Fernanda's Journey

A Story of Resilience and Aspiration

Fernanda*, a 17-year-old culinary student from Venilale, Timor-Leste, is a testament to the power of resilience and determination. Growing up in a family with five children and losing her mother at an early age, Fernanda has never allowed her circumstances to deter her from setting her way to her own independence by pursuing her passion for hospitality and education.

Fernanda’s life took a significant turn when the Salesian Sisters took her under their care at the St Dominic Savio orphanage, providing her with support and care to grow and access education. There, she received her primary and middle school education. Upon graduating, Fernanda had the opportunity to enroll at the St Maria Mazzarello Vocational School in Venilale, where she is currently developing her culinary skills in the second year of the program.

I wanted to come here because many people said if you go to school here you will learn how to cook, make the bed, and I chose to go to school here because I can stay at this dormitory and receive lessons on how I can live independently in the future.


Her daily life at the vocational school is very structured to create an environment conducive to studying. Fernanda's day begins at the break of dawn at 5:30 AM with morning prayers followed by Mass. After a nourishing breakfast, she heads to school, where she immerses herself in her culinary arts studies. Her curriculum also includes learning languages such as Indonesian, Portuguese, and English, equipping her with a well-rounded education.

Fernanda dreams of becoming a chef and working in a restaurant. She also aspires to attend university, if she can find the financial means. If not, she is ready to step into the professional world right after her graduation.

“What I like the most is that in the future I will be able to live independently and will be able to help the family if they are no longer capable of helping me I am willing to work to help them,” says Fernanda.

Fernanda is confident about the future, as she knows that the Salesian Sisters are teaching her invaluable life skills and providing her with an education that will help her to find employment and become financially independent.

Fernanda expresses her gratitude to those who are supporting her education. "Thank you very much for supporting me with my education. Even though we don’t know each other, we can be in touch through prayer.”

Fernanda's story is a powerful reminder of the transformative power of education and the human spirit's resilience. Despite the odds, she continues to strive for her dreams, inspiring others along the way.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.