Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reading Week in Indonesia - Introduction

Hey everybody!

I know that I have been neglecting blogging, but I think you'll be happy with the next series of posts I'll be getting up. They'll detail my experiences during the two weeks I spent in Indonesia. In Singapore, there's a week for Reading Week that starts February 14 (this also coincides with Chinese New Year, coincidentally) so I missed a week of class for my trip.

I volunteered with Indonesia International Work Camp (IIWC) in a village near Semarang in Central Java. I found the opportunity through Volunteers for Peace (VFP), an American organization, that partners with local organizations in countries that need volunteers and matches them up with volunteers from North America.

I spent most of my time in the region of Jubug within the village of Tegalwaton in the district of Tengaran on the outskirts of Semarang, the capital of Central Java. Nearby the place where we stayed, there was a local area called Senjoyo. I would describe Senjoyo as "the watering hole where everybody hangs out". A river runs through Senjoyo and natural groundwater springs (and rainwater) provide some pools where people wash laundry, bathe and swim. Nearby are also some food vendors nearby and lots of people have to pass by it to go elsewhere (kids pass by it to go to school).

Sounds like a great place right? The problem is that the local people throw garbage everywhere in Senjoyo. There's garbage in the river, in the pools, on the ground, pretty much everywhere. It's mostly little plastic things like packets of food or plastic bags but occasionally it's clothing and boxes and stuff like that. This was the situation that our two week volunteering was supposed to improve. It was an environmental-themed project with a focus on cleaning up the area and educating the local people.

We were a group of seven, two Indonesian leaders and five camp participants - one from Germany, three from Japan and me - all university-aged ranging from 19 to 23. What really impressed me was how well organized and put-together the entire experience was. The schedule was filled with well thought-out activities including implementing garbage cans, planting trees, restocking the fish population, painting an environmental-themed mural, putting up signs and, perhaps most importantly, educating children on a school visit.

I was also happy to see that the entire project, from inception to execution was done by Indonesians for Indonesians and we were just the help. There was also a lot of good partnership with the local leaders and villagers as well, as everyone recognized that this was a good thing and lamented that the Indonesian government wasn't the one who was leading the way. It was an amazing experience and I will cherish the friends I made there for a long time coming.

I learned much about Indonesian culture, ate a lot of good food, got to contribute something impactful and even had a bittersweet camp romance. It was a busy two weeks for Jeff, so as I digest and reflect over the next week or so in a series of posts, join me, won't you?


*Edit* Here are the posts in order:

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