Madalena's Journey

Madalena*, 16 years old, is a determined and passionate young girl from Timor-Leste. Born into a modest family in a rural village near Venilale, she has always been driven by her desire to further her education and learn how to cook and bake. Despite financial limitations, Madalena remains steadfast in her pursuit of a career in hospitality. Her determination and resilience shine through as she strives to overcome obstacles and turn her passion into a reality.

Growing up in a large household with seven siblings, her parents are facing financial challenges, creating barriers for their children to pursue higher education. But thanks to the work of the Salesian Sisters, Madalena has the opportunity to attend the St Maria Mazzarello Vocational School in Venilale. Established in 1994, the school was created with the aim of empowering the local community through learning employable skills.

I am very grateful that I can attend this school. I can gain experience from the Sisters and they always motivate us if we make any mistakes.


“I am very grateful that I can be part of this community and do the right thing and I can also learn more about how I can prepare foods that I have learned about in school,” says Madalena.

Madalena has chosen to attend the boarding school, which affords her invaluable time with the Sisters to focus on her education and to learn new life habits to help her family.

“We are far away from each other, not because it is compulsory, but because I’m studying, and while I’m away from my parents I want to set a good example of the experience that I have obtained at the boarding house to make a difference at home, when I apply it at home,” says Madalena.

The school day is structured around learning and developing new life skills. Her day begins with morning mass and prayer. From there, she attends hospitality classes, learning how to cook and run a kitchen or a restaurant. Her learning journey also includes general subjects such as learning Indonesian, Portuguese and English.

Madalena’s journey has not been without challenges. Financial constraints have posed significant hurdles along her path, making it difficult to fully support her educational and culinary aspirations. However, thanks to the Salesian Sisters’ support, Madalena‘s determination remains unshaken, and she is more than ever inspired to build her own future.

“if God gave me some assistance […], I will open my own cafeteria,” says Madalena.

Her story is an inspiration for many youths in Venilale who are facing similar challenges.

“I will promote my experience in my house, in my district,” says Madalena.

*Names are changed to protect identities.