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Stories from the Field

Local Food Procurement Supports Mario as He Works To Provide for His Family

By Hannah Payne on September 15, 2022

In a neighborhood between the sea and the Comoro River in Timor-Leste’s capital city of Dili, Mario, age 27, lives and attends university. 

A major city with many higher education opportunities, a lot of young people live in the area. This has, however, created a housing shortage and driven up the price of hostels, quadrupling the cost of accommodation.  

Before the pandemic, Mario lived in a hostel in the city with his brother and sister. While attending university, they split the cost of rent and earned money by tending to a neighbor’s garden and working as an on-call driver. 

The COVID-19 pandemic then caused many changes. Mario lost work opportunities, and there were lockdowns and university closures. Also, in April 2021, a flood in Dili destroyed the hostel where they lived as well as everything they owned. During this time, the siblings struggled to find food regularly, sometimes eating only one meal per day. As a result, Mario’s brother and sister decided to return home to Oecusse. Mario stayed in Dili to find work and send money home to his family. 

Through a partnership with Salesian Missions, Rise Against Hunger provides cash-based grants for local food to be purchased and distributed to communities in Timor-Leste through the Don Bosco Foundation. According to Francisca, a distributor during the first round of the local and regional procurement efforts, food was distributed to 1,375 people in the area, including Mario. The food was distributed to refugees and people in schools, boarding houses, orphanages and more. 

One of the boarding houses supported by local and regional food procurement.

The locally procured food not only provided nourishment to Mario and the other people served, but it also supported the area’s economy. Francisca said, “The procurement of the local food provided an opportunity to find good and healthy foods from local entrepreneurs.” 

For Mario, it starts with a meal, and it leads to resilience and opportunities for employment. The local procurement guaranteed he had healthy food for the foreseeable future. He said this helps him sleep well with a full stomach as he works to send money back to his family. 

You can join the It Starts With a Meal™️ movement to support resilience, empowerment and bright futures for people — like Mario — across the globe by donating today!