Project Compassion: ‘Love Your Neighbour’

Week 2: Martina's story - a shared responsibility
Martina weaves traditional cloth outside her home in Timor-Leste. She sells her work at the market in Baucau or to neighbours. Image: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia.

The Catholic Church’s annual Lenten Appeal, Project Compassion, is now in its second week. During the six weeks of Lent, Caritas Australia is featuring feature human stories from the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Australia, Vietnam and Fiji. Through this year’s theme, ‘Love your neighbour’, Caritas Australia demonstrates how this approach can transform lives.

Martina picks cassava leaves that she sells to market traders and also cooks as a vegetable with coconut oil. Image: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia.

In support of the world’s poor, including millions in our immediate region, thousands of school children, teachers, churches and community leaders across Australia are putting their compassion into action, during Project Compassion.

The World Bank estimates that 90 million people live in extreme poverty in Australia’s neighbouring region. Another 300 million are vulnerable to falling back into poverty due to natural disasters, climate change, disease and economic shocks.

Project Compassion funds humanitarian and long-term development programs in more than 29 countries across Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Latin America and First Australian communities. Last year Project Compassion raised $11.1 million. To make a donation, click here.

Martina’s story – a shared responsibility

Caritas Australia has been working alongside its partners to prevent domestic violence in places like Timor-Leste.

For Martina, a mother of eight, escaping violence was the first step in her journey to a new life. In Timor-Leste, domestic violence is the most reported crime to the National Vulnerable Persons Unit, with 36% of women reporting violence – physical and/or emotional – by their husbands or partners.

Uma PAS, the domestic violence shelter where Martina sought refuge, is a partner in Caritas Australia’s Protection Program. Its holistic approach enables women to achieve economic empowerment and lives of safety in a supportive community. In 2008, Martina bravely approached the organisation with her eight children to ask for help.

“After I left Uma PAS, I felt confident for my future,” she said. “Uma PAS really helped me (to learn) how to be strong; how to change my life to support myself, and to have some money to support my children. Education is the most important thing to change my children’s lives.”

When she joined the Caritas Australia supported Protection Program, she received vital training in microfinance, finance management and saving money. Now she has her independence and even her own small business.

Domingas, a counsellor from the Uma PAS shelter, spoke of how the Caritas Australia supported program helped Martina achieve great success.

“Uma PAS works together with a local NGO, recommending the women who most need it (for) training and funding for income generation and livelihood; and then they are supported to start their own business,” Domingas said.

“Each person comes to our organisation with their own dignity. The 260 women that I have given counselling to have realised that they are not alone. And they see there are people who are here and wanting to listen, and are ready to help.

“The other services we provide at Uma PAS are shelter, clothing, food, and activities like practical counselling, cooking, sewing, gardening and baking. Before women go back to the community, Uma PAS has a wide consultation with the village head and family members (to) get assurance that they are going to a safe place. We also do follow-up visits … trying to see how we can support better.

“The Martina I know today is the confident Martina, who stands up and says, ‘This is me you see; this is Martina.’ She’s confident to go forward.”

For Fernando Pires, Country Representative, Timor-Leste Program for Caritas Australia, prevention and accompaniment work – walking with women on their journey – is a crucial element of the program.

“We accompany survivors of domestic violence to a better future by providing the shelters, and by linking them with police, health and other services offering direct support — microfinance, education for their children and legal services,” Fernando said.

“We also support our local partners to do prevention work. They run community training with men, to help change their attitudes and reduce violent behaviour.”

Please donate to Project Compassion during Lent and help empower domestic violence survivors, like Martina, in Timor-Leste to build a secure future, and live in communities that uphold everyone’s dignity. To make a donation, click here.

Source: Caritas Australia.

Posted on 16 March 2017.


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