin life, the culture, and a people’s traditions.

We have two communities in Díli, side by side. I live in the first one, the oldest one, with Mónica, a Japanese sister who has been in Timor for 12 years. This house is a residence for 18 girls, who come from all districts and who wish to continue their studies at a secondary school or university. Most of the girls in Timor, abandon school and stay at home where they are always very busy – washing up, cooking, working on the vegetable garden and looking after the children, etc.; or they get married and move in with the husband’s family and their situation sometimes gets even tougher.

I am the person responsible for this mission. Besides providing traininig and supervision, the girls have some time and a place to study and socialise with girls their age.

In the house next door, there are two other professed sisters – Inês (Spanish) and Lúmen (Philippine) – and the sisters in formation – Juniors and Aspirants (all Timorese). It is the future of the Institute in Timor! Living in an international community broadens one’s horizons and makes us more open to differences!

Our community is inserted in a large neighbourhood, which is very poor and our mission, through the “Centro de Formação Sta Rafaela Mª” [St Raphaela Mary Training Centre], is to accompany families, children and youngsters that live here. The activities offered are varied: in-school support to 1st to 6th grade children, visits to families, home communions, worship in the neighbourhood chapel, Japanese and English classes, computer literacy courses, camps for young people, formation meetings, etc… A space was created where young people from the ACI family can meet, programme activities, learn how to play the guitar, etc. One of the activities in which they were involved was to improve a piece of land which they turned into a vegetable garden. They can now sell their products and raise funds for their activities.

This year I am also collaborating at the Jesuits’ school in Kasait, in the surroundings of Díli. I teach religion to the 9th grade classes and cooperate in the apostolate of the school. My great difficulty is still Tetum! To speak and mainly to understand what they say! But the collaboration in education and to work with children and youngsters is fundamental in Timor, where about 50% of the population is less than 25 years old!

For me it is still the time to learn and to be thankful! And I am thankful for the simplicity; the proximity (everyone says good morning and good afternoon!); as well as the children; the sea; the mountains; the ability to move forward in spite of the difficulties; … I learn the wisdom of time and patience! And it is truly a grace, because by doing so, we let God set the pace! And it is also the fact that we accompany the growth of a country undergoing severe poverty but with immense riches! My mission here, more than doing things is to be there, to accompany, to get to know a culture…and it is a culture which is so different from our own. We need time to familiarise ourselves with it.We have to learn to create a relationship. Thus, walking together.

Ania Ramirez, aci