The History of Loreto Gari-uai Pre-Primary  School & Community Centre | Timor-Leste

The History of Loreto Gari-uai Pre-Primary  School and Community Centre

Location | Gari-Uai, Timor Leste


Timor-Leste, located over 400 kilometres north of Australia, is one of the least developed countries in the world, with basic health, literacy and income levels similar to sub-Saharan Africa. 

Over the past decade, the newly independent country has travelled down the path of reconciliation as part of the healing process trying to recover from its violent and traumatic history. Most Timorese live in rural areas and many households have insufficient food to feed themselves all year round. According to UNICEF two thirds of the population are under the age of 25, approximately 40% of children are malnourished and more than 58% of the population is illiterate. With so many young children in need of education the school system is simply under-resourced. 

The Loreto Sisters along with MWIA are committed to addressing the lack of educational opportunities facing the Timorese people in the remote area of Gari-uai by building the first Loreto Pre-Primary School in Timor-Leste. The interim Pre-Primary school opened on 1 June 2015 in a refurbished community building, and today the school operates from a newly purpose-built building. 

Seventy children attend the Pre-Primary school on a regular basis.  In 2018, the Community Centre commenced adult classes and regular health clinics were held. 

The path to realising this dream began in 2002 following an invitation from the Superior General to all Loreto Provinces asking them to have the courage to move to new places to “take some risks, however small, in moving out from safe and familiar situations” to places that would benefit their work. 

Currently Loreto Sisters, Margie Bourke, Selvi Adaikalam, Margaret Mary Flynn and Nguyen Ai Thien are living in Timor-Leste. 

From the outset this has been a communitybased project, centred on educating the children of Gari-uai.  Now the parents and the whole community are benefiting from adult education and employment.  There is hope for a brighter future for generations to come.