"I really love children and am very happy to bring them together here to learn,” says Maria.
Maria lives in Sordoli sub-village, about a two and a half-hour car journey from Bobonaro municipality in Timor Leste.
Maria is the mother of seven children and a housewife. Her husband Januario Barreto is a teacher at a primary school in Lourba. Since 2008, with the right initiative and her commitment, Maria has brought together as many as 20 children, between the ages of one to three, into two small rooms in her home.
"I see a lot of children who are left alone and play alone at home in this sub-village,” says Maria. “My heart was touched to be able to provide a space for them to come together and learn.”
Although she only has two small rooms, the situation does not discourage Maria from continuing to teach children. She currently has 36 children enrolled at her in-home daycare.
Maria runs activities for the children three times each week, but because the children love to get together to play and learn they meet at Maria’s house every day.
The children learn how to pray, sing, count and Maria even makes her own toys for the children from local materials near where she lives.
In 2011, World Vision came to Sordoli to see whether an Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) programme was possible and decided that the children ages 2–6 years in this village were the main targets to be reached.
World Vision began supporting ECCD centres in three districts of Timor Leste. Where children cannot access community-based ECCD centres, World Vision supports home-based centres, like Maria’s, where children can learn and play.
World Vision’s ECCD project was able to provide support for Maria’s home-based early childhood programme such as teaching and learning materials, and training for Maria in Early Childhood Development.
"Mario, 8 years-old, is an example of a smart boy,” says Maria proudly. “Mario was one of the children who learned at my ECCD home base.”
"My hope is that the children who study here could follow in the footsteps of Mario,” she adds.