Sister Maria Yovita Kope (with veil) teaches the right way of processing food
From housewives to adolescents, many women in the North Central Timor and Belu districts of East Nusa Tenggara province know Sister Maria Yovita Kope. This nun from the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit has been offering skills training programs there since 2006. The new skills local residents acquire have boosted the meager income that farming brings for many families in the mainly rural area. “The aim is to empower them so that they can improve their financial situation, which is usually not so good,” she says. Her programs include cooking, sewing, animal breeding, planting and product marketing. In partnership with a local government scheme, she has also helped many women to produce vitamin supplements from corn, rice, soy beans and local medicinal herbs such as zedoary and Indian mulberry. Sister Kope has an infectiously positive attitude to her work. “I don’t care whether it’s raining or not,” she says. “I don’t feel tired at all. I’m always there for the housewives and young girls. I would stop serving only if I could not walk.” She does face a number of challenges and often has to work with participants who are perhaps less than dedicated when it comes to learning the skills. “They are not serious sometimes and they do make mistakes,” she says. “But I never give up. My happiness at seeing them succeed conquers any tiredness I might feel.” She cites cooperation, togetherness and service as the principles that underpin all her programs and says, “I am happy to live this kind of community life for as long as it benefits people.” One person who has definitely felt the benefit is Maria Margaretha Kolo, 35. Thanks to Sister Kope, she is now making vitamin supplements from zedoary extract, which her husband takes to sell in the provincial capital Kupang. “The money we earn from selling the vitamins is a great help,” she says.