The Sonaf Maneka orphanage is in Kupang, West Timor.
Yuliana Bulu Manu: Founder of the Sonaf Maneka orphanage
Yuliana Bulu Manu was a primary school teacher. In her years as a teacher she had seen a lot of suffering and hardship amongst young children.
These young children – many without a mother and/or father – were used by their own extended families to either work the land, or were sent out to try to earn some much needed money in little odd jobs here and there. All of these children missed out on schooling, as their own parent(s) – or other family members – simply could not afford for them to go to school to get an education, even if it was only just the primary school education.
In 1980, when her own children were still teenagers, she decided to take-in just a few of the young local orphaned children. Not just clothing and feeding them, but also making sure they went to school to get their basic education.
When Yuliana started this little venture she was a widow. Her husband had passed away three years earlier.
During the following years, one thing led to another and soon she had far too many children living in her own home. And so the name “Sonaf Maneka” was born (Sonaf Maneka means “Place of Love” in the local Timorese language).
She got to know an elderly German Missionary in the early 90’s and he offered her financial assistance to buy a good sized block of land and built the new accommodation.
At this time Yuliana was already looking after quite a few children and during the following years more and more children were taken in.
A few years before Yuliana’s death on 17 September 2008, one of her sons, Blasius, and her only daughter, Maria, helped the ailing Yuliana in running the orphanage. Both Blasius and Maria were married and both had their own children to look after as well.
After Yuliana passed away, they decided to continue the legacy of their mother. By that time the orphanage had grown to around a 100 children of all ages, from baby’s to late teenagers and even some young adults.
Additional information about Timor
The general population in both West and East Timor are very poor compared to other more well-known destinations and more developed areas within Indonesia. There are no major industries on the island, and hardly any tourism at all.
A large proportion of its inhabitants still live in ‘third world country’ conditions, especially the ones living in the many small villages dotted around Timor.
The climate in the eastern parts of the Indonesian island archipelago has a 4 month monsoon season. During the remainder of the year very little rain falls and the vegetation is wilting in the dry heat, just like the top-end of Australia.
Whereas in the western parts of the archipelago, like Bali, Java, Sumatra and Borneo it still rains much more consistently during the so-called ‘dry season’.
The Timorese can only grow one crop a year, providing they get good monsoonal rains, which does not always happen.
The people in the small outlying villages rely on their own crops for their food. We have seen the results of drought years where the yearly harvests completely failed.
When there is a failure, the local population do not have enough money to buy their young children nutritious and healthy foods, like eggs, fish or even some poultry. These undernourished children might then get only one meagre meal a day consisting of some cooked rice with the occasional mixed-in vegetable.
Life in Timor, even today, is generally very difficult for a large proportion of the population. There is a very high birth mortality rate, both infants and mothers. Most births still happen at home far away from any medical facility.
There is also a much higher accident rate amongst men in the outlying villages compared to the city. This is one of the many contributing factors why there as so many orphans in Timor in general.
The main hospital is located in the capital Kupang itself. Tracks and roads are in very poor condition, often flooded or washed away by heavy rains during the monsoons, making travelling impossible, or at other times long and arduous.
The majority of the Timorese population are either Catholic or Protestant. This particular orphanage is called ‘Panti Asuhan Katolik Sonaf Maneka’ (translated as ‘Catholic Orphanage Sonaf Maneka’), but they do have children of the Protestant faith as well.