CVTL Youth President

Sonia dos Santos Ramalho became the new Youth President for Cruz Vermelha de Timor-Leste (Red Cross Timor-Leste – CVTL) earlier this year. We sat down with her to find out her views, dreams and how she sees her role as youth president for the next two years.

I was born in the village of Soro in Ainaro District in 1997 and I’m 21 years old. Ainaro is almost in the middle of our half island nation of Timor-Leste and is a beautiful area…

I became a volunteer with CVTL Dili Branch in 2016. All my friends were volunteers with CVTL and one day they came to my school and did a limpeza (rubbish collection) and a zebra cross campaign –teaching us how to use the new pedestrian crossing throughout the county. I saw what they were doing and thought that’s something I want to do. It was funny – some of the students at my school didn’t want to participate as they thought that they should be paid to do work; but I thought it was a great idea as I could help the community.

I love CVTL – it’s all about volunteering – and we work with our heart to help others.

When I joined Dili Branch I learnt so many things including First Aid training so we could help others if there was an accident and leadership training. But even more importantly I learnt not to be shy any more – I became more confident and wanted to start helping others more. That’s why I ran for the position of Youth President.

The Youth in Timor-Leste are facing many problems. Pregnancy in the youth is a big problem.

Unemployment is high; even if you get the opportunity to attend and graduate from university, there are no jobs. But the youth go to school and learn and when they finish, many come out and don’t know how to behave properly or respectfully. Many of them look for trouble because I guess they are bored. They fight and create problems; they are very nakar (naughty). They should know better. I think some of this problem of our society, of our environment. We know domestic violence is very high – so maybe they don’t have good role models at home to encourage them to behave responsibly.

Poverty is another problem. Timor-Leste is still a very poor country. Families just don’t have the money for further education – so many of the youth have too much free time. They don’t do anything and become nakar, no jobs and so they don’t succeed in earning their own income and it becomes a vicious circle. It’s really sad.

This is why CVTL and our Youth programme is so important. We encourage our youth to become responsible; to help the needy and vulnerable. We teach people skills and help them to become leaders in their communities. We give them confidence and something to do. WE also have this great programme working with the NGO Marie Stopes – to teach our volunteers about family planning and to avoid early pregnancies.

For my own future? Well of course I want to be able to support myself and my family; but I also want to continue to help vulnerable people. I feel really lucky with what I have in my life and what God has blessed me with. Yes someday I would like to go to university and I think I would like to study international politics. But first I want to work so I can support myself to study.

As the youth President (2019 – 2021), I want to listen and learn more from our volunteers about problems that they face. At our recent Youth Assembly I heard many stories. With all this information I want to work with all our Youth in all our Branches and find solutions. Yes I know I want a lot, but we have to do something.

I want to encourage other to change themselves; to become better people and help them to become leaders too.

When I meet someone who is facing a difficult problem, I want to encourage them and help them breakaway from being shy. I want them to become Joven Forca (Youth Power – Strong Youth), so they can face the problems in their life; so they can make change to their lives!