March 23, 2024

Three months in and look at the results…

Wow! Its been 3 months since I relocated to Timor Leste from Sydney. Since arriving in November It has been indescribably busy, sleepless, and stressful but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What the students, staff and school community have achieved in this time has been incredible.

One of our first tasks was the end of year school reports where the students were assessed in the following areas;

1. Competencies and knowledge ; and
2. Personal and social capacity.

Competencies and knowledge were assessed on a five-point scale with 94% of students scoring in the top two bands.

Personal and social capacity accessed 9 key capabilities and measured on a four-point scale with 81% of students scoring in the top two bands.

Congratulations to the entire team at BETTER in Australia and our team at the Bakhita School of Excellence (BSE) for their hard work and dedication in achieving these outstanding results with a very aspirational curriculum and less than a year since opening.

2023 Graduation with huge student success…

In December 2023, I had the honour of graduating 48 Foundation students, of which we can all be proud. Seeing the students sing their national anthem at the Graduation Ceremony with the widest smiles, total pride and respect for their country, independence and identity, brought a tear to my eye. Looking around the room at our 9 staff (all Timorese), was testament to the model we have created with your support.

As each student walked up to shake my hand and receive their graduation certificate, I remember each of them during their first days and month at school. To reflect on where they had come from, in just 7 months, was evidence of the vision becoming a reality.

This was reinforced with this year’s enrolment numbers as once again we were oversubscribed with parents doing whatever they could to have their children attend the Bakhita School of Excellence.

2024 and 50 new students…

Preparing for the commencement of an additional 50 children for 2024, was a huge task with Christmas and the New period spent predominantly at school.

For most, the holiday season is about spending time with family and friends, however this New Year was spent giving an additional 50 children the basic human right to education and employing four more Timorese teachers.

Inaugural TRAVEL4BETTER Program Launched

In mid-January, we prepared for our first visitors in our TRAVEL4BETTER program whose impact on the teachers and staff in training for the new school year was greatly appreciated. Staff had a four-day intensive, with two teachers from Australia, including Annie, one of our volunteer leaders, who passed on their wealth of knowledge and experience to our 8 teachers.

The staff also received specialist medical and first aid training from a volunteer medical professional.

In true Ornella fashion, it was a busy immersive and one-of-a-kind experience in Timor farewelled with a night of karaoke and dancing as we celebrated the unity and learning between Timor and Australia. Everyone had smiles from ear to ear and did not want the night to end.

Term 1 2024

My most favourite week of the year being Term 1 welcomed two more visitors from BETTER’s Board. By the third day I think I had worn everyone out, however they kept turning up!

Our General Manager, Amanda, was there for the first week of the school term last year and together we laughed tears of joy after the first day. We set a new record with only three “criers” and by day 3, we only had the occasional tears and no temper tantrums or dramatic outbursts.

The training, learnings, organisation, structure and discipline has allowed us enter the next phase of growth with renewed energy.

Final Thoughts

Reflecting on the last year and all that has happened in the last 3 months since moving, it has definitely been a rollercoaster. Some days I’ve wanted to give up but seeing the smiles and pure joy on the faces of the students, staff, parents, community and visitors is what keeps me going. I know this is where I am meant to be.

I know that Timor lost almost everything in their fight for independence, and I have a firm belief that we are here to strengthen their independence through education, training and capacity building for the nation.

How You Can Help

As a registered ACNC tax deductible charity you can fight inequality through education.

  • By gifting just $12 a month you can support a class OR
  • Share our story with friends, family coworkers to help build our support base

If you would like to follow along on this adventure, I’ve made my Instagram public to share what’s happening on the ground 

@ornellabyakIf you want to know more, please send me an email [email protected] or give me a call +670 7660 0085.