Today, I bring you a very touching story/project. The story of Sanan Rai.

A story from an island that overlooks our capital Díli, where 8,000 people live and old customs are slowly dying: Ataúro.

(Clique aqui para versão em português)

For almost four years now, Empreza Di’ak, a NGO that thrives in the search for sustainable income for villages throughout Timor-Leste found that resources in Atauro are seasonal and limited, specially the fish (see their Ikan Di’ak – Good Fish- Project). After thorough research, one remote village was identified as the former ceramics center of the island, well known for its traditional clay pots – Sanan Rai.

Cheap imports and lack of communication almost killed the business that nowadays only two Avós (grandmothers) in their 90s, knew how to make the pots. Meet Avó Joana Ximenes (96 years old!!) and Avó Katerina Martins (94 years old!!).

Rapidly Empreza Di’ak returned to document and learn the traditional pot-making process and support training of new potters in the community.

Nowadays, over 20 women have learnt the skills and through Empreza Di’ak, they have started selling them to gain a sustainable income. The latest feedback I got – first major sale was a huge SUCCESS: ALL SOLD!

It is amazing to see that small stories like this, turn into success and bring the joy to our older brothers and sisters. Bringing back their knowledge for future generations!

May god bless them all.


I will leave you with a short story of the NGO that Filipe and Ariana started and that I have proudly supported since day one.

Empreza Di’ak

In 2008, Filipe Alfaiate was a senior associate at Clifford Chance, an international law firm in London and Ariana Simões de Almeida was working at Save the Children, when Filipe was invited to work in Timor-Leste as Legal Adviser to the Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão. Filipe has family and emotional ties with the country, so he gladly accepted the invitation and in 2009 they both moved from London to Dili to start a new adventure.


After one year working at the PM office he decided not to renew his contract and immediately started working directly with poor rural communities.

Since 2010, Empreza Di’ak have invited mind-alike people, from both the private and the third sector, to join an innovative approach to development, new in Timor-Leste: fight poverty by breaking down market barriers through sustainable and replicable business solutions that empower the East-Timorese and have a social impact!

Empreza Di’ak believes that all Timorese must have the opportunity to build a better life through the combination of their work and the power of business.

ED has now three major projects:

Women’s Economic Empowerment for Sustainable Livelihoods

Futuru Di’ak identifies and implements market-based businesses for vulnerable women. Since 2011, ED has provided training to over 100 vulnerable women to develop skills, equipment, and mentoring to start and manage a small business, or to gain employment.

Futuru Di’ak also provides on-the-job micro-business training to women survivors of violence in shelters to assist with their social reintegration.

Bringing Social Innovation, Building Coalitions

The Innovation Forum is a social innovation think-tank to bring ideas into action, and a one-stop-shop for researchers as a repository of information on Timor-Leste.

Empreza Di’ak develops creative and impactful business and market development solutions, and promotes coalitions between the government, private sector, and local producers for inclusive growth.

Local Business for Local Change

Negósiu Di’ak creates opportunities for people in impoverished communities to build a better life through the combination of their efforts and the power of business and social enterprises, focusing on research, local product and micro-business development, market linkages (local and international), and supply chain and market development. Their pro-poor inclusive businesses – in areas that range from agriculture, fisheries, and poultry to tourism and handicrafts – are tailored to the Timorese reality and designed to reduce imports and develop local economy.

Check out some of Empreza Di’ak’s latest successes on supply chain development, market linkages, and business mentoring and training!

Follow Empreza Di’ak on Facebook or visit their website

Check this gallery with amazing photos of the Avós, Sanan Rai and Empreza Di’ak team