How the dream began

In 2005 FOKUPERS, an NGO from Timor Leste (TL), requested support with skills building and setting up a crèche, a first Timorese early childhood service. Hearing about the request from YWCA Australia, I immediately offered my assistance. Over the years I made numerous trips to TL during which I became aware of minimal resources and services afforded to the development and education of very young children.

Timor Leste as our closest neighbour is one of the youngest but also poorest nations with 42% of population under the age of 14 and only 11% of children aged 3 to 5 attend pre-primary education.

Parents lack knowledge about the importance of children having a secure, stimulating learning environment from birth while poor access to essential services is lacking attention from the Government. Nurturing early years of learning and development will result in lifelong benefits to the child, family, community as well as the future of Timor Leste.

In 2015 I travelled with Sandra Mahlberg, then President Elect for Rotary Club of Gungahlin, which opened a great opportunity to tell a story of my passion and work in TL. Sandra invited me to share the story with the club with a potential to propose this as an International project for the Club.

Now, RC Gungahlin is in partnership with RC Dili and will provide professional and technical support, toys, funding and other resources to FOKUPERS, the Timor Leste partner organisation, to enable them to implement and manage the play based learning programs across Dili and districts of Timor Leste.

Utilising my professional background and networks in early childhood sector will ensure the suitable guidance with planning, training, provision of resources and monitoring is readily offered to FOKUPERS to strengthen the program.

The short term vision of this project is to establish Play and Learn programs across Timor Leste where children will have fun but also learn through play and where parents/carers will meet, participate in their child’s play and engage in community education on all aspects of child development and well-being. In the long term we need to ensure the program’s sustainability through Government commitment and a collaborative approach from other like-minded organisations.





After migrating to Australia from Croatia in 1970, Canberra is now home to Gordana and her family. Gordana has qualifications in early childhood education, community services management and in VET training and assessment. Gordana has worked in early childhood services in ACT and NSW. Apart from being a proud Rotarian, Gordana is also active in community based organisations such as Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Australia, YWCA of Canberra and Canberra Friends of Dili, with her main focus being women’s and children’s well-being.