Reopening the door to learning in Indonesia
Top: The library project team in Indonesia: alumni Jun Takahashi and Maho Sato; interpreter Urara Numazawa; Hiroko Yunoki, of the Rotary Club of Kanagawa Shonan (1972-73 Ambassadorial Scholar to France); and Masanobu Miyagaki, of the Rotary Club of Isehara Heisei. Bottom: Children in the village of Matang Sejuk welcome the Japanese project team. Photos courtesy of Jun Takahashi
Natural disaster and civil conflict have made receiving an education all but impossible for children living in Indonesia’s Aceh Province.
The tsunami that struck in 2004 claimed more than 200,000 lives in South Asia. And although the central government and a separatist movement signed a peace accord in 2005 after 30 years of fighting, facilities for learning in Aceh have been slow to materialize.
The plight of the province’s children moved The Rotary Foundation Alumni Association of District 2780 (Japan). The alumni decided to help establish children’s libraries in Aceh after considering a query from the Indonesian nongovernmental organization Komunitas Tikar Pandan.
The group funded the effort by holding the Aceh Charity Concert in Zushi, Japan, in March, raising about US$16,000.
“Starting from the district conference in October , we were able to go to [Rotary] intercity meetings, New Year’s parties, and club meetings to pitch our sales,” says association president Jun Takahashi, a 1993-94 Ambassadorial Scholar to the United States. “In addition to selling tickets, we received many suggestions and kind words from Rotarians who encouraged us to move forward.”
The concert, themed “Children, Dreams, and Hope,” featured performances by four former Rotary Scholars who had studied in Italy: sopranos Rosa Watanabe (2000-01) and Masako Watanabe (2001-02), pianist Yuko Takahashi (1992-93), and vocalist Kosuke Tsuji (1997-98), who led a VisMelodica (a mix of early European, jazz, and ethnic music) that he had composed. It was sponsored by the District 2780 Rotary Foundation Committee; Rotary Club of Zushi, Kanagawa; Zushi Board of Education; Indonesian Embassy; Japan Foundation; and many other Rotarians and alumni.
With the help of Komunitas Tikar Pandan, the project equipped libraries in three villages with books, bookshelves, desks, and chairs. In July, two Rotarians and two alumni visited the project site.
“The villages went through a great deal of hardship during the conflicts,” says Maho Sato, a 1994-95 Ambassadorial Scholar to England. “Children in all three villages were severely traumatized. [The libraries] will function as spaces for the development of the villages and the children’s growth.”
Written for Reconnections
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