As part of the BudiBaca team stationed in Ende for our two weeks volunteering project related to education, our Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Taman Bacaan Pelangi (TBP), requested for each of us to write a personal reflection of our time spent in Ende. At first when this was mentioned, I personally thought nothing much of it. Writing down your two weeks’ experience? Easy.
Or so I thought.
As I’m trying to put everything in words, I realised that it’s not so easy particularly when I had such a wonderful life-changing experience in Ende.
Two weeks might seem like an overreaction for one to make such claims. In fact, that was one of the main questions that was posed to us by others before we came to Ende. “Two weeks? What can you actually do within two weeks? Will you be able to bring any impact to the people there?” Well let me tell you, two weeks is indeed a short time but as I have found out, when you are having a great time, the length of time is irrelevant.
There’s no better proof of this than with how the teachers, parents, children and people of Ende welcomed us and treated us so warmly despite, one, having just known us for a brief time and two, knowing that our presence there in their lives will be short-lived and that we’ll probably never cross paths again. Here we are, 10 young youths from across the region who’d thought we’d come to Ende and enrich the people there with our project, yet all of us were treated like superstars as if we were from the most famous K-Pop band in the world.
Teachers treated us like we were equals even when all of us lack their experience, passion and determination to teach. Parents welcomed us into their homes like we were long lost family members that they haven’t met for a while. Children gravitate to us like we were magnets and cling to us like there’s superglue. It’s so fascinating to see that the people are so full of joy, warmth and life in spite of the things they lack as compared to the modern interpretation of a comfortable life.
For myself, a city boy from the hustling city of Kuala Lumpur, the general absence of fans in the classroom is an amazing thing itself, considering that the weather in Ende is not too dissimilar than the one in Malaysia. I remember times when I was in school where I would complain of it being too hot despite of having fans around me. Be that as it may, the teachers and children in Ende still persevere and attend school six days a week, even when drops of sweat accompany them throughout their teaching and learning experience.
That dedication is what I find most impressive, regardless of where you come from, everyone in Ende wants better education especially for their young. Even when some of them can’t read, the parents in Ende really value the importance of education and it can be seen through the level of participation of the parents in our workshop and through the follow ups we did at their homes. They try. Even with all the challenges and constraints, all of them try their best for their children so that they can live a better life than them. That is the nature of parents, they will always want the best for their children. I hope what myself and the BudiBaca team did will help them with that, hopefully.
Speaking of the BudiBaca team, out of millions of permutations and possibilities, I was somehow stuck with them. It is as if the stars, moon and planet aligned perfectly for all of us to be grouped together in one team considering the fact that before Ende, the only thing we all had in common was our desire to create good impact. Though in hindsight, maybe that was the only thing we needed to have in each of us for us to work together. While in Ende, it seemed natural as if like a puzzle, we complemented each other well and work so effectively together despite of our differences in age, background and life experiences.
All the stress of working out our plans, late night debriefs and completing last minute preparations was equally matched by hilarious laughter, funny moments and memories. I would have never thought that I could have connected and created meaningful lifelong friendships with people I barely knew before in two weeks, though that is exactly what I did. It is certainly my most cherished takeaway from this whole experience so thank you BudiBaca team – Sakilah, Syukri, Art, Chen, Gift, Joy, Regina, Sivchuong, Viet and Monik, our CSO turned team member.
Thank you as well to ASEAN Foundation and Maybank Foundation for somehow getting the formula just right and expertly bringing all of us together as a team, enabling us to reach Ende safely via our numerous flights and transits and empowering us to create change. To TBP, having seen how your work impacts lives of the children, teachers and parents who uses your libraries every day, I wish the best for all your future efforts in bringing wonderful stories and colourful libraries to the communities in East Indonesia. Indeed, not all heroes wear capes.
Two weeks in Ende has certainly gave me a lot to think, to ponder and to miss. For some, two weeks might be too short to do anything of substance, but it is all relative. As I have found out from Bung Karno, who was exiled in Ende for four years, as long as you spend your sunsets well in Ende, you can create something of significance.
Perhaps, that is what makes Ende special.
Malaysia, March 2019