Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Random missed pictures from May 2012

01-IMGP008802-IMGP0089 This is the load of boxes arriving in May.  It included 6 machines as shown here05-IMGP0002 (5)Also inside one large box was this dress makers model.  The girls don't use it a great deal for fitting, but it always has some new dress displayed on it so i guess it doubles as a mannequin!  Serenity assisted in working out how to put it together.

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Sorry these pictures weren't up sooner!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Picking up the pace


Well this year has overall been a little slow for Belekria.  We had our staff numbers drop to 2 full time.  We had very few large orders.  

I suppose that in some ways it was just as well for me, as i had 3 months of morning sickness, then about 2-3 months where i felt ok, but now I'm really feeling the extra weight as my bump grows onwards and out!

So anyway a few months ago the accounting was looking a little dismal.  Not much expectation of a profit this year.  But then, we had the $1000 worth of pads to make, and then , a few weeks ago a neighbour of ours asked for some large cushions, and another lady started to ask for some sewing work for products she sells in her shop, and now another couple have asked if we could develop some natural fibre long sleeved/pants children's clothing, and today I had a phone call from Marianne (who works in the neonatal dept of the National hospital). She wants Belekria to hem some terry towelling cloth nappies for the hospital…. So all of a sudden they are quite well occupied, and its just as well we have a part time extra lady working now.

Its a bit difficult as all these larger orders come through me, in English.  So I have to be involved.  In my ideal world I could step further away from the running of Belekria.  But until they either find a sewer who can speak a bit of English, or else get enough business from local Timorese I will still be needed. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A “feel great!” opportunity

Recently Celeste visited Timor Leste again.  She arranged to visit us and asked if she could  take part in some of the giving of cloth pads which had been purchased from Belekria with money from her fundraising event this year.  I think I mentioned already that the total raised was over $1000, which translates to over 500 cloth pads being distributed.

I had tried for a number of weeks to find details about a womens refuge.  I had heard that it SANY5328 (450x338)operated but was unable to find anyone who new how to contact it.   I had however been given details about a women's forum type NGO that was educating families about reducing domestic violence and supporting women.  So I rang them and arranged to deliver a box of 100 pads with Celeste.  

   When we arrived 3-4 women staff came and listened interestedly as I explained what we were giving, and where they came from.   They responded very enthusiastically.  Exclaiming what a great product it was, and asking exactly where they were made etc

SANY5321 (450x338). SANY5323 (450x338)

One young woman asked hopefully if she could have 2 for herself!

SANY5324 (450x338) Of course i said yes.

I then asked if they knew about the refuge house.  After a short discussion in which I learnt they call it a shadow house (shelter house i suppose), they said yes they know it, in fact they run it from this office!  So there you go…. 100 pads donated to Fokuper.  SANY5319 (450x338)

We then drove over to a small orphanage that Celeste had been staying with earlier.SANY5330 (450x338) So another 100 pads donated for the sisters and young girls.   All in all a very “feel great” day. 

We still have 3 boxes to distribute so hopefully that will be soon.

Thanks so much to Celeste for having the vision and drive to raise the funds for this purpose!!SANY5318 (450x338)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

More women trained


We had some more requests from women who wanted to learn how to sew.  So we took in 3 for about 2-3 weeks. 

They recieved their level 1 certificates in the week we moved to our new premises, and even helped with all the packing and unpacking!


Here is Sinta congratulating Azina and Juli

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Both of these women have lovely natures, and I had to tell them I was unable to give them employment as we have not had enough work.  However both of them seemed to enjoy coming each day and have continued to do so.  So we have arranged for them to receive a machine after 2 months of “voluntary” work. 

New Premises!

When I arrived back in Timor earlier this year, the women all mentioned a few stories about people hearing about Bellekria and finding it very difficult to locate.  In fact, truthfully we were based in the worst location possible.  Think “down-the-end-of-a-one-way-street, past where the main suburb is, and then right down the back of the far side.   And add to that the only signage we had was an A4 poster on the door.

So yes, I could easily see that we needed to improve both our location and our signage.

Now I think anywhere it can be difficult moving location.  Finding somewhere that has a good building, good street frontage, good price etc, but here we also had to consider security, and family connections.

We drove around a bit and discussed where would be a good area etc.  It all seemed a bit difficult and started to drag on, as of course its just easier to stay where you are.  Then our landlord started making plans to renovate his home.  It turned out that his plans were more like a rebuilding rather than renovating.  He asked if we could find somewhere else for our sewing room.  Well that motivated us a bit :)  So we renewed our investigations, and found the brother of one of the sewers wanted us to rent part of his house. 12-DSCF2748 It was not far from our little village, but on the main road.  The room he showed us was very bright, although needing some love to make it look acceptable.  We asked all the women what they thought, if it was a good place, if it was a safe place.  One concern was that the son of this man had a history of damaging property while under the influence of alcohol.  We asked about a price, thinking that we can only really afford $50/month, and we had a sit down /meeting with him and his family one evening.  He wanted us to name the price, and we very tentatively and apologetically suggested $50.  His reply was that he had decided that day, that whatever we offered he would accept!  A very unusual method of bargaining here in Timor.  We were quite surprised and grateful.  It helped that he was related in someway to all the women in the sewing room. Its a small world here.


It took a few weeks to fix the room/s up. A wall moved, a change room built, painting, floor patching, steel mesh over the windows, and new electricity. But finally it was ready so, one Friday afternoon we started packing things into boxes.  It just happened that a cow was being delivered in a truck, and we could fill it up on its way back.  I didn't help with the actual move – the women arranged it all and unpacked everything themselves.

High Hopes & Disappointments


I mentioned earlier about some possible orders from a group called ETWA.  Sinta and the others stitched up some good samples.  The feedback was positive and I gave them some rough quotes for labour.  However, They have been struggling with some issues in their project and have put a hold on making new products.  Sad for them and for us!

And then I was put in touch with another group.  They raise funds to send “school bags” fitted out with stationary into 3rd world countries.  They had recently decided to start in Timor Leste.  What a great idea!  They asked for quotes on 2000, 5000 & 10,000 bags.  My spontaneous response was awesome! We can do that.  Later when I sat down and estimated the time it would take, I started to get a bit more grounded.  We would have 2-3 months, and to just source that much fabric may be difficult!  I would have to employ at least 5-6 full time women, possibly more, and seriously pump them out to make 10,000. 

I wrote to the organisation with some feedback regarding fabric choices and we raced around trying to get a decent quote from a printer.   In the end I sent off a reasonable quote, and was initially contacted by the representative saying our quote was the cheapest and seemed to be the best option.  However a week later, after he returned to the committee in Australia, he regretfully informed me that they had decided to get the bags produced in a different country…. So Timor loses out and we lose work opportunity. Sniff sniff.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An exciting opportunity


Wow! Dont you just love an unexpected phone call with good news?

I was contacted by Deb, from ETWA, who has been working in Los Palos for 2 years, supporting a large weaving group.   They have a new range of products to produce using their hand-woven fabric and are looking for a sewing room that can provide a high and constant standard of quality. 

She arranged to visit belekria yesterday, and she left 5 samples/ patterns for us to have a go.  Its a bit of a dream for us.  We LOVE the hand-woven “tais” fabric that women produce here in Timor, but right from the start we were reluctant to make products with it as we didn't want to compete with some of the other great NGOS such as Alola and ETWA.  

But this opportunity would mean we get to work with the tais fabric, and produce beautiful items in partnership with one of these NGO’s.  A perfect mix!

Deb has 2 questions for us…. will the quality be good enough and consistant?  And will our charges be affordable?

If successful, it will mean a relatively constant source of income for Belekria.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lab Coats

An unusual request.   I must say that Bellekria has had a wide product base. 

Seeds of Life are creating an official soil testing laboratory.   We were asked if we thought we could whip up a handful of lab coats.   Of course we always say “sure we can”.  Never turn down work hey?

Thankfully, a lovely teacher at the international school offered us a small lab coat to copy.  When it arrived it turned out to be a “pretty” version perhaps from a dept store perfumery or a salon.   So it had a nice satin lining and darts to flatter the figure.   Seeds of Life decided they didn't need those details, so we bought some thick cotton drill and prepared to cut.   Sinta was sure they had recently received some white drill in the shipment from Australia, so she hunted through all the piles, and, she actually found a bonus.   In the pile of Cotton Drill, was 3/4 of a lab coat pr-cut!  ????? What on earth??03-DSCF3905

Yes, someone had donated a lab coat, cut out ready to copy.  Isn't God’s hand almost visible sometimes?  Sinta and the others voiced their amazement in Gods provision.  So of course this find made the task so much easier and less scary.   

We had to make them “4 small for Timorese size bodies, and 2 larger for foreigners”.   Not the best measurements to use, but I think they guestimated pretty well! :)




05-DSCF3933  04-DSCF3930

Monday, July 2, 2012

Celeste’s vision

A year ago, we met a lovely group of people from Vic.  They stayed with us for a short time, and while here they visited Bellekria.   Celeste was one of them.  Not only did she bless us with her very caring heart and fun/friendly attitude but she also grasped the needs of women in regards to the cloth pads we were making. 

On returning to Australia she spoke with a few womens groups and put together a power point.  She encouraged women to sponser one complete cloth pad  set for one Timorese woman every month.   Since she returned to Australia she has forwarded donations which have allowed us to distribute pads to many women in rural/remote areas of Timor.

.Recently she had a vision to hold an event in her local Community Centre.  A number of other energetic and generous people have pulled together to support her dream and she is holding an evening in Hastings VIC. 


It has been astonishing for me! A fundraising event solely for the production and distribution of cloth pads – the reason why Bellekria first began.  It is so exciting for me that others would see the pressing need and put so much of themselves into assiting!

Obrigada Barak (thankyou very much) Celeste, and all the others that have helped arrange this event, and everyone who attends/supports the foundational dream of Belekria.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

First an explanation

I am so so sorry that updates have been so few and far between.   It actually does not reflect the activities and developments for Bellekria.

My excuses and explanations are briefly and humbly offered below….

1. First and most frustrating has been the sad failings of out local internet access.  The past 2 months have been very difficult to get any internet access,  which for me has meant that when, on the rare times it works efficiently, I must prioritise and unfortunately, perhaps wrongly, this Bellekria blog has been down a few pegs on the list, HOWEVER, we have just discovered a way for me to create the blog here at home and Samuel can then upload it through another internet system at his work.  So in theory that should mean I will be updating the blog every 2 weeks or so.

2. Only second because it hasn't impacted on my internet access so much….

I am  very VERY happy to announce I am pregnant with our 3rd child.  Its been a long awaited blessing, and all 4 of us are very excited!  I am coming towards 3 months, so am beginning to stabilise a bit, but for the last 5 weeks i have been quite nauseas and basically needing to eat a meal every 2 hours all day.  I have also been very tired and exhausted physically, so it has been a major effort for me to teach the kids all day, and then I kind of crash in the afternoon and often go to bed at the same time or even before the kids do!

I am hoping that in another month I will feel less fragile, and will have more energy to devote to my broader tasks – such as bellekria!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Sewers Delight.


I noticed a few weeks ago that our stock of fabrics was getting low, and thought to myself, “I had better do a trip to the sewing shop and restock”.  But you know how it is – Gods sewing shop is a lot more exciting!

We got the call from Rotary to say the next container was getting unloaded.  My parents in Maclean (NSW) had organised a another pallet load of sewing room supplies.   We brought the boxes containing fabric to the sewing room and the girls had fun inspecting every single piece and designating what it should get made into - “A long dress! ooh lovely”  “A shirt for church in this”, “A mans shirt” “Put this on the pants pile”  It was cute to watch.

21-DSCF3866 18-DSCF3860 19-DSCF3861  They all LOVED a leopard print…. must be in fashion here.

There was also many bundles of flannelette inserts.  A lot of these went straight into packaging with a waiting cloth pad.  Its exciting to see a large stock of pads in the cupboard, although I will of course prefer it when we move them out to women.

On the business side of things, the dynamics of the room seem to be mores settled, and its a bit quiet in the sales side of things, so in some ways I am glad that only 3 women have been coming.  Anna is still taking maternity leave until her little boy has balanced safety sense with his new walking skills. :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My first firing.

Well this week Ii have done the hardest job for me yet.  I fired one of my girls!

What a difficult thing to do!  

It has been an issue for a while and in the past she has had a few altercations with Sinta, and recently accused Sinta (unjustly) of stealing.  All of the others have also been finding it very difficult to work with her, and I decided that the business would flow better if she left.  Aggh!  What a decision!. 

So on Tuesday we closed up and in the afternoon I visited Novi and explained my reasoning and my decision.  She was quite accepting and unsurprised which implied to me that she understood why it had to happen.  I explained to her that some of her behaviours made it very difficult for her to work with others and I encouraged her (again) to try and improve these qualities so that in the future if she found work again she could work with others more smoothly, and also perhaps improve some of her damaged family relationships.

On Monday the “situation” developed to an actual physical altercation, although it didn't quite get violent (our landlord Anen apparently jumped through the opening in the wall to break them up.)  Therefore it wasn't suitable for her to return again as the others were quite unsettled and afraid,  so I didn't give her much warning I’m afraid.  To make up for that I gave her a small redundancy package.  I hope that sounds fair!  I suppose in Australia she could have been charged for false accusations and assault.  I dunno.   It just feels bad ending someone's employment.

Anyway she took it pretty well.

On a positive note, I think the vibe of the room will significantly improve, and the others will be more content…..

In my conversation with her, I let her know that I was not closing my door to her, and that if in the future she had a request she was welcome to come and ask me.  I encouraged her to consider working from home and offered her the option to purchase one of the electric machines sent over from Australia.

She was very interested in that possibility and yesterday she arrived to seal the deal.  She was just leaving the front yard with her chosen machine when I remembered to get a photo, so she graciously paused and posed for me.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

More presents leads to more storage!!

How exciting it is when we receive a phone call from the local Rotary rep. letting us know the container will be unloaded.  Samuel and Bevan (a visitor) raced off to be there as the first boxes were removed.  Guess whose gear was right there at the door?  That's right, so for the first time it only took an hour  and they were back with a fully loaded Suzuki.

We received another half dozen machines, which we actually hope to share out to other organisations as we have enough in our sewing room at present.  Samuel was approached at the container by a woman who requested a machine or two. We hope she will be able to come and pick some up sometime.

We also received  some boxes filled with fabric, flannelette even a bunch of pre cut and hemmed flannelette inserts!! Wonderful!  As Samuel had the afternoon free(ish) he set up some plywood and cut some pieces with Bevans help, and then left Bevan to finish screwing them together.  He did a fine job and the 4 shelves looked huge!

We carried them into the sewing room this morning and by early afternoon they looked like this…DSCF3483

We now have floor space! Can you see it there?  And the fabric is easy to access as opposed to rummaging through cardboard boxes.  Two shelves have clothing neatly folded, one shelf has flannelette inserts for nappies and pads. And so many other shelves…. Don't you just love storage?

Many many thanks to Bevan and Samuel for giving their time to build these wonderful assets for Bellekria.

On a side note, when I went to take this picture they were busy measuring up a young girl and drafting a robe for a church ritual.  I think its a freebie which is fine with me.

  They are getting really good at drafting and designing.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Precious premmie popoks


Ok ok, so I like tongue twisters!  Popok is the word for nappy by the way. 

A few days ago I answered my phone.  A woman's voice asked me (in Tetun) if I could speak English.  Of course i answered yes, speaking Tetun! Oops! After we both laughed and said hi, she asked if we made cloth nappies.  I told her yes we did, and she asked if she could come around and have a look and a chat. 

Half an hour later I met Marianne, who is an Aussie and she is working at the hospital.  She works with tiny premature babies.  She is hoping that if she can introduce nappies the parents will be more inclined to nurse their little ones who need it so badly. 

She had a look at our 4 sizes and after quickly finding our XS sixe declared it way too big!!! She also mentioned that our XS is designed for 2.5kg, but her little ones are often about 1kg.  Yikes! She left us with a dolls nappy and asked us to model it on that although making the crotch narrower. 

Heres what they produced. DSCF3375

The lower one is based on the dolls nappy and the upper one slightly larger.  Yes its a lot shorter than our pen.  About 9cm high which is the length of my palm.  All of us at Bellekria were a little awed to be making something for such a small baby. 


Marianne is hoping to get some funding from people in Oz to sponsor the purchase of nappy covers from us to stock at the hospital and to give out to each family.  She also wants to encourage the families themselves to purchase inserts for them. 

It would be wonderful to see the hospital using nappies with all their young babies/children, and I am sure it would filter out across the country. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Creativity running wild

Well, When I arrived back this year after 7 weeks in oz, i was excited to see that Sinta, Novi, Ange and Anona had been trying new products while i was gone. (Anna has taken time off to care for her child)  And the creativity hasn't stopped.  It feels like each time i pop my head in they have a new design hanging up.  So ill show you some pics.  I walked in today and started to the left of the room and just walked around each wall taking photos of the new items since Dec last year.  Of course this doesn't include items sold already….

 Corduroy pants formal shirtbutton tab detailshorts and top pregnancy set popular here in Timor stylish black formal skirt  kids top/skirt set pleated skirt size 2 roughly tiny dress with pleats gorgous dresses top/shorts set As you can see they have been experimenting with lots of different clothing styles.  Its coming close to a big day here – Easter.  Which for most of them means getting dressed in their finest and attending a special service at church.  Apparently its a good excuse to buy a new outfit.  So Sinta and the others are trying to whip up some tempting fashion pieces.

They also did some rearranging of boxes and supplies a few weeks ago.  (Our room is rather cramped with not enough suitable storage yet.)  Anyway they came across some remnants of furnishing type fabrics which had been donated to us last year.   They measured out larger pieces and hemmed them into table cloths and door curtains.  Then the smaller pieces they started crafting into all sorts of handbag styles.  They are using details such as pleats, gathers, tucks, tabs, flaps etc.  I love it.  They seem to be really bouncing skills and ideas off each other.

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Also, last but not least, i don't think i have shown you pics of the additions to their school uniform range.  Apparently some girls visited them wanting a full skirt made in their school fabric.  So they designed some skirts with large pleats in the interesting pumpkin shade….DSCF3437

And last but not least they made some tiny black school pants for early primary school students. 

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I am overall very happy to see them stretching their abilities.  If only we could ship over some rolls of lovely cotton prints from India, we could start our own clothing line :)  Dreaming….