A Dream of a Young Girl to Have Her Coffee Shop in the Poorest Region in Timor-Leste

October 30, 2023

Filomena in her coffee shop

UNDP Team in oe-cusse

In regions such as Oe-cusse, on the north coast of the western portion of Timor, where challenges such as access to productive resources and business opportunities are rare, discouraged youth involvement in the development is a much frequent and usual observed attitude. However, this condition could not stop Filomena from starting her pathway toward her dream.

Filomena Sufa, is a young single Timorese woman, who lives with her mother and three siblings in Pantai Makasar. Filomena was still a teenager when she became responsible for supporting her family after her father passed away. Setting up a business was an idea strongly proving in her mind. From the start, she was passionate about having her own coffee shop business in Oé-Cusse. Obviously, nothing could stop her from achieving her dream.

Filomena was attending the costumer

UNDP Team in oe-cusse

Filomena is a bright and ambitious young lady with a heart of gold. She is the eldest of two siblings and has had her fair share of challenges. Despite facing financial difficulties that made it hard for her to continue school, she persevered and completed her senior high school education. With her unwavering determination and kind spirit, she strongly believed that she could make her dream come true and inspire others along the way. Filomena shared the following: “According to my observation, generally in Pante Macassar, the capital of the region, it is very difficult for many customers, especially tourists, to find a coffee shop since there are only a few available, and most of them are only open until 7 p.m.”.

“The tourism business is one of the key complementary necessary to support tourism activities. Even though opening a coffee shop is an opportunity in Oé-Cusse, my challenge was the lack of knowledge and funds to run such a business”, she added.

Oé-Cusse has the highest percentage (70%) of economically vulnerable households in Timor-Leste[1]. The Special Administrative Region (SAR) established a ZEESM (Special Zone of Social Market Economy, Timor-Leste) to help develop a more inclusive economy in the region. To reach this purpose, the government entered a partnership agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the development and promotion of community-based tourism in Oé-Cusse. 

From 2019 to the present UNDP’s support has mainly focused on more job creation and income generation through diverse economic opportunities, and a conducive business environment, setting up the enabling environment. Economic diversification, promotion of youth entrepreneurs, and youth empowerment through specific types of training are the core priorities to contribute to reducing unemployment and the poverty line.

[1] Socio-Economic Assessment of COVID-19 in Timor-Leste 2021

Outside view of Filomena's coffee shop

UNDP Team in oe-cusse

In 2022, UNDP’s Unit of Community Tourism, offered a tourism business plan training. Filomena was recommended to join the training to improve her business plan skills. After attending the training, she received equipment support to run her coffee shop business. With a better understanding of the industry, she finally achieved her dream of running a coffee shop successfully.

The training has made a significant difference to Filomena’s business knowledge and thus to her income. She particularly appreciated it. Her business has been running for six months now. It operates every afternoon from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and employs 2 more young persons. 

Filomena values the learning she has gained as well as the additional financial support obtained from the central government, which helped her improve the management of her coffee shop. She believes that this support helped her to grow her business in several ways: purchase necessary equipment, improve awareness of her coffee shop on social media, and provide customers with better and quality service. 

I will work hard to make this business successful and improve my own life. I wish I could inspire other young people to start their own businesses and to mitigate the high unemployment rate in Oé-Cusse.