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Poverty and mental health collide in Timor-Leste

Domingos lives with his wife and children in a remote farming village two hours outside Dili in Timor-Leste. Like many Timorese, he continues to suffer from mental health issues decades after the war for independence.

Unfortunately, the combination of poverty and poor mental health meant Domingos struggled to grow enough to eat or earn enough to pay for his children’s school fees. Domingos’s behaviour was erratic and, at times, violent. He had to sleep in a shed away from his wife and children. He was unable to work to support his family, and suffered social stigma within the community.

A right to dignity

Domingos finally received the medication and counselling he needed through our Timorese partner, Psychosocial Recovery and Development in East Timor (PRADET).

After his behaviour stabilised, Domingos was able to back into the main house with his family. PRADET staff checked in regularly with his wife and neighbours to ensure it was safe to do so.

We then began looking for ways to help Domingos establish a long-term income that could lift his family out of poverty.

Domingos and his wife smiling outside their home

Building a new life

With his health restored, Domingos was able to attend training in horticulture and business. He received seeds to start some small-scale agricultural activities, both to feed his family and earn extra income.

Domingos also took the initiative to build his own well and water pump. With a reliable source of irrigation, he is now growing a diverse range of vegetables, including sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, tomatoes, and mustard. He is preparing nutritious meals for his children and earns an extra $40-50 per week selling his produce to local families and vendors in Dili.

Domingos and his wife use their profits to pay their children’s school fees and buy books and uniforms. They have also upgraded their house with concrete walls and flooring.

“We are working very hard and now we have enough to support our kids,” said Domingos.

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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Donate now to help more people like Domingos access mental health support.

We are working very hard and now we have enough to support our kids.

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