In a November 17 statement, Jesuit Mission said thanks to the collaboration of many village leaders over the last four years, its partnership with the Jesuit Social Service (JSS) through the Water Project program "has brought clean water to more than 15 rural villages, transforming the lives of over 5,000 people."
"With clean and safe water now nearby, communities have become empowered with more agricultural opportunities, have experienced an improved standard of hygiene and children no longer have to walk great distances to collect water before and after school," it said.
The Water Project will continue to provide 18 life-changing new water systems to rural communities over the next three years "which are vital in Timor-Leste where one-third of people in rural areas do not have access to clean water."
One of the new water facilities was inaugurated on Oct. 22 in Aldeia Maupelulu, Railaco, Ermera municipality which benefits JSS's mobile clinic, Jesuit Community in Railaco parish and 49 families consisting of 424 people. JSS also handed over toilets to three families in Tokoluli, Railaco.
Father Julio Sousa SJ, director of JSS Timor-Leste, said the program aims to encourage rural communities to be the main authors in constructing and implementing their water facilities.
"We want them to become the owner of the project and therefore the facility belongs to them, not to us," said Father Julio.
"The communities are very collaborative right from the beginning of the project until we hand it over to them. They actively participate in meetings, share their opinions and concerns and contribute as much as they can by working voluntarily," he added.
In Toculi village, he said, before there was a clean water facility "each student was required to bring five liters of water to school every day so that the school can prepare meals and clean the toilets."
"Just imagine five liters of water for a child to carry to school each day, it is a very heavy burden for them," said Father Julio.
In some places where JSS has not yet constructed a water tank, villagers still have to buy water, which adds a great financial burden for rural families.
"It is sad because even though we are in the 21st century, people are still struggling with the basic need to access water," said Jose.
After gaining independence in 2002, more than 45 percent of its 1.3 million population live in poverty – the highest in Southeast Asia.
It is estimated that one in four people across Timor-Leste cannot access clean water, according to the World Bank. In Dili, the capital, only 40 percent of the 317,000 residents have access to piped water.