After ten long years, Joana’s vision is finally becoming a reality. She has been volunteering as a teacher at an early childhood development (ECD) centre in Baruana, Timor Leste for a decade. The ECD centre where Joana teaches has never had a permanent home – for many years, she held classes underneath a tree, then in a makeshift building. When that building disintegrated, her classes resumed underneath the tree. Joana knew that the young children in her community deserved better.

I had a vision that I wanted to build a school,” she says.

Joana knew that she couldn’t make her vision into a reality on her own. “As a person alone, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have money or resources. But slowly I started with one or two children at home, then neighbours’ children. Then I got support from other people… before we formed the centre,” she says.

With support from ChildFund New Zealand, Joana’s community has a sturdy new ECD centre where children can learn and play in a safe, healthy environment.

ChildFund New Zealand also renovated the nearby primary school in 2011 with new walls and a roof, and helped to establish a PTA. Joana’s husband Josue joined the PTA and has seen such value in getting parents involved in their children’s education that he is now helping to establish a PTA for the ECD centre.

We saw that a lot of people didn’t care about education and many children didn’t get to go to school. Some children were in grade five at school and still did not know how to read and write,” Josue said.

At a recent community meeting, he explained to local parents about the PTA’s roles and responsibilities. “We will support and facilitate the teacher training and create the building where the children can learn,” Josue said. “As a husband, I will also assist and support my wife as teacher.

Despite the challenges that the community faces, including the remoteness of their village, which has no electricity or running water, many parents now want their children to continue on to high school and university.

With a PTA in place at the new ECD centre, Joana will have a community of parents who share her vision, alongside her husband Josue. “I support my wife 100% to teach children. Even though she has had difficulties because when the school started they didn’t have a building, we have continued and now today we are getting results and we can move forward,” says Josue.

With ten years of experience, Joana has seen the results of her hard work. “I can see a difference between the children who go to the centre and those who don’t - they are more confident when they get to primary school,” Joana says. Each year, the best performing students at primary school are graduates from Joana’s ECD centre.

Between Josue’s involvement in the primary school PTA, and Joana’s leadership at the ECD centre, this is one family with a big vision for their community. “Our goal is that in the future, lots of students in our community will have access to good education like other children in the city or in other developed countries. That’s our thinking and our vision,” says Josue proudly.

For more information about ChildFund's work in Timor Leste, please visit the Timor Leste country page. 

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