16 June 2009

The Alma Nuns' Mission to 'the lowest of the low' in East Timor

KARIOS MAGAZINE Written by Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne Sunday, 22 March 2009
Volume 20, Issue 10 Sunday June 14, 2009 THE ALMA NUNS…BY Paul Stewart.

It is an equation that just does not add up.

Hundreds of disabled children, four nuns and one tiny motor scooter.

The spirit may be willing but it just does not add up for the ALMA nuns of Dili East Timor.

The four nuns of this religious order, inspired by the work of Mother Teresa, fight a constant battle against the numbers in their inspirational work looking after the disabled children of the former Portuguese colony who are described in social terms as 'the lowest of the low'.

Raising a disabled child is hard enough to contemplate in well to do Australia but in one of the world’s newest and poorest nations it is just a nightmare.

The nuns of the ALMA order are attempting to help the parents of disabled children with their help but because of their limited means of transport they just cannot get around to visiting enough kids.

ALMA is an acronym for "Asossiasi Lembaga Misionaris Awam", which means Association of Lay Missionaries for the poor and the disabled).

The Nuns who consecrate themselves completely to Christ and the Kingdom of God, serve only the most disadvantaged children (the poor, the abandoned, the disabled) and live amongst them in togetherness in the community.

The sisters task is to help and to empower the abandoned, poor and disabled helping along the way to change the mentality of the community towards them.

They are under the jurisdiction of Bishop Dili and their mission has been operation in for three years.

At the homes they do visit the Sisters perform physiotherapy on the disabled children and then instruct the parents of the disabled child to do the same.

Their work is showing great results.

On a recent visit around the back blocks of Dili with the Sisters I met a young chap called Lorenzo who could now sit in a chair and perform tasks his crippled body just would not let him perform until he started therapy with the nuns.

Unfortunately, the Sisters say they cannot keep up with the huge demand for their services.

East Timorese Alma Nun Sister Justine said the order had only the use of one tiny motor scooter.

'If we had a four wheel car with a tray we could do a lot, lot more work,' she sighed.

'We could even get out into the countryside to visit the really disadvantaged disabled children.

'It would be a miracle if Australian Christians could help us get a vehicle. Not brand new just one to help us with our work.

A leading East Timorese Government official Joaquim Santos has said he would purchase a good vehicle for the nuns from a credible Dili second hand car dealer.

'We would just need about $10,000 in funds,' he said.

'While the world is going through tough economic times and money is tight for everyone these kids need a lot more help than most.

The Jesuit’s have come to the party agreeing to get funds to the nuns via their Dili office.

Those wishing to making a donation should send funds to ALMA Nuns East Timor c/o The Jesuit Mission, P.O. Box 193 (31 West Street) North Sydney NSW 2059 AUSTRALIA.

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