Last month, we wrote about the volcano eruption that rocked Java. Gunung Kelud, which is less that 20 miles from our house, spewed ash as far west as West Java and north as far as Surabaya.
Now, more than a month later, the volcanic ash is still on the ground in and around our village and schools. Despite the initial impact the ash and rock had on the current yield of local crops, farmers are happy about the nutrient-rich “free” fertilizer that has been deposited throughout their fields.
However, many families were negatively impacted by the eruption and were forced into refugee shelters for days and weeks due to the damage the eruption had on their homes. Roofs collapsed under the weight of ash and rock, and, in combination with the rainy season, some homes were severely damaged due to landslides.
A few nights before we left for Kentucky, we were scheduled to teach our Tuesday night LES (English class) for the 6-10 year old girls in town. Amy’s counterpart, Bu Kis, suggested that instead of teaching class that night, we could take the girls to the middle school in town that had become a temporary refugee shelter. It was a wonderful suggestion and we thought this would be a great way to pitch-in, as well as teach our girls about volunteerism and service.
That night, the LES students, students from Amy’s high school and Amy and me pooled money together and used it to buy baby formula, diapers, toothpaste and other needed items. We then all walked the half-mile to the middle school and delivered the supplies. We were really impressed with how orderly and streamlined the process for donations and visits was run, especially since many of our experiences here have not been very orderly or streamlined. The shelter was being run by volunteers from across East Java, many were university students attending school in the bigger cities.
We decided that the best use of our visit would be to entertain the children at the shelter by playing some of our English songs/games along with our LES students. Several rounds of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It” later, it was great to see a number of the children smiling, singing and playing along.
Following that, Amy handed out stickers to the refugee children, while Bu Kis explained to our LES students that the stickers were special for those kids because of their experience. All of our students understood, another wonderful life-lesson learned. We then posed for pictures with a number of the families and volunteers at the shelter, before I joined some of the volunteers in singing Javanese karaoke (weddings, circumcision parties, refugee shelters…there is karaoke everywhere).
Due to us waiting to meet the principal of the school and my sandal falling apart on me with a half-mile walk ahead, we returned to Bu Kis’ house after the students had already gone home. She told me that many of the parents were waiting on them when they arrived. She explained what we had done that night instead of our normal class and the parents were so happy that their children could have that experience and contribute to what was truly a community effort.