Rosita’s Ray of hope

July 15, 2022

Ms.Rosita from Aitarak Laran, a community volunteer for UNDP Cash for Work Project

Maria Silvia DRL/UNDP Timor-Leste

Rosita Barros, 62, lost most of her belongings in the Easter Floods in April. She was injured, feared for her children, and struggled to get food and support. For many in her community as
in other locations across Dili, immediate emergency support was essential in the weeks following the floods.
Mrs. Barros says UNDP’s Hamutuk Servi Komunidade (HSK) project and its cash-for-work initiative, which began in her neighborhood, Ai-Tarak Laran, has been a “ray of hope” for herself and her community. The project sought to provide direct income support to people in 50 of the most affected communities in Dili, who worked to help clean and clear their common spaces.

As the rain continued non-stop, for hours into the night and morning, on the Easter Weekend in various areas of Timor-Leste, 62 years-old Rosita Barros, became scared. Originally from Cailaco in Maliana, the mother of five children, living in Dili since 2009, saw the water rise and tried to salvage what she could.
“On that day, there was flooding, and everyone was running and scared. I was also scared. I tried to salvage our belongings, but I fell, and I sprained my right hand, and I couldn’t save anything. The food and other goods all we had and even the children’s documents swept away”, she said.

Aldeia Anin Fuik, where Rosita lives

Maria Silvia DRL/UNDP Timor-Leste

Rosita and her children could not do anything. They ran for protection at the Ministry of Finance, where many people were already taking shelter at that time.
“I was very scared that night. Watching my children sleeping soundly and the flood rising”.
Rosita returned home after almost a week. The house, like those of her neighbors, was covered in thick mud. Everyone was struggling. Then, she recalls, the village chief announced that UNDP would begin a cash-for-work initiative in her village - Ai-Tarak Laran.
As UNDP teams arrived, Rosita welcomed them and used every opportunity to describe how the community was struggling with the impact of the floods. Following the project’s selection criteria (age between 17-60), one of her children participated in the project instead of her. However, her commitment was such that Rosita wanted to volunteer to help as much as she could.
Respected in the community, she helped motivate young people to join. “I advise them to work and earn their wages”. People began to be recruited and worked to clean the thick mud in community houses, clean waterways, and collect plastic and cans.
“Sometimes we have to be able to give without expecting a reward.”
Since the first day of the project, Rosita came to the worksites every day to motivate people.

The participants of Cash fo Work initiative from Aldeia Anin Fuik, Aitarak Laran

Maria Silvia DRL/UNDP Timor-Leste

“I asked the UNDP officers at that time: Give me a work uniform, and I will volunteer to be a mentor of young workers. They are all like my children, and I feel the need to accompany them so they can finish this important program well. I am very happy to help and do volunteering work for my community.”
After the HSK project, the village is much cleaner, and the community continues to monitor waterways and yards, to ensure it is maintained. “This HSK project is not only helping to alleviate our difficulties but also teaches us to dispose of our garbage properly. We must continue this daily activity.”

UNDP Staff and Ms. Rosita in the field

Maria Silvia DRL/UNDP Timor-Leste

UNDP handed over food basket to Ms. Rosita and vulnerable people affected by flood.

Maria Silvia DRL/UNDP Timor-Leste

HSK is an emergency employment initiative for the flood-affected communities in Dili Municipality. It is part of the “Supporting Flood Response and Recovery Project” funded by the Government of Timor-Leste (ADB’s Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund financed by the Government of Japan), the Government of the Republic of Korea, and UNDP. Over 2,000 people in 20 Aldeias in Dili municipality have benefited from the HSK program as of 1 August 2021.


(Interview & text by Maria Silvia DRL, and rewrite by Sandra Vieira)

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”
― Christopher Reeve