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Vision Impairment (Fuan Nabilan)

3rd CD cover

Blind Musicians 3rd CD out now - only $10

This 3rd CD contains 8 beautiful songs in Tetum,
with 2 bonus songs in 
Mambai and Indonesian.

Fuan Nabilan CD 2, which features 9 songs in Tetum, and 1 in Mambai is also available.

To order CDs  email: or phone Esther on 0439 555 291

Cost $10 each, or $15 for both CD’s (plus postage and packaging)  

All proceeds go to support the work of NGO Fuan Nabilan ba Matan Aat Education 

Centre and the blind musicians in Same Timor-Leste. 

Fuan Nabilan Braille and Orientation Program


Photos of the FN Braille and orientation training program.  Attendees were mainly schoolteachers and vision impaired people (in addition to representatives of the district admin and church)

The purpose of the training was:
a) to increase the skills of the vision impaired students in braille and mobility/orientation
b) to increase the skills of the schoolteachers and others in assisting vision impaired students in braille and mobility. 
Attendees were given a certificate at the conclusion of the workshop to certify participation and attendance.

Programs funded by RACS - Royal Australian College of Surgeon

The Royal College of Surgeons is supporting many vision impairment programs in Timor.

Below students receiving certificates from the handicraft training at Kupang funded by RACS; and Trish Woodcroft Lee (Deputy Convenor) with Fuan Nabilan students opening the RACS boxes of portable Braillers used by Integration Students at school. 

Friends of Same has supported the Timorese NGO Fundasaun Fuan Nabilan ba Matan aa’t (Shining Light to the Blind Foundation) based in Same, East Timor.

Fuan Nabilan works to assist blind and vision impaired people in Timor Leste to improve their daily lives, to achieve their full potential and to participate fully in the development of their young nation.

In 2005 Fuan Nabilan staff with support from Friends of Same, accompanied the ProVision Eye Care Team from Australia on a visit to Same. They provided peer support to people for whom an operation or glasses would not improve their vision. They gave them basic orientation and mobility training and explained the basics of Braille literacy.

Subsequently, Fuan Nabilan was invited by the District Administrator of Manufahi to establish a learning centre in Same. With the support of Friends of Same and several private donors a small house near Same Hospital was refurbished and the Centre opened its doors in early 2007.

Currently there about five young people, all of whom are blind, living and studying at the Centre. In addition, there is a schools integration program for visually impaired students to attend normal school. To this end 27 teachers in the Manufahi district have been trained in basic Braille, thanks to a grant from the Royal Australian College of Surgeons.

The hope of Fuan Nabilan is to give the students the skills to enter mainstream education when that becomes available in East Timor, or to locate possible facilities outside the country where they could go for further education. They also wish to connect them to the culture of their community.

To this end, students have been taught skills in mobility, braille, music, massage and handicrafts.

Students have studied raffia making in Kupang, West Timor, as a result of initiatives from the Royal Australian College of Surgeons. this was also a great opportunity to compare techniques.

Some students have studied in at a Blind institution in Malaysia.

Students have sung at various functions attended by the President Jose Ramos Horta and Xanana Gusmoa.

Singing at Fuan Nabilan

A video of one of the singers has been put on You Tube at

The Needs of Fuan Nabilan

  • Most of Fuan Nabilan’students come from poor families in rural and remote areas, so they therefore need to live in at the Centre at least during the week, and this makes the running of the Centre more expensive.
  • In order for the residents to be educated they need to be fed and supplied with basic personal care items.
  • The students are starting from the very beginning, learning basic living skills as well as mobility and literacy, so the duration of their stay is likely to be longer than if they bring some prior skills to their studies.
  • They also need support staff to stay at the Centre during term time, to assist with security and daily tasks. The staff need to receive some payment for their work, to en able them to concentrate on training and not have to seek employment elsewhere.

Funding for the basic operating costs of the Centre is therefore a constant concern for the organisation. To date this costs have been covered in large part by Friends of Same and other well wishers. However, there is a limit to the extent to which voluntary groups can sustain ongoing funding of operating expenses on their own and funds always needed to keep the Centre viable.

The work at Fuan Nabilan is as yet in its infancy but already it has brought a sense of purpose and confidence to the young people living and studying at the Centre. It is our hope that eventually it can help support itself using the skills acquired by its students, who will be able to work in the community. However, this is still some time in the future.

In addition there is, as yet, no government funding for non-profit groups in East Timor.

Fuan Nabilan Matan Centre for Blind and Vision Impaired People: initially established as a day training centre, the Fuan Nabilan ba Matan Aat centre currently provides a residential training program for nine young people as well as an outreach training program in Braille and other mobility aids, under director Joana Meluk. Friends of Same funded the construction of the centre, at the request of the District Administrator, Sr Filomeno Tillman. Due to a shortfall in funds, Friends of Same has met all operational costs for the centre for the past seven years. In addition it has provided solar power and computers. Other sources of funding have been received in collaboration with the likes of Love Light and Health and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Eye Care program.

An Australian organisation, Life Love and Health has also provided support including funding the construction of additional rooms for the centre and training. Fuan Nabilan has also received some funding assistance via joint fundraising events with the Gareth Ivory Foundation. The Lions Club of Boroondara and Guides Dogs Victoria have also provided support.

As a result of publicity surrounding the production of a CD by Fuan Nabilan, featuring a choir formed out of the music classes held at the centre, the centre has featured on local TV and the choir has sung at events such as the Presidents Ball, and Timor independence day in Same.  They have made 2 CDs, which have sold well. The profits are used to support the participants and the Centre. The CDs are can be purchased at our office for $10 each plus $3 post and packing. email

A Schools Integration program is running for three students and 2 Braille training courses for Teachers have been run with the assistance of Royal Australian College of Surgeons and Guide Dogs Queensland (see first three photos).

Five students were sent on a handicrafts training course in Kupang, West Timor.

They have been providing massage to locals and ex-pats, and sold raffia dusters in the market. This has provided some independence and allowed them to spend money on clothes and mobile phones.

Fuan Nabilan at Independence Day Celebrations

Visit the Fuan Nabilan Facebook page.

Below are some of our students who need your help in 2019

Fuan Nabilan Student  

Gioavana (on left) is in her 3rd year of school at St Michael’s (São Miguel) Primary School in Same, with the Fuan Nabilan inclusive education program. 

Giovana was born with normal eyesight, but lost the sight in one eye completely after a fall from a height where she received head injuries, which also resulted in damage to the sight in the other, so she has very little vision. 

Ediana (on the right) is in her 7th year at St Michael’s primary. She also was born with normal vision but lost her sight completely when she was 2 years old, following an untreated eye infection. Her mother has a mental illness, and the family is poor. At school, both girls study mathematics, science, Portuguese, and physical education.  

 At Fuan Nabilan, after school and at weekends they learn braille, orientation and mobility, tasks of daily living, and music (guitar, ukulele, drums and singing),and they often sing at community events. Their schoolfriends often come to Fuan Nabilan to do homework with them. Ediana  is particularly good at Portuguese. She is often top of her class in oral Portuguese. 

She may be able to work as a translator in the future.


Fuan Nabilan student Cerceres sitting exams at school as part of the inclusive education program. Cerceres has very low vision, and uses strong lenses to assist his sight at present. 
When his eyesight deteriorates he will be restricted to using braille.


Fernanda is in her second year at St Michael’s Senior Secondary School.
She has a degenerative vision disorder that has deteriorated over time. At present she has no night vision and limited day vision. She is likely to become totally blind. At school she studies Portuguese, English, Science and Mathematics. At Fuan Nabilan she studies braille, music, mobility and orientation, and skills of daily living.  

Fernanda likes helping care for the younger children, and also helping with household tasks such as washing clothes. A few years ago the older Fuan Nabilan students went to an institute in Kupang to learn handcrafts. In the photo above Fernanda is making a duster from raffia to sell. 


Faustino has a mild intellectual disability as well as mild vision impairment. He is happiest when he is outdoors and active, and his favourite activity at school is physical education classes. Like the other students he goes to St Michael’s in the Fuan Nabilan inclusive education program and is in his 4th year at primary school.  He is in a class with children who are several years younger, however he gets on well with them. His home life was difficult, as his father was reportedly subject to violent rages related to alcoholism, but Faustino now has a more stable and happy life at Fuan Nabilan.The photo shows Faustino with Florindu, a care assistant at Fuan Nabilan, outside Florindu’s house. Faustino is very helpful collecting firewood, and carrying water, and he’ll undertake the difficult job of climbing coconut trees to cut the coconuts so they fall and can be used. Faustino would like to be a farmer when he grows up.


Jaquel (Ezaquiel) has had low vision from birth, and although he can distinguish broad outlines, he is unable to see well enough to read. He is in the 3rd year of Junior Secondary school at St Michael’s in Same. Jaquel is very musical. He can be heard singing on the 3rd Fuan Nabilan CD.
Jaquel studies mathematics, science, Portuguese and physical education at school, and music, braille, movement and orientation and daily living skills at Fuan Nabilan. He sings and plays guitar, ukulele or drums at community events.


Prisca Meluk, graduating with a degree in Biology from UNTL in Nov 2017. Prisca is starting as a new teacher/care assistant at Fuan Nabilan this year, together with former FoS scholarship student Jonia.

Below are photos from the Fuan Nabilan guitar group

Performing on stage at the Natabora Music Festival

Fuan Nabilan sang at the Boaventura 100 year anniversary festival on 31 Aug 2012.  The President and PM attended.

Fuan Nabilan have a massive Outreach tour of areas of Manufahi and Ainaru, from Ainaro areas such as Hatudo through to Weleluhu and other villages  in Fatebelihu.  They organised and paid for this themselves, with some money that Joaquim got for some work he had done.  They were overwhelmed with the number of vision impaired people. They wish to carry this on, but require more funding.

Below are photos from the the Outreach Tour
   Ainaro District Crossing                                                                                           Joanna Training

Bela and Rita sitting on one of the folding beds kindly donated by the Lions Club of Boroondara Central. Until now they had to sleep on mattresses on the floor. The beds are stored away during the day.

Bed donated by Lions Club of Boroondara Central

Direct Donations to Friends of Same

Donations can be made to the Friends of Same Inc (non-tax deductible). Donations can be made direct to our 

Friends of Same Donation account at the Bendigo Bank

 BSB 633-000 a/c no  164 067 498

Please note FN-Integration as the recipient.

or by cheque.  For more information, telephone John (Treasurer) 03 9817 3722. Post cheques to Treasurer, Friends of Same, 32 Henry Street Hawthorn 3122.