Jesuits turn on the taps in Timor-Leste

A worker repaints a water tower, Kasait, Timor-Leste (Michael Coyne)

Clean water projects initiated by the Jesuits in remote areas of Timor-Leste are transforming the lives of local villagers. Source:

For decades, people from Urmera in Timor-Leste's Liquica district used to wake early each morning and then walk four kilometres up a hill to collect water and walk back down again.

Domingos da Silva was one of them. The 67-year-old used to wake up at 5am and push a cart filled with water containers up the hill and do the same in the afternoon.

That all ended in October 2016 thanks to a project initiated by the local Jesuit Social Service (JSS) which brought clean water literally to his door step through the installation of water towers.

About 40 families in Mr Da Silva's village have benefited from this project.

"We waited for this for so long. It was a huge weight off our shoulders. Now we don't have to worry about water for cooking, drinking, washing or our crops," Mr Da Silva says.

"Now I have time and energy for other important things, such as how to get more money for my family," he says.

Marselinus Oki, an engineer employed by the Jesuits for the water project, said the people cannot thank the Jesuits enough for what they say is a major milestone in their lives. The excitement was so great almost every phase of the project was celebrated, he said.

"When we were about to drill the wells the people gathered to pray for success. When the water came, they were so overjoyed, thanking God for giving them water at long last," he said.

Fr Erick John Gerilla, JSS's executive director in Timor-Leste said providing clean water is one of the organisation's priorities, with ten water towers built in the past four years.

Five new projects are targeted for this year, and another five in 2019. Each one costs $15,000-18,000, including professional fees and labour costs. The money largely comes from donors both from home and abroad, including Australia's Jesuit Mission.


Jesuits end decades of water shortages in Timor-Leste (

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