Six days a week, 17-year-old Sisiana — nicknamed Nona — walks almost a mile to and from school in Casabauk, her small village in Timor-Leste. But she doesn’t mind. In fact, she loves studying biology, art, Portuguese and Tetun (a local dialect), and she enjoys playing handball there. School is central to her, and she hopes to become a midwife or a nurse.
While she works toward that goal, she lives in a sheet metal-and-palm leaf house with her aunt, who took in Nona and her four brothers and sisters when their mother died — their father, a farmer, needed the help. So, after school and on the weekends, Nona studies, helps with the cooking, washes clothes, hauls water, cleans the house and takes care of two of her younger siblings.
Even though her life is busy, Nona finds plenty of energy to make herself into a successful student. At school, she and two friends recently won a quiz bowl competition, and the books and pens they received are among Nona’s prized possessions that she enjoys showing to friends and family. School supplies are also her favorite gifts to receive from her sponsor, whom she’s been connected to since she was 9.
The village Casabauk has far to go before becoming an ideal environment — it still lacks basic facilities such as toilets. But Nona is readily able to see the larger benefits of sponsorship and ChildFund’s presence in her village, such as the livestock ChildFund has provided to help families generate income. And as she achieves her dreams, she will make her own contributions to the continuing improvement her community. Hopefully with enough time in between for at least a few rousing matches of handball — or quizzing.