*Javanese: Those aren’t my books, they are your’s!
The books arrived! The kecamatan of Ngoro is now home to three schools with English libraries! See our thank you video here and read the backstory and see pictures of how this came together below:
In October of 2012, Ginny Smith from Altrusa International, Lexington, reached out to me about a project with her organization and the International Book Project (also based in Lexington) to bring English libraries to schools in Ngoro. I immediately turned to my closest friend, Pak Hindin, to see what he thought about the idea. Pak Hindin had told me about his journey in learning English, which began when he was inspired by English books that were available in his high school’s library, so of course he agreed that this would be a great idea. We were off and running in what we thought would be a sprint, but ultimately turned into a marathon.
We spent months juggling phone calls and emails to customs agents, shipping experts, tax officials and the education ministry, trying to figure out what we would need to do to ensure that the books would reach our school without any fees or fines (or be shipped back). Every answer seemed to contradict the previous one and the firmest answer we got would have involved Pak Hindin and I traveling to Jakarta, twice, to an office that no one was sure existed. I even sent a friend to the Indonesian embassy in DC. No luck.
This spring we finally decided, along with Altrusa and International Book Project, to reduce the number of books in the shipment in order to hopefully get around censorship laws. We crossed our fingers and had the books shipped while hoping that they would make it all the way, past the customs agents who may or may not choose to enforce rules against book donations, or censorship. Somehow, they made it.
On the other end of things, it couldn’t have been smoother. Todd Johnson at the International Book Project was incredibly easy to work with and we were able to choose the books that we thought would best match the needs of an elementary school and our two high schools. Ginny Smith and Altrusa worked with students at Harrison Elementary in Lexington and at the University of Kentucky to suggest books for our students and included notes on why they were selected.
Eight boxes of books arrived in April and some of my students helped us sort them between the three schools.
A few days later, Pak Hindin, Pak Eko, Amy and I delivered the books to MI Darussalam, an Islamic elementary school.
A few days later, we held a ceremony in my school’s mosque to welcome the books and Pak Hindin explained where the books came from and encouraged the students to use them. The girls who had helped with the unpacking were symbolically given the books by our principal.
A week later, we had a similar ceremony during the weekly flag ceremony at Amy’s school where the principal symbolically gave a book to a representative of each class.
As you saw in the video, the books were put to use immediately. Students have shown me the books they have checked out and occasionally I’ve caught some not paying attention in class because they were so engrossed in their new reading material. Last week, I invited one of my conversation clubs to our house to celebrate the end of the semester. I asked if they had borrowed any books yet and all replied that they currently had books–four even had the books with them!
Needless to say, it has been a success and we are so happy that this happened before our departure. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Ginny Smith and the members of Altrusa International, Lexington; Todd Johnson and the wonderful people (and donors!) at International Book Project; and Pak Hindin of SMA Ngoro. Our deepest gratitude goes to them and the work they all do on behalf of students here in Indonesia and around the world.