As the third of 10 children from a humble farming family in one of the world’s poorest countries, Eurosia Maria Sales has had to play a housekeeping role since her teens, when her mother died. As a result, the 22-year-old had few opportunities for advancement; it was an achievement for her to get all the way through high school. Then a friend told her about the Centro Treino Integral E Desenvolvimento. She applied for admission, was accepted and completed an 11 month computing and secretarial course. Not long after, a local NGO hired her for an administrative position. ”Now there will be a real economic improvement in my family,” she says with a smile. “I still want to learn more so that I can get a better job and pay for a good education for my younger brothers and sisters.” Run by the Canossian Daughters of Charity, Centro Treino Integral E Desenvolvimento has been helping young women like Eurosia, who come from remote rural communities, for over a decade. At the center in Baucau, about 20 km east of the capital, Dili, it provides training in English and Portuguese, computer skills, cooking, dressmaking and design, agriculture, hotel and small business management, as well as catechism. Eurosia especially liked the regular catechism classes. “I was a very aggressive, insensitive person and I could not forgive people, but my way of thinking has been changed,” she says. Teodora Maria De Sousa has a similar story. “My mother passed away when I was four months old and I was sent to the Orphanage of Maria Auxiliadora, run by Salesian sisters. Now I’m here for training as a cook, so I can support my younger brother and sister and my father,” she says. Then there is Esmeralda Maria Dalux, who comes from a family of 13 children; three of them died in their infancy, due to lack of medication. After winning an essay competition she was awarded a high school scholarship, which her family would never have been able to afford, and is now delighted to be studying computing at the center. “We focus not only on skills training but on encouraging the girls to practice ethical behavior through the moral education we give them,” says center director Sister Candida de Castro. “We charge the students five to 15 dollars a month for their training, food and accommodation. If the family can’t pay with cash, we ask if they can provide grain, vegetables or any other produce, to help make them feel more serious about the training.” At any one time, more than 100 students are taking courses lasting from one to 11 months courses. On completion, they are given help to find jobs, with some returning to work at the center itself. “More than 70 percent of our trainees have found an income and are supporting their families,” says Sr Candida. “And because of their economic status, these women are empowered, both in their families and in society.”
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