Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

It`s mid-morning off tropical Timor-Leste`s coast, in the mountains of Liquica district. The wet season is coming to an end, so the trees and scrub are still green, and fruit and vegetables are abundant. But the wet season also creates an abundance of mosquitos.

Elderly patriarch, Jose (pictured above with his grandson) lives in one of the only houses in his village that`s made of concrete; most are made of bamboo and palm leaves. Despite its stronger foundations, the house lacks window coverings and fly screens, like all houses here, and it is full of mosquitos. They swarm as Jose speaks about protecting his growing family from malaria.

“My family received two bed nets from ChildFund, and the volunteer also gave us information about how to use them properly and why we need to use them,” he says. “Giving information with the nets is important, because some people didn`t know what they were for and used them to catch fish or protect their trees from pests.”

There are certainly no bed nets in Jose`s garden. While his adult children are working in the fields harvesting vegetables, Jose stays at home with his infant grandson, who sleeps under a net, protected from the mosquitos.

Community health volunteers trained through ChildFund have visited his home and hold group education sessions in his community, raising awareness of disease prevention, like how and why to use nets, and advocating the use of local health clinics. Last year, ChildFund distributed 950 insecticide-treated nets and have trained 200 community health volunteers in Liquica district.

Up the hill from Jose`s house is seven-year-old Jakson`s bamboo and palm leaf house. Jakson (pictured in front of his home) contracted malaria a few years ago, before his family started using nets. “When I had malaria, I just stayed at home sleeping. I couldn`t go to school or play with my friends,” he says.

“Jakson had a fever and headache,” explains his mother, Agostinha. “I knew that I had to quickly take him to the health post to get medication and treatment. Juleta [a volunteer] had already informed my family and the community what to do.

“If I lost a child due to sickness, life could never be the same again,” Agostinha continues.

She has four children who are seven and younger, and whom now all sleep under bed nets provided by ChildFund.

Children younger than five are at increased risk of rapid progression of malaria, as well as more severe mutations and a higher likelihood of death. According to the World Health Organisation, every minute a child dies from malaria around the world.

But there is hope. Through interventions like distribution of bed nets and increasing community awareness, malaria has almost been eradicated in Liquica.

“In 2006, 220 of every 1,000 people who took a blood test had malaria,” says Pedro Paulo Gomes, director of the Liquica District Health Service. “Nowadays it is less than two. The dramatic decrease has been achieved through successful interventions like training [of health staff], bed net distribution and behavioural-change information provided to the community.”

Gomes adds that the Ministry of Health has a good working relationship with ChildFund. “We work in partnership to train health staff and volunteers on community health education.”

Read more about ChildFund Timor-Leste`s extensive maternal and child health project, funded by Australian Aid and ChildFund Australia, here.

Phanny is a supervisor at Autoworld – a company which sells an extensive range of automotive, marine and lifestyle products in Zambia.

“I supervise a team of men who work in automotive repair, vehicle servicing and boat repair,” says the 28-year-old. “I owe my success to a man that sponsored me through ChildFund, and I’m really grateful,” she adds. “My life has turned around for the better, and I wake up every morning with a reason for living.”

Phanny’s parents died when she was just four years old, leaving only her 16-year-old sister to care of her. None of their relatives offered to take them in, so the sisters remained in their parents’ home and Phanny’s sister dropped out of school and resorted to doing odd jobs so that they could survive.

“My life before ChildFund was very difficult,” Phanny explains. “My sister only made enough for us to have a meal, I had no hope of ever starting school, and most of the time I joined my sister washing people’s clothes and cleaning their homes for food.”

Phanny’s big break came when her sister heard about ChildFund’s sponsorship program. The girls were immediately enrolled in programs through ChildFund Zambia’s local partner, Tiyanjane Community Association.

“Being enrolled at Tiyanjane project was the biggest relief for us,” Phanny says.

“The sponsor I was assigned was very kind. In our letters, my sister explained that I came from a child-headed household, and he became like a father to me,” she says. “He sent me inspiring letters and cards. I looked forward to receiving them every month.”

With support from her sponsor, Phanny sailed through primary school and qualified for secondary school with good grades. She completed school in 2006 and decided to study motor vehicle engineering.

In 2009, she started working for Autoworld as an assistant motor vehicle technician. She quickly rose through the ranks due to her commitment and love for the job.

Today, she is the supervisor and still the only female at Autoworld’s downtown branch. She and her sister live together in a nice house and Phanny’s sister no longer has to take odd jobs.

“I’m the only lady here, supervising a number of men,” Phanny says. “My life has changed positively, and I feel like I’m living my dream. I have dreams of meeting my sponsor to thank him and tell him in person what his support has done.”

In the future Phanny wants to further her education and open a garage of her own so that she can support other children in need in her community.