Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Guitars to Timor-Leste, Five to Balibo

From Paul Stewart

WHEN my band mate Gil Santos lost his father in the 1975 Indonesian
invasion all he was left with was his Dad's ``soccer ball and guitar.''
It was fitting really because music is such a vital part of life too
many Timorese as we found out on a recent return visit to East Timor
where Gil and I distributed 30 donated guitars to groups of blind,
disabled and struggling musicians.
Giving a kid a guitar in Timor is like giving them a car, such is the
joy and wide eyed rapture at such a gift.
Amongst the 30 guitars, we thought it only fitting to take five
guitars up to the Balibo House to donate one for each of the
journalists lost there in 1975.
It was a great trip and house manager Rogerio gladly accepted the
instruments.
Once again, though any visit to East Timor only opens you up to other
worthy fund raising tasks,
For example in Dili we met the Alma Nuns who look after the disabled
kids of Timor Leste.
Unfortunately for the Sisters their work load is an equation that
just does not add up.
Afterall, there are hundreds of disabled children, four nuns and they
own only one tiny motor scooter.
The spirit may be willing but it just does not add up for the ALMA nuns.
The four nuns of this religious order, inspired by the work of Mother
Teresa, fight a constant battle against the numbers in their
inspirational work looking after the disabled children of the former
Portuguese colony who are described in social terms as ``the lowest
of the low.’’
Raising a disabled child is hard enough to contemplate in well to do
Australia but in one of the world’s newest and poorest nations it is
just a nightmare.
The nuns of the ALMA order are attempting to help the parents of
disabled children with their help but because of their limited means
of transport they just cannot get around to visiting enough kids.
ALMA is an acronym for " Asossiasi Lembaga Misionaris Awam", which
means Association of Lay Missionaries for the poor and the disabled).
The Nuns who consecrate themselves completely to Christ and the
Kingdom of God, serve only the most disadvantaged children (the poor,
the abandoned, the disabled) and live amongst them in togetherness in
the community.
The sisters task is to help and to empower the abandoned, poor and
disabled helping along the way to change the mentality of the
community towards them.
They are under the jurisdiction of Bishop Dili and their mission has
been operation in for three years.
At the homes they do visit the Sisters perform physiotherapy on the
disabled children and then instruct the parents of the disabled child
to do the same.
Their work is showing great results.
On a recent visit around the back blocks of Dili with the Sisters I
met a young chap called ``Lorenzo’’ who could now sit in a chair and
perform tasks his crippled body just would not let him perform until
he started therapy with the nuns.
Unfortunately, the Sisters say they cannot keep up with the huge
demand for their services.
East Timorese Alma Nun Sister Justine said the order had only the use
of one tiny motor scooter.
``If we had a four wheel car with a tray we could do a lot, lot more
work,’’ she sighed.
``We could even get out into the countryside to visit the really
disadvantaged disabled children.
``It would be a miracle if Australian Christians could help us get a
vehicle. Not brand new just one to help us with our work.’’
A leading East Timorese Government official Joaquim Santos has said
he would purchase a good vehicle for the nuns from a credible Dili
second hand car dealer.
``We would just need about $10,000 in funds,’’ he said.
``While the world is going through tough economic times and money is
tight for everyone these kids need a lot more help than most.’’
The Jesuit’s have come to the party agreeing to get funds to the nuns
via their Dili office.
Those wishing to making a donation should send funds to ``ALMA Nuns
East Timor’’ c/o The Jesuit Mission, P.O. Box 193 (31 West Street)
North Sydney NSW 2059 AUSTRALIA.

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