Relief and development projects on developing countries, with special focus on Timor Leste (East Timor)
The Australian Salesian Missions Office has been in existence for several decades, and was a channel for helping East Timor even before the takeover in 1975 by Indonesia. The first aid requested in those early pre-Indonesia days was for saddles for horses, provided by the Salesian agricultural College, ‘Rupertswood’, Sunbury. During the years of Indonesian annexation of East Timor as a ‘province’ of that country, the Salesians again requested assistance in the form of drilling equipment for wells, to provide water for people who had been re-located by Indonesian troops from their traditional habitation and planting areas. Hundreds of wells were drilled with the equipment provided in a joint project of ASMOAF and the Australian Government.
The contribution of ASMOAF, and thus of the Australian Salesian Missions Office really came into its own after the vote for independence in 1999 and the subsequent violence, destruction but eventual declaration of the independent nation of Timor Leste. Donated funds, container loads of relief goods, school materials and school furniture were shipped directly to Dili and distributed throughout the country, but especially in the seven main Salesian centres of Dili, Fatumaca, Baucau, , Laga, Fuiloro, Lospalos and Venilale. Over 20,000 school students benefited directly from this assistance.
‘Tools for East Timor’
Then came an idea hatched between an unlikely partnership - The Masonic Lodge of the Australia State of Victoria and its Catholic counterpart, the Knights of the Southern Cross, with the Australian Salesian Missions Office as a facilitating body able to link the groups and also provide immediate connections with the Salesians in Timor Leste. The Salesian Society, then, became the chief partner in both donor and receiving country to ensure the smooth running of an exciting venture called ‘Tools for East Timor’. In excess of 3.5 million implements, mainly hand tools and agricultural tools were successfully shipped to Dili and received at the Salesian centre of Comoro, in Dili by a grateful President Xanana Gusmao.
Education and basic needs
The ‘Tools’ project was only one of several projects that the Australian Salesian Missions Office has facilitated. There was also the Timor Leste Dairy Project which focused on the Salesian work at Fuiloro. In each case the Australian Salesian Missions Office has ensured that projects respond to objectives inspired by Don Bosco’s concern for young people and ordinary folk, particularly those who find themselves without basic needs and deprived of access to good education.
Australian Salesian Missions Office and the ASMOAF Trust are also active in providing vocational education, education in job skills for street children and orphans, and clean drinking water for villages in India, Guatemala and Pacific Island nations. It is registered in Australia as a non-profit, tax-deductible and exempt charity.