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I visited four schools in the Kefa and Malaka regions of West Timor, Indonesia, which are part of our new programme. Everywhere I looked I saw signs that people’s lives were starting to improve. 

In each of the villages we were warmly welcomed with traditional ceremonies and many thank-yous for improving the lives of their children through education.

Many children have difficulty just reading a sentence, even after years of being at school. That’s because these are two of the poorest and most remote parts of Indonesia and they have some of the weakest literacy statistics in the country. 

But we're changing all that.

I was really impressed with how the communities have taken ownership of the projects. For example, while we've provided cash grants for the construction or improvement of early childhood education centres, they’ve rallied to raise additional money for more improvements to the schools and are actively engaged in the construction process as well.

One village has put in a sustainable water-piping system so that children no longer have to lug jerry cans of water to school each day to wash their hands and to drink from.

I was there to see a new playground installed and the first lot of new teaching materials and books delivered to the new project. While the teachers were very excited about the new resources, the kids were definitely more interested in the new play equipment!

I then went to the neighbouring province of Belu where, for the last three years, you’ve been supporting hundreds of young students to learn to read. Our work there is just about to finish and talk about seeing the difference! We visited one school and it was awesome to watch the teachers engaging with the students and to see all of the colourful posters and drawings in the classrooms.

It was clearly a very positive learning environment and I could tell that the students actually wanted to be there. It was such a stark contrast to the bare and uninviting rooms I saw in other schools, which are still at the very beginning stages of the project.

I was also lucky enough to see a reading camp in action, which was brilliant. It was in a community up in the mountains and volunteers had about 30 children from the village sitting in a big circle, happily reading books to each other.

Finally, I spent a day at a ‘Reading Festival’, in which children and teachers from across the district all took part in reading comprehension and literacy exercises. They competed against each other to see who could read the most expressively and who could come up with the most creative teaching aids.

The team spirit was just amazing. It was also incredible to see the confidence of the students when they were reading out loud to hundreds of people!