Educating The Future (ETF) traces its humble beginnings to the minds of two high school students from Bondi on a year 10 immersion trip in Timor-Leste. This pipe dream has twisted and evolved throughout the years to arrive at the youth-led, registered, valued and accomplished organisation that continues to facilitate powerful change through education. In 2013, co-founders Alessandro Piovano and Adam Hegedus visited Timor-Leste on a high-school immersion trip as a part of their high school’s global outreach and social justice program. It was on this trip that the pair began to understand the global disparities in access to quality education around the globe, looking back on their own education with newfound realisations of how fortunate they were.
“It didn’t seem right to us that the place you’re born and raised as a child dictates the education available to you and greater so, the opportunities for personal growth and development. We felt that wherever you are in the world, access to a quality education must be respected as the fundamental human right that it is. Education always seemed to be a given for us, and a lot of people that grow up in countries like Australia, we never had to think about it, and that immersion trip incepted the idea in our minds that education is a blessing and should never be taken for granted. We were greatly humbled by that experience and wanted to do our best to use the educational tools at our disposal to make the dream of education in Timor-Leste a reality for all children”.
Arriving back in Australia, Adam and Alessandro began to further research the issue and understand more and more about the historical and geopolitical complexities that impede many Timorese children from receiving a quality education. There is significant need for preschool infrastructure development in Timor-Leste, with the local government prioritising an emphasis on preschool education throughout the nation. UNICEF states that 40% of the population are aged under 14 years old, with dramatically high illiteracy rates, drop-out rates and grade-repeat rates plaguing the country. 23% of students repeat grade 1, with the lack of a fundamental preschool foundation as a key constituent in this statistic. With a median national age of 19, a primary school gross enrolment rate of 126% compared to a preschool enrolment rate of 16%, the Timorese government has therefore prioritised preschool education. The Timorese government has emphasised the construction of a preschool in every ‘suko’ (village) to inverse these statistics. The 2013 immersion trip had ignited a fire that would not sputter or wane until they had done all in their power to help.
Upon graduating high school in 2015, the 18-year olds founded the initiative ‘Schoolies For Schooling’, an independent fundraising campaign in the form of a 758 kilometre trek from Bondi Beach to Byron Bay. The campaign sought to raise awareness about the state of education and its importance in Timor-Leste, and raise funds to create a preschool in one of the remote villages they visited two years prior. The initiative became known as ‘The walk’, and the gruelling trek lasted three intense weeks emulating the daily trek thousands of Timorese children face every day, just to attend school. The initial fundraising goal was $10,000, which was superseded by the 5th day of the trek. The enormous support encouraged the fundraising goal to rise to $15,000, ultimately reaching a grand total of $20,000! The support garnered from the Sydney community encouraged the co-founders to use the momentum to inaugurate a more long-term plan for the donations.
The following year, the boys thwarted initial plans to donate the funds to an existing organisation, and founded Educating The Future in April of 2016. The rationale was that there was no single destination for the money that could assure the boys, and all their stakeholders, that the money would be reinvested back into the Railaco Motahare community they visited in 2013. ETF was founded with the vision to empower members of impoverished communities to achieve an improved quality of life and capacity to achieve their potential. The two co-founders were joined by 5 former classmates, and from a study room of a university library; ETF began to work towards the construction of their inaugural preschool with the Railaco Motahare Community. The team of 7 rapidly gained momentum as friends, family and fellow students aligned with the cause and ETF formalised its volunteer base. The organisation dedicated meticulous effort to registering as a Not-For-Profit with the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission (ACNC) and organising all the governance structures and due diligence for the organisation to flourish in the future. The team continued to build momentum and the volunteer base grew to 40+ student volunteers. An ‘Expert Advisory Panel’ of experienced industry professionals was established to guide and effectively balance the young ambition of the volunteers. This foundational period saw thousands of hours of behind the scenes work translate into appropriate registration and accreditation with various relevant bodies, as the organisation became an fully-fledged, operational Australian Charity.