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Pilgrims 100 water project changing lives


An Adelaide group that assists Jesuit Mission work overseas has thrown its support behind a major water tank project that is changing the lives of villagers in Timor-Leste.

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Last year Pilgrims 100 contributed $87,000 towards the $100,000 needed to construct six concrete water tanks in the Ermear and Liquica districts.

In June, 13 Pilgrim members, together with two staff members from Jesuit Mission in Sydney, visited Timor-Leste to see firsthand how the tank project is helping to improve the living conditions in the small communities.

Pilgrims 100 chair, James Hill, said it was a “privilege” to witness the “profound impact” of the support provided.

He explained how prior to the construction of the tanks those living in the villages had to collect water from far away sources, often encountering difficult terrain.

“Prior to having the tanks the children of the villages, and sometimes adults, were tasked with collecting the water in large jerry cans,” he said.

“Each village had its own difficulties in this collection process – in one village the children would have to travel around one kilometre from their homes down a steep incline. In another village, it was only a five-minute walk with the jerry cans, but this had to happen every morning at 3am to avoid the crowding during the day.

“The children who collected the water with jerry cans, especially early in the morning, would often miss school. Now school attendance is improved.”

Mr Hill said the water tanks were built using the technical expertise and equipment funded by Jesuit Social Services in Timor-Leste, with the local village community taking responsibility for building the concrete structures.

In the village of Maukilormata, population of about 200, Mr Hill recalled how members of the visiting Pilgrims group received a warm reception from the grateful locals.

“I joined hands with the elders of the village to cut the ribbon for the inauguration of the water tank,” he said.

“Afterwards we were all invited to the village chief’s house for the legal signing over of the water tank installation.

“It was a very special moment for this village community.”

During the week-long trip, Pilgrims members also visited other Jesuit Mission projects around Dili and the surrounding mountains. They included a Catholic secondary school which was built 10 years ago with “significant support” from many Australian Catholic parishes; a teachers’ training college; medical clinic; and feeding program.

“We were honoured to witness the Jesuits in action, giving the Timorese people the building blocks for a future for their young people through education and the very basics to sustain life – medicine, food and clean water,” he said.

Other Pilgrims 100 members joining James and Genevieve Hill (St Ignatius’ parish) on the tour were Jane and David Barker (Glen Osmond/Parkside parish), Sue and Bernard Croese (Mt Barker parish); Gerald and Louise Lipman (St Peters Anglican Cathedral); Rob and Anne Davidson (Perth), Mark Gregerson (Old Ignatian) and Margie Pank and Catherine Birchmore.

Established in 2020 by the Hills, the Pilgrims 100 initiative aims to build a ‘like-minded community passionate about helping people living in the margins and suffering the indignity of poverty and injustice’.

The concept is simple, with the 100 members donating $1000 annually for a $100,000 total. Members then vote each year to determine which projects will receive funding.

Mr Hill said the group is supporting two projects in 2023: the Light of Mercy Home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which provides children with disabilities a home where they can attend school and live together with other children; and the construction of water facilities for coastal residents in Vietnam.

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