During Indonesian occupation the local evangelical church in Gleno/East Timor, operated a kindergarten/preschool. The post-referendum devastating destruction of the country in 1999 left the school and church burned out and the church scattered.
The new nation of “Timor Leste” was officially born on the 20th May 2002, and in the hearts of the remnant church rose up the dream to re-build the ministry and to open up a new school. Finally in 2007 two missionaries from Brazil answered the call for assistance and went to Gleno to work with the local congregation.
The missionaries had two Australian friends who became the initial link between the Gleno church and churches/friends in Australia. Through this link, finances were provided to restore the school building and to begin a sponsorship program as a major vehicle to partner with the Gleno church through friendship, prayer and finances.
The new preschool is named “Jardim da Esperança” – “Garden of Hope”, based on God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11…
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
… and opened with 20 students on the 26th November 2007 and grew and developed steadily. In 2010 the missionaries handed the full responsibility of the ministry back to the local church. 2011 saw an explosion in student numbers and the construction of a second building – funded by the generous donations from Australia. In 2012 the church stepped out to begin teaching primary aged students (yr. 1 – 3) in the afternoons. In 2013 the sponsorship began to include the large number of children and youth that were cared for by the pastor’s family.
Now, in 2016, the five preschool staff are government recognised and paid by the education department. They are well trained and experienced. Student numbers have settled to around 50 children. The primary school is also newly registered with 34 students enrolled, and now needs to find its way through the maze of issues like government reporting, curriculum implementation and labour laws. The friendship and support from Australia is still as important as ever as we walk together to face the challenges along the way.
1980s – 1999
The local evangelical church operates a preschool at the present site.
The post-referendum systematic near-complete destruction of East Timor does not spare the school and church in Gleno. The buildings are looted and burned and the local residents are fleeing with just the clothes on their back. Some manage to escape, others do not.
20th May 2002
The new nation of “Timor Leste” is officially born, but it will take a huge amount of effort, determination and outside help for the country go get on its feet. The remnant local evangelical church dreams to re-open their Preschool, but they lack expertise and the resources.
Finally two Brazilian missionaries answer the church’s call to go up into the mountains to Gleno and help re-establish the school and assist with other outreach onto the community. There is no other preschool in Gleno at this time.
Through mutual friends, two ladies from Geraldton, Western Australia, hear about the work of the two missionaries, and take a short trip up to Gleno to see for themselves. This visit leads to the donation of $1000 by the Geraldton Church of Christ to restore the little school building and fit out the classroom.
24th November 2007
After a huge effort by the local Timorese and the missionaries, the school is ready to be opened again. The two friends from Geraldton are there for the official opening…
The name chosen is “Escola Infantil Jardim da Esperança”, the “Garden of Hope” Preschool, because of its purpose to bring new hope to the nation of Timor Leste. Through a loving and caring learning environment and stimulating quality education, “Garden of Hope” wants to instil hope and confidence into new generations. “Garden of Hope” aims to demonstrate God’s love to the students and their families, and that HE has a good purpose for them.
The key Bible verse chosen is:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
The theme colour is green, the symbol of hope and life.
26th November 2007
20 students start under the care of two missionaries and one Timorese helper. All work is done voluntarily without any funding. Any costs are covered by the missionaries’ own meagre resources.
On return to Australia, therefore, the Australian friends start a sponsorship program to fund the day-to-day running of the school.
November 2007 – March 2010
The student numbers gradually increase to 54, and the Timorese staff to 4 paid employees. The missionaries provide on-the-job training to the local staff, handing over more and more responsibilities to them. Staff attend intensive professional development training provided by Strathalbyn Christian College, Geraldton, and the preschool support group TaLiHa. The sponsorship program provides the funds for everything and more people from Australia go to visit the school and church.
The missionaries hand the responsibilities for all school operations to the local church and the Timorese staff. The missionaries leave but the sponsorship program and friendship support from Australia continues.
Garden of Hope experiences a huge increase in student numbers, increases the staff number to 7 and runs the Kindy and Pre-primary sessions in morning and afternoon shifts, working in even tighter confines of space and time. The need for a second classroom is very evident.
January – March 2011
Australian friends usually go to Gleno for a short time once or twice per year. Two ladies decide to stay for 2 months this time and are able to assist the director and the teaching staff to address the challenges that come with the big increase in student numbers, conduct staff training, hold meetings with parents and talk with the local builder to get a better picture of the school leadership’s needs and ideas and how to help address this need.
March – December 2011
Through generous donations and two garage sales, the money is raised to build the new classrooms. On the 3rd December, during the end-of–the-year graduation celebrations, the building is officially opened.
Student numbers this year settle down slightly with 35 children in each class as some students transfer to a newly opened Portuguese medium school.
The church leadership decides to take a step forward and begin classes for Year 1 to 3 students in the afternoons. They begin the slow process to register the “Garden of Hope Primary School” with the government. The school has 19 students, most also attend the government primary school in the morning. This enables the church to establish the school gradually as they are able, and the students have the benefit of extra lessons in a peaceful, not-so-crowded environment. The primary school is staffed by volunteers.
Timor Leste’s first ever labour laws come into effect for the private sector and all employers and employees begin the process of grasping the implications – writing acceptable contracts, paying the right wages, learning about full/part-time/casual work and their respective rights and responsibilities. The laws are good but most of these matters are new concepts for the Timorese and the implementation process is slow.
The school year begins with 54 students in Kindergarten/Pre-primary and 14 in yr 1-3..
The ministry of the church to people in need of a home and food, or a place near education facilities, has greatly expanded, as there are now 13 extra people living with the pastor and his family. It is also clear that they lack the resources to feed and clothe such a large number of people. Therefore the sponsorship program is extending to include this ministry area as it is a wonderful opportunity for the local Church to nurture and disciple people, to be able to demonstrate the love of Jesus through their witness.
The school begins the year with 48 students in kindergarten/preschool and 16 in yr 1-4.
After a number of years of persistent submissions, the five kindergarten/preschool staff has finally been invited by the education department to sign contracts to become fully registered teachers, but this year they are being closely monitored before possibly receiving wages – paid by the government – beginning next year. The staff has become a close team and has grown hugely in confidence in teaching the children. The mixed primary class in the afternoons is still run by four volunteers..
Pastor’s family now cares for 14 extra children/youth in their household.
This year there are 63 children in kindergarten/ preschool and 18 in yr 1-5. The five kindergarten/preschool teachers have passed the the monitoring by the education department and are now fully registered teachers. This means the government pays their wages. This frees up sponsorship money to finally be able to assist the volunteer primary staff financially.
Much learning, fun and relationship building was happening during a 1-week teacher training course that was based on the EYLF Framework but tailored for the local setting. All other early childhood teachers from Gleno and surrounding areas were invited as well, but only the government school staff joined the Garden of Hope staff.
Through the generous assistance of Lighthouse Church, Geraldton, Western Australia, the Gleno church has been able to finally begin to construct a wall around their land. This has been necessary to keep out vandals, wandering animals and vehicles, and to keep in the young children who may wander away or go to the nearby well. The wall is a work in progress.
Pastor’s family cares for 14 extra children/youth in their household.
This year begins with 53 children in kindergarten/ preschool and 34 in yr 1-6. This is the first time that many more of the preschool graduants are continuing at Garden of Hope. The Year 1 class has 19 students! The primary school is now firmly established and official in the eyes of the education department. This is very good news but means that the volunteer staff have to be paid the set minimum wage – and that our sponsorship program needs to expand.
Pastor’s family cares for 14 extra children/youth in their household.