Life can be challenging! In Timor-Leste family life can become more difficult when a parent passes away. This was a reality for Jacinta Aquarta.
Jacinta’s father, a farmer, passed away when she was studying at university in Dili. Her study was paid for from her father’s earnings selling agriculture products, and his death left Jacinta and her mother without a source of income.
Jacinta said “as I looked at my beloved mother growing old, I knew that my dream of completing my studies would not be possible”. Consequently, Jacinta made a decision to stop studying and instead looked for a job. She hoped that by saving money she would be able to continue studying again and build a new house for her mother in Baguia.
One day, Jacinta visited SEPFOPE where she found useful information about the Seasonal Worker Programme which enables Timorese people to work in Australia. At that time, she could not speak English and so attended an English course provided by the SEPFOPE’s Youth Training Centre.
A few months later, Jacinta’s English had improved and she was selected as one of the first group of Timorese (consisting of 25 people) to work in Australia in horticulture.
While working in Australia, Jacinta and the other workers from Timor-Leste were working on a farm picking watermelons and planting seeds. She also drove a tractor cutting grass. This gave Jacinta skills in areas in which women are traditionally under-represented in Timor-Leste.
According to Jacinta, working in Australia was not as easy as she initially thought, and adapting to a new culture and environment was challenging too. However, “cultural awareness, respect for diversity as well as punctuality” are the main lessons Jacinta says she took from the experience.
During her time in Australia, Jacinta says “I was given the chance to visit some interesting places and shop at some of the huge shopping centres in Australia – of a size I had never experienced in my life”.
Four months working in Australia was not long, but Jacinta was really proud of taking sufficient money home. Jacinta says “I am now using the money to continue my schooling and have built a house in Baguia for my mother”. She also has saved the surplus to open a small shop once she finishes her studies in two years’ time. She believes that having a small business will help her to become independent.
We wish Jacinta the best of luck with her future studies and new business.
The Seasonal Worker program is an initiative of the Australian Government which aims to mitigate unemployment in Timor-Leste and provide much needed help for Australian farms and business.