Name: Nelida Jandira Fernandes Alves and Maria do Ceu Rosales
Institution: University of South Australia (Nelida) and The University of Western Australia (Maria)
Course of study: Civil Engineering (Nelida) and Environmental Science & Business Law (Maria)
Friends since their first day at school Nelida and Maria always dreamed of working together on a community project. When they finished secondary school, with the help of Australia Awards Scholarships, Maria studied for a bachelors degree in Environmental Science & Business Law at The University of Western Australia, whilst Nelida’s degree in Civil Engineering in Adelaide at the University of South Australia focused on water management and the environment.As students in Australia, although living thousands of miles apart, they kept in regular contact and came across the organisation Timor-Leste Vision, a small Australian NGO dedicated to working on water and sanitation projects in rural areas in Timor-Leste.
Concerned about poor access to safe water sources in remote communities and aware of high rates of skin diseases in Timor-Leste, linked to poor hygiene, such as scabies and impetigo, Nelida and Maria were determined to use their skills and experience to help improve access to clean water and sanitation in their home country.
They exchanged ideas online about what they could do and on graduating and returning to Timor-Leste applied for an Australia Awards Small Grant to kick start their project. In partnership with Timor-Leste Vision they identified a rural community in the mountainous municipality of Maubisse, 2kms from the nearest road. And in 2017 they began the first phase of the project, bringing a clean water point close to 10 households in the remote aldeia of Railicu.
In December 2017, due to very heavy rains and a landslide, they faced a set back and were forced to put the project on hold. Undeterred, they made some adjustments to the schedule and design, including using some larger pipes and relocating a water tank. As the rainy season comes to an end work is staring back up.
The local community are fully involved in the project and to maximise the sustainability of the new water system and its benefits straightforward maintenance guides will be provided including advice on safe hygiene practices.
‘We are extremely happy and very enthusiastic to be involved in this project. We are committed to ensure its success, so we can finally get access to safe drinking water. What we’ve been waiting for, for many years, is soon become a reality’ Agustinho Mendonca, Chefe Aldeia Railico
The overall project, which has attracted additional funding, will complete later this year providing 64 families and 420 community members and a school with access to safe water facilities. Proof that small grants can have a big impact! But Maria and Nelida aren’t stopping there, they aim to set up a consultancy service delivering environmental impact assessments, focusing on waste management, which is a big problem in Timor-Leste.