“As usually happens, God has something different in mind,” Wally Wiley, the founder of the Sekolah Papua Harapan (Papua Hope School, in Indonesian), located in Sentani, 38 kilometers west of Jayapura, West Papua, Indonesia, told the Raja Ampat Research and Conservation Centre (RARCC).
The 68-year-old carpenter came to Papua in 1977 to work with the Protestant-run Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and build hangars and other facilities. “I wanted to help missionaries that were spreading the Gospel, but had to take their time to do things that I could do,” he recalled. However, soon, he was asked to help in government relationships and he eventually became regional director for MAF Indonesia.
Later on again, God used Wally Wiley’s giving heart to show how His plans for us are always bigger than what we can possibly imagine. About 25 years ago, Mr. Wiley started to dream about a school. “During my time at MAF, I became very frustrated because of the lack of training that we were doing in getting Papuans to become pilots or mechanics. When I really looked into it, the reason for that was the lack of education, especially in problem-solving skills and associative thinking,” he explained. In 2008, he started off a school with only eight kids, and soon he realized how quickly they were advancing: “We had little kids that didn’t know Indonesian, but within the first year they were reading the Bible in Indonesian and understanding it because they had such a desire to learn.”
At the same time, the government was concerned about the lack of education in Papua. Their plan to send highschool students out of the country to get their degrees was not as successful as they desired because the pupils were not prepared properly, according to Wally Wiley, who told the government “how important it was to develop the kids at a young age” and went through the dynamics that he believed needed to happen. A couple of years later, he got a phone call from the government saying that his campus and dormitories were ready. “I had no idea what they were talking about,” he confessed.
Nowadays, the Sekolah Papua Harapan has 220 pupils in Sentani and other 300 in three schools in the interior, but the number of Wally Wiley’s schools will rise to five by the end of this year. He would like to have “at least seven flagships schools” and “between 40 and 50 schools throughout the interior,” he revealed to RARCC. Besides the help from the MAF, the Yayasan Lentera Harapan and the government, his education project depends on donations and fees from financially sustainable parents whose children study there.
The missionary is working to see a “good system of education and a good system of healthcare” in Papua. The PISA 2015 report showed that from 72 countries and economies, Indonesia ranks 62nd. West Papua has the world’s third-largest copper mine and large deposits of gold, but it is one of the poorest provinces of Indonesia.
Wiley believes that “at that early age is when you really need to shape the children,” so the mission of his education system is to equip Papuan children to be leaders with Christian character, positive attitudes, superior academic skills and productive lifelong habits. He is already “excited” to see how the kids have “a desire to serve their own people” in Papua.
This carpenter who became a teacher, like Jesus Christ himself, is now keen to involve the students in conservation within a new campus located in a beautiful but deforested spot. He wants them to reforest the area and develop a passion for the environment to take care of what they have in this “amazing province.” “Papua is such a rich province in so many ways, but if they don’t take care of what is theirs, they won’t have it in the future. They have got to be very careful,” he advised.
Wally Wiley is also excited to see “what is happening now at Cape Kri,” decades after his first trip to Raja Ampat, one of his “favorite places to go.”
“I love that Max [Ammer, director of the RARCC] is hard about conservation. What he is doing is just amazing (…) I just hope that some of the other entities that are coming in will have the same heart. I know that all of them don’t,” he underlined.
You may follow Wally Wiley’s work at Sekolah Papua Harapan on their Facebook page. You may read more information about his school in the article “Setting a vision for Sekolah Papua Harapan (Papua School of Hope)”, written by Robert W. Smith.