Subject: Diocese distributes government grants to needy people

TIMOR LESTE Diocese distributes government grants to needy people

September 22, 2009 | TL07954.1568

BAUCAU, Timor Leste (UCAN) -- Baucau diocese uses government funds to help poor people improve their livelihood and start small businesses, as well as to build chapels.

"I would like to thank the diocese for helping us with the money," said fisherman Ariano da Cunha, 35. "Before, we could only make US$5 a day from our fishing, but now we can make US$40 a day. It is a fantastic change!"Da Cunha and five other fishermen received US$2,500 from the diocese to buy fishing equipment such as lines, nets, hooks and small boat engines.

Natalino Cardoso, 57, a farmer, said his farming group also received funds that have come in handy. "We used the US$3,000 to buy a hand tractor for our rice field. Thank God, our harvest this year is increasing."

Father Domingos Quintao of the diocese's department of social affairs, which disburses the funds, explained the government gave US$1.5 million to the two dioceses in Timor Leste -- Dili and Baucau -- for the 2008/2009 financial year.

The money, which they are to receive annually, is for the dioceses "to run social programs for people."

"So far we have released some of the funds to groups in the districts of Manatuto, Baucau, Viqueque and Lautem," the priest said. "It is used to raise animals, and to buy hand tractors, seeds for farming and fishing equipment."

He added that some of the money has also gone to groups of people starting carpentry businesses.

The amounts given vary from US$1,000 to US$10,000 per group depending on the type of activity.

The government funds are also used to build new chapels in the diocese "to support the spiritual activities in the parishes," Father Quintao said.

For some recipients, the money has made a huge difference.

Francisco da Cunha, 19, a member of the same group as Ariano da Cunha, said he could not even work every day in the past because he could not buy the necessary equipment.

Timor Leste is Asia's youngest democracy, having gained independence in 2002 after a long history of occupation under Portugal and Indonesia. Poverty remains a massive problem, with about half of the 1 million population unemployed and 45 per cent living on less than US$1 a day. More than 90 percent of the country's people are Catholics.

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