Sacred Heart College Students Return from Timor Leste with Eyes Wide Open

The first group of Sacred Heart College (Hobart) students and staff has just returned from Timor Leste on a Destination Dreaming Community Partnership Program.

The aim of the School’s first visit to Timor was to set the foundation for an ongoing, intercultural relationship with a Junior School in the rural township of Maliana- and there were certainly some incredible friendships made. Primary School Principal Sue Walker said “to watch the youth of two completely different cultures come together to share their stories, dreams and lives for even a short time will never be forgotten. We faced challenges and were taken well and truly out of our comfort zone, but the positive and powerful personal growth that has occurred for each and every participant from both Sacred Heart College and Maliana Junior School is distinct.”

After arriving in Timor Leste’s capital of Dili, the group travelled all day through rugged but beautiful countryside to the regional district of Maliana. An essential part of the program included living in the everyday circumstances as that experienced by the local students, including drawing their water from the well each day, playing in the river and picking food from the local vegetable garden.

During this time, the Sacred Heart College students saw the construction of an outdoor study shelter they had funded for the new block at the Encouragement House. They were also excited to deliver computers, printers and education resources, including a fantastic set of microscopes to the local science teachers. Students also worked in teams to assist English tutoring at the Junior High School, learned some of the local language from their Timorese peers and about the Timorese history and culture. But even more so than experiencing the diverse culture and environment, the students learned just how much they have in common with the local teenagers their own age.

Through participation in the Destination Dreaming program, the students have not only returned with a deeper understanding and perspective of the daily hardships faced by their Timorese peers, but a greater appreciation for life and their education in Australia.

16-year-old Lauren Walker said “I grew so much as a person, developing more appreciation for my life at home and the people I love. The passion of the Timorese students to learn and to get an education has inspired me to do my best and not to take my education for granted.”

15-year-old Zack Harris said “[w]hat I learned is very hard to explain. I basically learned a whole new way of seeing and thinking about the world. I would recommend anyone do this program as it helps you become a better person and discover the person you really want to be”.

Accompanying Sacred Heart College teacher Matt Conolan said “[a]s an Outdoor Education teacher, I work with young people to build their resilience and connection to the environment and their community. I have worked with other organizations offering global experiences, but I have never come across a more powerful opportunity that combines global citizenship and personal development as offered by Destination Dreaming. Our students will never be the same again”.

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