Mercy mission to troubled Timor

When Kirsty Sword-Gusmao rang Toola Andrianopoulos last week and begged her to return to East Timor, she didnt hesitate.

The Channon resident packed her bags, got on the first plane to our troubled northern neighbour and prepared to take up her old job as office manager of the ALOLA Foundation.

The foundation was established by the wife of President Xanana Gusmao and aims to advance the status of women through economic empowerment, advocacy, and education and humanitarian material assistance, such as child health packs.

Toola was involved with Friends of East Timor in Lismore in 1999 and first met her friend Kirsty when she visited East Timor in 2000.

She managed the ALOLA Foundations office for two and a half years between 2002 and 2004.

Before leaving for East Timor last Thursday, Toola said her first priority would be reopening the ALOLA Foundations office, re-establishing contact with the 40 staff and providing aid to the women of East Timor.

We are very concerned about our staff, the majority of whom are local women, Toola said. We have received reports that many have had their homes destroyed, had relatives killed and have become refugees themselves.

As a result many women who we would normally assist have been forced into refugee camps with absolutely no facilities, she continued. Doctors have reported women too ashamed to attend the Dili hospital to give birth because they had no clothes for their babies, and women who do attend tearing up hospital sheets on which they have just given birth to wrap their newborns.

Toola said ALOLA would be working to provide basic materials and that money was the most valuable contribution people could make.

Northern Rivers residents can support the ALOLA Foundation by visiting its website at www.alolafoundation.org or by phoning Northern Rivers contact Terry Nicholson on 6688 6204.

Toola has promised to provide Echo readers with updates on the situation in the coming weeks.


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