Across the Timor Sea first began to acknowledge the special bond of friendship between Domingos Baretto (from Ailalec, East Timor) and Norman Nicolay (an Australian 2/4th Commando) during WW2.
We thought the best way to recognise this would be to support education, as we knew Norman Nicolay valued education and learning. This evolved into the ‘Baretto/Nicolay Scholarship program’, however we couldn’t miss the opportunity to facilitate the building of an early childhood education centre, when the SANGORA Foundation agreed to provide funds for the building to go ahead.
This was a wonderful opportunity, however we had no idea of the challenges involved. Looking back, there were many hurdles to be overcome, and took about 5 years, however the final outcome is extremely rewarding.
Though only 50 families make up Ailalec, the menfolk of the village have previously demonstrated that they have the building skills necessary to construct an excellent Kindergarten, so we were able to plan for the Pre-Primary building to be built by this team from the village. The planning stage involved Ailalec Council, Ailalec villagers, the village Chief and the school Principal. (We knew it was important for Ailalec residents to have control of what was constructed, and the importance they placed on the planning meeting showed they did too.)
The meeting took a long time, with a myriad of issues to be ironed out. There is now a new Chief in the village, but the previous chief was included in the negotiations, and although he does not read or write, signed the official document with his thumbprint.
. ~ Papers being Signed at the Meeting
After the final plans were agreed to, there was a 12-month delay to starting because the menfolk of the village had previously committed to building a road, which would greatly improve travelling to Ailalec.
It was exciting when the building finally started. Judite Martins (Dili Rotary) liaised for us. Her supervision of the supply of materials and progress of the building was pivotal, and we especially thank her for the guidance and advice she gave throughout the process.
When Jan visited Ailalec in August this year, a celebration was held to acknowledge Across the Timor Sea’s role in the whole Early Childhood building happening, and even though it was not fully operating the kindergarten teacher was taking lessons with the children in a local house.
It was excitingly close to being ready for use, so there was much anticipation.
When the building was finally finished in October 2019. They had an official opening, which involved the whole village, with an important guest there to officially open the building. Unfortunately, Jan was unable to attend at that time, however Judite was thankfully able to be there.
~ The Ceremony
None of this could have happened without the generous donation of the SANGORA Foundation, and we know this wonderful building is highly valued and appreciated by Ailalec Villagers.
All at Across the Timor Sea look forward to Jan’s visit to Ailalec next year, to see how it has impacted.