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Community Health & Infant Nutrition (Timor Leste)

46-year-old Bernadeta has long been a gardener.  

Around her home in rural Timor-Leste, she’s tried her hand at growing more than just staples. 

“I was growing vegetables such as bitter-gourd, string-beans, eggplants, water-spinach, green vegetables, lettuce and spinach,” she says. 

But it wasn’t until UnitingWorld’s partner FUSONA* offered her some assistance and invited her to help lead a gardening group that her garden became the primary source of income for her family. 

“When FUSONA’s staff came to introduce the kitchen garden program to me and my neighbours, I was excited and happy to join because they offered different seeds for us to grow and we don’t need to spend money to buy them,” said Bernadeta. 

So she joined the first training and agreed to lead a gardening group while she expanded her own kitchen garden. 

“The first time we joined as group, I learned new things and we had to decide how we would work together, assist each other and build trust,” she said.  

“At first it was a bit confusing for me as group leader to embrace all members with different ideas, characters, behaviours and mindsets, but we made decisions about how we could work for a better result for group.”  

They decided each person would work on the shared land according to what they were confident in and what they could manage.  

“It was important to acknowledge that each member would produce according to their strength and we formed a working rhythm that was understood among the group,” said Bernadeta. 

“When it comes to harvest time, we harvest and bring to the market to sell. And sometimes people are coming to our gardens and buy fresh vegetables here.” 

The group has decided they need to move to a bigger area of land in order to produce more vegetables to meet the market demand, and are working to figure out a sustainable water source for it.  

“As a group we are so pleased and thankful to FUSONA for supporting us with seeds to produce more in our gardens, said Bernadeta.  

“I love my kitchen garden and hope that FUSONA can continue to support our group with sourcing equipment as we get bigger!” 

We look forward to keeping you updated about Bernadeta’s group and the wider project.  

Thank you for helping make it happen!

Thank you to everyone who donated to support our food crisis appeal or gave gifts of seeds and kitchen gardens from our Everything in Common Gift Catalogue. You’re helping people like Bernadeta to build food security and generate an income for whole families.

*FUSONA is the development agency of the Protestant Church in Timor-Leste (IPTL), a partner of UnitingWorld and the Uniting Church in Australia.

There’s a food crisis in two of the poorest places in our region.
Our partners have a plan to beat it.

Malnutrition, particularly among children, has been a huge problem in Timor-Leste and Maluku (East Indonesia) and now there is a hidden hunger crisis being made worse by the rising cost of living, global conflict and climate change.

In Timor-Leste, the prevalence of stunting, impaired growth and development caused by malnutrition, in children under five is 47 percent, among the highest in the world. In Maluku, 34 percent of children under five are stunted.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made things more difficult; reducing wheat production, wrecking supply chains and inflating the price of food imports. Experts say the global food situation is set to worsen with the ongoing conflict and will continue to hit the poor the hardest.

We asked our partners how we could best help, and they told us they had a sustainable, local solution to the crisis. Gardening!

Hundreds of families growing their own food right where they live.

The Director of our partner FUSONA* is passionate about equipping families to tackle the food crisis themselves.

“We want every family and community to have the opportunity to produce their own food to eat and improve their health. And if they want to earn an income they can plant extra to sell,” he said.

“People will apply their own time and energy to generate their food and income. We will provide seeds, equipment and education, and accompany families at every step of the way.”

Part of the project will be to educate people about the importance of good nutrition and sanitation.

“So far, we’ve been successfully showing people how to grow sweet potato, eggplant, spinach and green mustard… people have been coming to the church to learn more and join in,” he says.

“I believe we can impact thousands of lives with this approach and reduce malnutrition for children in Timor-Leste.”

We’ve launched an appeal to support our partners in Timor-Leste and Maluku to tackle the food crisis and help ensure as many children as possible do not go hungry. You can find out more about their projects and donate at www.unitingworld.org.au/foodcrisis

*FUSONA is the development agency of our partner church, the Protestant Church of Timor-Leste (IPTL)

Act2 is a major transformational change project focused on shaping the future of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA). As part of the Act2 Project, every Uniting Church member, council and community is being invited to take part.

We’ve contributed our perspective through a written submission, and in an online forum where we were joined by international partners. Rev Dr Cliff Bird from the United Church in the Solomon Islands (UCSI) was a panellist in the forum and shared some generous feedback about what partnership with the UCA has meant to UCSI.

“Our understanding of mission has evolved since we entered into partnership with the Uniting Church in Australia. It has been broadened and enriched as it has moved from a narrowly spiritualistic understanding to a more holistic understanding,” he said. “We now share a greater focus on practical concerns like ending poverty and violence against women and taking faithful action on climate change. These were not seen as core business of the church, but now they are part of our life and understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.”

Rev Dr Bird also pointed to how the partnership has strengthened UCSI as an institution. “Our decision-making processes have improved along with our ability to look inwardly. It has resulted in us becoming more accountable and transparent and create more rigorous policies and procedures. We’re so grateful to be able to share knowledge and expertise, stories and resources back and forth with our partners in Australia as elsewhere.”

In our written submission to Act2, we highlighted some strengths of the UCA and major challenges as we see it. We also provided some ideas for change and how we and our international partners could help:

“As Christianity becomes a minority faith in an increasingly diverse and secular Australia, we have much to learn from our partner churches who come from multifaith contexts, and who fight poverty and injustice with dogged determination without diluting their identity as Christians or being reticent about sharing God’s desire to know and love all people.”

You can read our full submission here.
You can watch the recording of the online International Partnerships and Ecumenical Relationships forum here or read a reflection/summary of the discussions here.

If you’re reading this, you care about the mission of the Uniting Church – please contribute your thoughts and ideas to the Act2 project. Discerning the shape of the UCA in future needs all the wisdom we can gather.

Find out more about the Act2 Project and how you can engage at www.act2uca.com.