Sejarina’s struggle and hope – How Cash for Work is helping families and communities

July 18, 2022

Ms. Sejarina da Costa, participant of Cash for Work from Hera

Maria Silvia DRL/UNDP Timor-Leste

The day Sejarina da Costa, 36, was told by the village head she should participate in the Cash for Work initiative, part of UNDP’s Hamutuk Serbi Komunidade (HKS) project, the mother of five felt relief in her heart. For a while, at least, she makes more money than usual to feed her family.
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.
“They suggested that I register as a participant in the HKS project. I was very happy that day and felt a lightening in my heart. I said to myself: I will earn more than usual to be able to feed my children.”
Originally from Baucau, Sejarina and her family have been living in Hera, outside of Dili, since 2010. They have no assets, and their fragile house is on Government land. Life is hard, with little income, particularly as her husband is disabled and she is the only breadwinner.
Covid restrictions made life even harder for the 36-year-old mother of five, who could not bring her vegetables for sale in Dili. The family was left with very little means of survival and, at times, “no money at all”.
The dire situation was made worse by the floods. Used to a difficult life, Sejarina says the April floods were very scary. The water entered her house but luckily, apart from the kitchen, the home survived. “I wanted to fix my house, but we don’t have money for that”, she says, pointing to a house with no proper windows and which seems dangerous to stay in during the rainy season.
Hamutuk Serbi Komunidade (HKS) helped Sejarina earn some income and as she says, “breathe and feel relief for the next weeks”. “Thank you to everyone who has implemented this project in our community”. Money, she earned from Cash for Work plus extra jobs she was able to get, allowed her to put food on the table and take care of her family. “If I don't do all this my children will cry with hunger.”
“I am very happy and grateful for the opportunity given by the HKS project. I would like to save some of the money, but my family's economic condition doesn't allow for that. With the money I earn by working on this project, I will buy my children’s school needs and feed my family.”
The Cash for Work program allowed Sejarina to reduce the need for collecting wood to make money. “The journey with firewood from the mountains to the house was long and tiring, it takes two hours. 

Participants of Cash for Work Project in Hera

Maria Silvia DRL/UNDP Timor-Leste

Hamutuk Serbi Komunidade (HKS) helped Sejarina earn some income and as she says, “breathe and feel relief for the next weeks”. “Thank you to everyone who has implemented this project in our community”. Money, she earned from Cash for Work plus extra jobs she was able to get, allowed her to put food on the table and take care of her family. “If I don't do all this my children will cry with hunger.”
“I am very happy and grateful for the opportunity given by the HKS project. I would like to save some of the money, but my family's economic condition doesn't allow for that. With the money I earn by working on this project, I will buy my children’s school needs and feed my family.”
The Cash for Work program allowed Sejarina to reduce the need for collecting wood to make money. “The journey with firewood from the mountains to the house was long and tiring, it takes two hours. Sometimes it feels hard, but this is the only way to survive.”
“I feel proud of myself because even though I eat a plate of white rice without anything else, it is food made from my sweat. I never beg even though the family’s economic condition is very critical.”
The Cash for Work initiative helped ease some of these heavy burdens. Sejarina dreams of more programs such as this, that help bring money to communities and that might help her guarantee her children’s education. “For my three children who are already in school, I will try to make money so they can complete as much as possible. I am illiterate, but I will not let them down. I will continue to strive for a better future for them. I want them to be successful and get what they dream of.
Sejarina is herself, an example of resilience and strength. She speaks calmly and gently about her living conditions. Her eyes filled with tears when she mentioned the amount of money, she received from the HKS Project. She had never received this kind of money.

 

Payment to the participants of CFW Project

Joao Elias Filipe Gama/UNDP Timor-Leste

Sejarina is herself, an example of resilience and strength. She speaks calmly and gently about her living conditions. Her eyes filled with tears when she mentioned the amount of money, she received from the HKS Project. She had never received this kind of money.

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

 

“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”
– Nelson Mandela