Nilton Hi’s story

“Once upon a time” should be a good place to start with the telling of my life story, as it itself seems like a fairy tale to me, while reflecting on it. Although there were no mermaids, talking animals or any other mystical beings that do appear in fairy tales, those that enter my story to me, were like mystical beings as it was with their magical powers, such as the program “Friday Night School”, that I was able to be where I am today, studying science at Melbourne University hoping to become a civil engineer.

Now to my story, the year was 1994, East Timor my homeland had been occupied by Indonesia for roughly 20 years and like any other countries that have been taken over by force, the innocent population are the ones that always suffer, thus is what also happened to my fellow East Timorese, under the hand of their oppressors they were being tortured, killed and their houses burnt down. In fear for our lives our parents, with the help of some of my relatives, were able to get my whole family, four daughters and three sons out of East Timor towards the end of 1994. Although we had the luxury of travelling on a plane to Australia, once we arrived in Australia we were on our own without any money and knowledge of English or Melbourne. Daunting as this situation may seem to be for my family, we were at ease as we knew that we would be safe in Australia. The first couple of years in Australia were tough for my family, we not only had to adjust to a different culture but our mother also passed away, leaving my father to raise seven children. Even though we were struggling we kept our heads up and supported one another as “family” as it was the only thing we had at this very moment, however all this was about to change with the Friday Night School program.

My family were first introduced to Margaret Gurry (our fairy god mother) through a community help program and it was with her relentless help that we were able to get onto our own feet and support ourselves. Through this Friday Night School was created. In its early Stages Friday Night school started out with my older siblings, my father and close adult relatives just being taught English to help them communicate when out shopping or needing assistant from emergency personnel. This changed when younger children such as myself, then only three and a half were incorporated into the program and with this came the Friday Night School as we know it is today, helping school children with English and other school work like maths. During my young age, Friday Night School and its events were the things I looked forward to the most, as there was always an event on, such as the Friday Night school Camp also known as “FNS CAMP” to the kids, or something more simple like a trip to the beach, or a trip to the movies or a picnic trip, every event was a mystery to me as I would not know what mischief I would be getting up to.

As I grew up, through the tutoring program I was able to keep up with my studies during my primary years and secondary years of education and was able to meet other children from other cultures and religion. This indicates how important Friday Night School is to children who do not have the resources that can help them academically but also do not have the means to travel and meet other people from different religious and cultural backgrounds. Friday Night School is not only helpful with the academics side of things, but since there are a lot of children from different cultural backgrounds, you are able to learn about different cultures and not only relate to most of the children that come to Friday Night School who are all in the same boat as you are, but a solid friendship can be built. Which is what happened to me, through Friday night school I was able to befriend two Vietnamese brothers(Don and Dan) who have been my closest friends since the time of our meeting at Friday Night School. Now, so many years later Don, Dan and I are all studying at university.

Now to the academics, which is what the magical Friday Night School program mainly focuses on, helping students to achieve their potential from primary school onwards, and hopefully get them into university after they finish V.C.E. It is able to do this for all students at Friday Night school by providing not only secondary school and university students to help out but teachers who are also teaching V.C.E subjects. Now looking back at my V.C.E years I could not have achieved what I thought was possible without these tutors, as not only were they willing to help you to the best of their abilities but they were free. As you all know tutors can be really expensive and coming from a family who could not afford a tutor, Friday Night School really helped me out as it provided me with a tutor every Friday that was able to help me out with my studies and it was because of this resource that I was able to reap the reward to attend the esteemed Melbourne University.

Apart from all the things that the Friday Night School program already does, it also arranges scholarships for a small number of its students. I was very lucky to receive one of these scholarships to attend the prestigious Xavier College for my secondary school years. I have heard about this legendary college and seen its students at Friday Night School, but never in my wildest dream did I ever think that I would be attending such a noble school. Entering those gates at Burke Hall for the first time to begin my secondary education I felt like I was entering into Narnia and leaving my past behind to create my future. I felt intimidated and scared standing there at the gate and looking onto all the big buildings and other children who not only came from rich families but were more culturally advance than me. However these feelings were gone in a matter of seconds when the other kids came up to me and started to talk to me, there at once I felt welcomed into the Xavier community.

The time spent at Xavier was very enchanting. Xavier was not only amazing with its academics but it offered sports for students to do and most of all, was it Community Service Program allowing students to go out and help people, leaving their comfort zone behind. I related well with this program as after being given so much from the Xavier and Friday Night School I wanted to give back and help out those who have been in my position or in an even worse position. Overall I completed a total of 220 hours of Community Service at my time at Xavier and have completed my high school years with fond memories that I will cherish forever and an academic result that allowed me to continue my studies at Melbourne University.

To end the story on a happy note, my family is now thriving; all my siblings and I have completed our secondary education with most of us studying or have already completed our University studies. My family is still involved with the Friday Night school program willing to give a hand where ever necessary. Thus to end this happy fairy tale I would like to say “and they all lived happily ever after.” 

Nilton Hi