Madalena’s shared optimism

Madalena is no different to many of her generation in Timor Leste. While her country has had a troubled history, she is grateful for the education opportunities presented to her and is optimistic about the future.


She attends the Saint Maria Mazzarello Vocational School run by the Salesian Sisters which provides young people with, among other things, access to culinary and hospitality training in tourism.


Appreciative of the opportunities she has obtained, Madalena says, “I am very grateful that I can attend this school. I can gain experience from the sisters and they always motivate us if we make any mistakes.


“I am very grateful that I can be part of this community and do the right thing and I can also learn more about how I can prepare foods that I have learned about in school. If God gave me some assistance, I will open my own cafeteria,” she adds.


When Madalena graduates, she will likely find employment because of the skills she has learned and the growing tourism market in Timor-Leste.


With 97 percent of their population being Catholic, and a median age of 21 years old, Timor-Leste has a passionate and youthful voice. But it is a voice that is also concerned with high unemployment, as the country struggles to absorb the large youth population into its workforce.


However, an air of optimism was present among the younger generation when Timor-Leste held elections in May.


In rural areas, like in the Diocese of Baucau, this situation is even more critical as many young people do not have the opportunity to pursue higher education or to learn a trade due to the lack of financial resources. This is a situation well known by the inhabitants of Venilale, a rural town located 40 minutes inland from Baucau.


“Regarding the community in Venilale, … education is difficult, many students are poor, they lack a lot of things to support them,” says Sr Anita Freitas, the Director of Saint Maria Mazzarello Vocational School.


The Salesian Sisters and Catholic Mission have been closely associated with the Timorese for decades and are well aware of the struggles faced by the local communities. In 1994, they opened the Saint Maria Mazzarello Vocational School in Venilale, providing educational pathways to young people and to help bridge the gap between the lack of skilled labour and workplace demand.


The school was created with the aim of empowering the local community through skills-based training. By welcoming students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the Salesian Sisters offer them independence and an opportunity to create their own future.


Before the elections, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Timor-Leste, Bishop Norberto do Amaral of Maliana, called on politicians to promote peace and work for stability and the common good.


For more details about the work of Catholic Mission in Timor-Leste, go to:


Footnote: Information supplied by Catholic Mission. World Mission Sunday will be held on October 22.


Image: Financial independence through education is a dream come true for people like Madalena. Courtesy Catholic Mission.


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