Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Service-Learning in Indonesia?

Last week I went to Indonesia to restart our service-learning projects in Indonesia.  Several years ago a team from PolyU went to Yogyakarta to work with Duta Wacana Christian University three times in three years.   For some reason it was not continued.  We are now hoping to restart it.  This is the second time that I have been to Yogyakarta and it was just the way I remembered it.  

When I tell people I was going to Yogyakarta people often thought I was going to Jakarta, the capital.  Yogyakarta is actually a medium size city on the south side of the island Java, while Jakarta is a huge metropolis on the north side.  

The airport is small.  When we landed, the plane landed right in front of the terminal.  We walked down the stairs and walked into the terminal.  When we waited at the gate to board the plane, we could see the plane right in front of us through the window.  In some ways it is reassuring.  You know that the plane is there and is waiting for you.  

The streets are narrow and full of cars - and motorcycles.  Just like Phnom Penh, Saigon, and many other cities in South East Asia.  

Out past and potential future partner, Duta Wacana Christian University is very keen and experienced in service-learning.  This is partly why we are interested in working with them.  Every summer, they send hundreds of their students to live in villages for months at a time.  They learn about the community, participate in village life - daily work, weddings, …, look for ways to help, and actually carry out useful projects.  

Out partners took us to a village about 30 kilometres to the west of Yogyakarta.  Here most of the residents are Muslims.  It struck us that a Christian university is serving a Muslim community.  But here it seems to be nothing unusual.  Indonesia is a vastly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country. and the different communities seem to be generally living together in relative harmony.      The land is lush and farmed very intensively.  Every inch is cultivated, and very well irrigated. 

The children in the primary school are extremely cute.  They have this custom of taking your hand to touch their forehead, as a sign of respect for the elders.  To these kids, I suppose I qualify as an elder.  

We are trying to work out what to do, when to do it, and how to work together with Duta Wacana.  There are challenges in many aspects.  But we do hope to work something out.  


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