The Alola Foundation: Embracing the Women and Children of Timor-Leste   
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Alola adopted the motto of “Strong Women, Strong Nation.” The entire country can be strong with the full participation of women in every aspect of national development and in every aspect of social and cultural life.

Halo, respected viewers, and welcome to Good People, Good Works. Timor-Leste, a country located on the eastern end of Timor Island in Southeast Asia, is known as the “world’s youngest nation” as it became independent in 2002.

Today, we’ll go to Dili, the capital, to visit the Alola Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes the rights of women and children and nurtures women as leaders. The Foundation was established in 2001 by the nation’s first First Lady Ms. Kristy Sword Gusmão, who is the wife of His Excellency Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste.

She currently serves as the Foundation’s chairwoman. She is also the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Goodwill Ambassador for Education and is the chair of the UNESCO National Commission for Timor-Leste.

Women and children are amongst the most vulnerable sections of society both here in Timor-Leste and in many countries, and they often lack the political clout to actually have a voice, and to be able to articulate their special needs. And this is the problem not only here in Timor, but all around the world. So we need to pay special attention, and ensure that women and children do have a voice, do have a say in issues affecting their lives, including policy, government legislation; these are all really important issues for the future of a country.

The 132-member strong Foundation staff works hard to provide a range of services to the women and children of Timor-Leste, offering programs through the following four departments:
• Maternal and Child Health
• Education
• Economic Development
• Advocacy

The chief executive officer of the Foundation is Ms. Teresa Verdial De Araujo.

Our principle is equality, fairness, participation and respect. So everywhere if you mention “Strong Women, Strong Nation,” – (people say) “Oh that’s Alola.” And in all of our programs we try to support the government. So the four main programs here actually are related to our government’s priorities. We are very lucky to have a program that’s connected to our government’s priorities and the MDGs, Millennium Development Goals.

Many of the issues faced by women in this country both in the maternal and child-health spheres, in the advocacy’s sphere too, and in the areas of economic empowerment, they are experiences that many women in the region and indeed around the world share.

And I think we've come up with a number of innovative projects and programs to address some of these issues, all of them with a very clear principle and foundation in building the capacity and the education levels of people, mainly women and children at the grassroots level.

Most of the Foundation’s work is community-based with extensive networks of groups and support workers. The programs have achieved great results, and due to the heightened awareness of women’s rights, more and more women are joining the organization.

So we create programs in our district. Sometimes once a year, once or twice we always call Alola officials to attend a meeting in Dili so they can see each other from different districts. Because we also have very different ideas. If they can meet, it will be very good, eespecially for women. They return home happily, because they have shared stories with each other.

Over time, we’ve broadened our mandate, our mission if you like, to include services and public education campaigns for women on maternal and child-health issues, on exclusive breast feeding and setting up grassroots structures to support the knowledge and education of women and young girls about the importance of certain practices such as exclusive breast feeding.

Timor-Leste’s maternal and infant-mortality rates have been among the highest in Southeast Asia. Thus the Alola Foundation started the Maternal and Child Health program in 2003 to increase the number of safe births and improve the health of babies by building awareness of the best breastfeeding practices.

Halo, my name is Angelina Fernandez. I work as a nurse, providing services for expecting mothers and infants. This program especially promotes, breast feeding skills to take care of the baby and to deliver the baby safely.

We pay attention to improving nutrition for toddlers with parents, especially from breast milk because here there are many children who lack adequate nutrition. Also the rate of infant mortality is increasing. Therefore, it is very important for us to introduce to them the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the infants instead of introducing supplemental foods too early.

According to statistics, 90% of women in Timor-Leste give birth at home. Alola has thus established what are called “Mother Support Groups” in nine of the country’s districts. Currently 32 Groups with more than 200 volunteer members are providing free consultations to pregnant women regarding maternal health and advice on infant care to new mothers.

To make this program successful, Alola Foundation makes efforts to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and with other parties competent in the training of breast feeding throughout the nine districts and to train health workers to support groups of mothers, which in turn can inform society that breastfeeding is important, and inform the community with other programs on how to deliver a baby safely.

They can contact health workers to get help with delivering the baby at home. And this work includes finding solutions for families that have difficulties accessing transportation, and helping in emergency cases, such as when complications arise when the time comes to give birth so that they can be transported to the hospital.

Tais, or the traditional handmade textiles of Timor-Leste, are an important part of the nation’s cultural heritage. To encourage economic development and help women increase their family income, Alola Esperansa Lta, a subsidiary of the Foundation, operates the Alola Textile Center and Taibessi Sewing Center, which produce Timorese crafts and textiles.

The Textile Center partners with local women weavers who earn money when their items are sold at the Foundation’s Alola Shop. The Foundation also employs 30 women at the Sewing Center with their handiwork also showcased at the Shop.

Economic development, this program looks at how to improve women’s economic status, and also pays attention to culture, especially tais, to increase family income. We provide training to them about the quality and color and also how they should set the prices for tais (they have made).

My name is Helen Gomes. I am the manager of the Alola Esperansa Shop. I want to introduce to you to our shop a little bit; we have different kinds of products that are made from tais, as you can see on TV. The available products are handbags and wallets. And we have handbags for women and also for men. And there are many models for the wallets. Those products are made from tais.

We work together with the Alola Foundation program, for economic development in the district to find groups who can make tais and they deliver it here. We buy the tais then we send them to our production center in Taibesi. In order to attract buyers we make different kinds of products which I mentioned earlier from the available tais, because besides the tais, people sometimes also want to buy wallets, handbags and clothes made from tais.

After several years of promotion, Alola products have received the international community’s attention, and some items have been stocked at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Australia. Oxfam Shops, which are run by the international development charity Oxfam, feature products produced by disadvantaged people around the world.

In 2009, the Oxfam Shops in Australia decided to carry Alola’s handicrafts. The Education and the Advocacy departments also play important roles in helping the Foundation fulfill its mission. There are two programs offered by the Education department.

One is the Friendship School Program, where a small number of Dili-area schools are linked to Australian schools to promote ties between the wonderful children of these two neighboring nations. In the School Visit Program, members of the Education department visit Dili-based schools to aid teachers with curriculum development and introduce students to new ideas.

Activities that are part of the program include painting, creating collages, storytelling and story reading, art activities to decorate classrooms, and outdoor games. One of the key components of the Advocacy program is the Women’s Resource Center which was established in 2003. Among the varied offerings of the Center are computer literacy and life skill courses.

I’m very, very proud of the work that the staff of the Alola Foundation are doing both in our Education program, in our Advocacy program, and I think it's very important as a staff that we have a very strong sense of team spirit of working together towards the same goal of empowering the women and children of this country to play a full and active role in the life of the nation, and I just encourage all of the staff of Alola and everyone involved to be mindful always of our constituency, and keep always their interest and their needs in mind.

We’d like to sincerely thank former First Lady Kristy Sword Gusmão, Teresa Verdial De Araujo, and the other members of the Alola Foundation for continually seeking to advance the welfare of women and children in Timor-Leste.

For more details on the Alola Foundation, please visit

Bright viewers, thank you for presence on today’s program. Please join us again on Good People, Good Works next Sunday for the conclusion of our series profiling the Alola Foundation. Coming up next is The World Around Us, after Noteworthy News. May all the world’s women and children wear happy, beautiful smiles every day.
Jump, jump, jump, rotating hither and thither.
Jump, jump, jump, rotating hither and thither.
Tra, la, la, la, la, tri, li, li, li,
tra, la, la, la, la, tri, li, li, li, li.

Halo, and welcome to Good People, Good Works. Timor-Leste, a country located on the eastern end of Timor Island in Southeast Asia, is known as the “world’s youngest nation” as it became independent in 2002.

Last week, we introduced you to one of the country’s highly respected non-profit organizations, the Alola Foundation, which promotes the rights of women and children and fosters women as leaders. Today, we’ll continue our visit with the Foundation and present more about the group’s constructive work with the people of Timor-Leste.

The Foundation was established in 2001 by the nation’s first First Lady Ms. Kristy Sword Gusmão, who is the wife of His Excellency Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste. She currently serves as the Foundation’s chairwoman.

She is also the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Goodwill Ambassador for Education and is the chair of the UNESCO National Commission for Timor-Leste. With the motto “Strong Women, Strong Nation,” the group assists women and children through its programs that are offered through the following four departments:

• Maternal and Child Health
• Education
• Economic Development
• Advocacy

Clap your hands; sa, la, la, la,
Clap your hands; sa, la, la, la,
Clap hands; sa, la, la, la,
come together, clap your hands.
Please stomp on the ground,
stomp on the ground.
Sa, la, la, la, stomp on the ground
sa, la, la, la, stomp on the ground
sa, la, la, la, come together;
stomp on the ground.

Alola’s Education Department works with teachers to help them meet national curriculum goals and in many other areas. In 2009, the Foundation partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide training to 38 preschool teachers, a group representing teachers from all 13 districts in the nation. A separate training course was provided to 130 primary school teachers from the town of Maubessi and 102 teachers from the nation’s capital. Topics covered ranged from lesson planning to setting classroom rules to engaging activities that can be introduced to students.

For the Education and Literacy program, our mission is to increase the access and quality of education for women and children. So in this part we work more closely with the Minister of Education to promote and to improve the quality of teaching, and also the quality of education by trying to produce children’s education resources, like books, and also some local resources become education resources in the schools. And we also provide teacher training for preschools, and also for primary schools.

As you know, after the independence we had a very limited number of teachers. So the teachers that are now teaching, not all of them come from a teaching background. That’s why we have to provide, very good modules and also training, how they can deliver activities in a classroom, and how they can use local resources to motivate children and also how they can feel confidence to teach.

My name is Maria Imaculada da Conceicao. I work at Alola in the Science and Education Department. Currently I work with students in education, providing entertainment and activities while we are preparing students to attend middle school and so forth.

Say "halo" to them, all of you tell them, like this, "Halo"; students say, "Halo." Okay, children here do activities in the training center during holidays. Therefore, we here at the training center prepare educational activities for the children so that during their vacation, they do not feel bored at home.

They come to visit the training center. They also can play and have fun, then rotate to and fro, don’t you? You guys like to play here, don’t you? (We like it.) Really? (We do.) What activity did you do? (We were drawing, drawing, and jumping.)

Alola’s Education Department offers scholarships to students who are orphans or are from disadvantaged families and each year approximately over 1,000 children at 113 schools receive assistance to pay for school fees, uniforms, books and other school-related expenses. To maintain the legacy of Tetun, one of Timor-Leste’s official languages, Alola publishes textbooks in Tetun and also organizes national language-writing competitions with the government’s support.

I want to tell you about our (teaching) resources. Last year we attended the reading competition and we’re lucky, we won. And our (teaching) resources are recognized by our Ministry of Education. So Alola will supply the book readers and classroom sets to the Ministry of Education. And then this year they will distribute (the materials) to the schools around the country.

And the resources that we are developing here that’s in Tetun and Portuguese. And we are also one of the NGOs that provides education resources to the Ministry of Education. We create the books here or, we translate it from the very good books from Australia, and also we provide scholarships, mostly for the girls, in secondary school.

Sometimes they drop out of school because of economic reasons or early marriage. So our mission in this part is how to provide scholarships so we can also help the women and the girls to continue their education, in secondary school or sometimes university.

We have just launched a national language writing competition to encourage people to write stories, poems, and music in their mother tongue, which in most cases is not one of the two official languages, Tetun and Portuguese, but it's one of about sixteen national languages.

So we want to encourage people to feel proud of their unique cultural heritage and their identity as people, and to take matters into their own hands in terms of ensuring that these languages are not lost because a couple of these languages are already extinct or on the verge of extinction, and I think this is a great tragedy for a nation and for a people.

Working to promote women’s rights is the goal of the Advocacy Department. Through the program’s various initiatives, Alola fosters the development of future women leaders so that they can be active in politics, education, the economy, and other spheres and ensure that women’s issues are addressed as this young nation progresses forward.

My name in Azir Arez. I work for Alola Foundation as the Advocacy program manager. Our Advocacy program aims to strengthen women’s knowledge, especially women who lead the campaign on women’s and children’s rights.

Our work involves advocacy. The examples are new rules, government policies; we always come together to discuss political regulation that provides for benefits to women; for example, the legislation for implementing the policies in the country. And also, we work on how to further strengthen women leaders; for example, such as how to give training to them, regarding their views about their rights and to talk about their lives.

In our Advocacy program, we have three main sub-programs: knowledge for women, a support program, and to stop human trafficking. In these three programs we work mainly for women and children throughout Timor-Leste. In the (Women’s Resource) training center we have a library they can access and from there we create a discussion group discussing the basic knowledge based on their needs.

In this place, our programs provide computer courses to the youth and also women’s groups so that they are able to use the computers here. Here we also provide courses in Microsoft Word, Excel and the Internet. After that other small libraries can help them so that they can get the information according to the course.

Besides offering computer and library services, Alola’s Women’s Resource Center strives to ensure women have access to information regarding gender-based violence, maternal and child health, and other areas as well as offers career development services such as a class on creating a curriculum vitae. The District Support Worker program is a project of the Advocacy Department that sends trained representatives to each of the nation’s districts to work with other women’s groups on community building activities.

In the District Support (Worker) program we travel to 13 districts and we introduce it to the potential women leaders in the region so that they can give responses to the community.

Slipped, slipped, slipped. Rotating hither and thither,
slipped, slipped, slipped. Rotating hither and thither,
tra, la, la, la, la, tri, li, li, li, li,
tra, la, la, la, la, tri, li, li, li, li.

So I think this is a very big challenge for governments and also for legislators, policy makers all around the world to make sure that we are in tune with women’s needs, the rights of children and ensure that we are responding to them with a long-term vision in mind, not just in the case of politicians; we're not thinking about what is in our interest during our mandate, but we're thinking about the long-term needs and the long-term interest of these two very important but very vulnerable sections of society.

So I guess the key for an organization like Alola and for the many other organizations that are working with us on similar issues is to maintain a long-term vision and realize that we need to work very collaboratively to get amongst ourselves as civil society organizations but also with government and realize that we’re not going to change things overnight, that we need is to be patient.

We need to be very conscious of the need to be accountable to people on the ground, people in villages, not only in the urban areas but in the rural areas of this country, and to keep in mind that we are here for them, to protect them, to serve their interests.

Once again our sincere thanks go to First Lady Kristy Sword Gusmão, Teresa Verdial De Araujo, Azir Arez and the many other dedicated individuals from the Alola Foundation who are uplifting their nation by improving the welfare of its women and children in so many different ways. May God’s love fill the hearts of all the nation’s citizens.

For more details on the Alola Foundation, please visit

Compassionate viewers, thank you for your company on today’s Good People, Good Works. Coming up next is The World Around Us, after Noteworthy News. May Heaven’s light forever shine on all beings.

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