Indonesia: Service, Beauty and Learning

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Last year I went on my first service trip. After volunteering with Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), I registered to go on a volunteer trip to Indonesia. On my first meeting with the group of volunteered I was amazed at the diversity of the group: gender, nationality, age, interest, religion, culture… all of it. Just the nationalities alone can give you an idea. We were a group of 25 people and we had members from Egypt, Palestine, Sudan, England, India, Fiji, Lebanon, France, Malaysia, Yemen, Syria, Greece and Qatar. That is 13 different nationalities in a group of 25 people! And they were a lovely group of people. Now, a year later after the trip, we still keep in contact and made some very good friendships.

We went through one month of weekly preparations for the trip. We were going to a school that was re-built in 2007 after the tsunami that hit Asia in 2005. The school was rebuilt and renovated by Qatar Foundation and ROTA. Our group was went to work with middle school kids on topics that were chosen by the school. The topics were: English, Computer Skills, Music, Sports, Environment, and Life Skills. Although I am a techie, I chose to be in the Music group as there was high interest in the Computer group, and I have interest in music myself. We flew from Doha, Qatar to Jakarta, Indonesia and then took a domestic flight to Jogjakarta where we stayed. Every morning we went on a one hour bus drive to the school. The school teachers, students and administrators treated us with big smiles and utmost generosity and politeness. It was easy to communicate not because we spoke the same language but because they are very smart and they can use sign language very efficiently :). Some of the students speak good English. One of them actually spoke very fluently. She was not in my class, she was a year younger. I asked her once, what do you want to be when you grow up, and she said a lecturer at the university. I have no doubt that this girl can achieve her dream because she has the stamina, the drive, and the . However, I wonder if life will get in the way and she will find that she needs to give up her dream to deal with life’s realities. On the last day of school, she was crying to see us leave. The kids think of us as super heroes who can change their lives. What they don’t know, is that they have changed ours. This was from the press release about the trip http://thepeninsulaqatar.com/qatar/211755-rota-volunteers-take-part-in-reflection-event.html:

“This was my first volunteer experience with Rota and I already look forward to more volunteer activities. The trip organisation was great and the team was amazing. The best part was getting to know the people and the culture of Indonesia and to work with the students. As much as we hope to have made an impact, they have certainly touched our lives and our hearts. I can still see their smiles, their tears and hear their little voices and big dreams. This was truly a memorable experience”