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How your donation is making dreams come true in Timor-Leste

Before joining an Oxfam-supported savings group, Francisco struggled to put food on the table for his family. Now, he knows how to manage money and chase his dreams — and his fortunes have turned around.

Despite spending long hours cultivating his rice paddy, Francisco (pictured) never seemed to be able to get ahead. “When I would be working in my paddy field,” he recalls, “I would have a problem with money.”

Francisco couldn’t afford his own harvesting machine so he would borrow a neighbour’s machine, and pay his way with rice.

“It was very difficult,” he says, “because I would work hard but then have to divide my harvest between them and myself.”

Photo: Vlad Sokhin/Panos/OxfamAUS

Francisco’s fortunes changed when he joined an Oxfam-supported Saving for Change group — an initiative made possible by funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Australia NGO Cooperation Program.

In the rural village where Francisco and his family live, access to finance is limited. But our Strengthening Community Livelihoods (Haforsa) program is creating opportunities for remote communities in Timor-Leste to form community savings groups, so vulnerable families can pool their resources to withstand hunger and hardship.

Saving for Change group members like Francisco and his wife Anita (pictured below) save towards the dream of their choice — anything from a tractor to education or kitchen utensils. They can access their savings to soften the impact of stressful events, such as illness or food shortages.

“Now, it is better than before,” Francisco says.

“Saving for Change has taught us to save money and then later we are able to achieve our dream.”

Francisco and Anita are in separate savings groups. He explains, “Every week, my wife puts $10 into her group and I put $5 into mine.”

“I’m very happy with the Saving for Change group because we have a dream and then, at the end of the year, the dream can come true. I can then see our dream — right in front of me!”

“My dream for when we get to the end of the first cycle of Saving for Change is that I want to build a new house.”

Photo: Vlad Sokhin/Panos/OxfamAUS

Francisco’s children used to experience malnutrition. “Before I was involved in the groups,” he explains, “I found it difficult to buy food.”

But things have improved. He says, “We are lucky that we have our savings group here and that we can borrow from the savings to buy food.”

“We can see that our children have a strong physique and don’t get sick like before.”

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