No Dream is too High: The First Inspirational Class in Raja Ampat by Rafid Shidqi
It started with a dream about implementing a project in Raja Ampat that focuses on education. After almost 2 years working in this special region, spending time, playing and discussing life with children in Arborek and other villages, my heart was struck by the fact that education in Raja Ampat is still not standardized or in some cases not even accessible. Many of the island’s children, located far away from the capital – Waisai, suffer from the lack of education. Teachers aren’t always available, and most times, one teacher ends up teaching too many classes in a row. Schools often have more holidays than study days, and school facilities and supplies aren’t always adequate.
Talking to children during my free time after completing the daily survey work for Indonesia’s Manta Project, I asked them what they dreamed of becoming when they grew up. Some shyly answered they wanted to be policeman, or a teacher, or simply just wanted to continue the homestay business owned by their parents. Sadly, professional job opportunities aren’t necessarily within the realm of possibilities for the children of Raja Ampat, many of them aren’t even familiar with words like business manager, pilot, or engineer.
So I decided to do something about this. My mission would be “growing the dreams” of Raja Ampat’s children – I wanted to show them they can be anything they want to be – by giving them the idea that professional opportunities aren’t just limited to being a pastor, policeman or teacher. I knew about a program called Kela Inspirasi or Inspirational Class (http://kelasinspirasi.org), which is a part of Indonesia’s national volunteer program, a branch of Indonesia Mengajar (Indonesia Teaches Movement), which sends young, skilled Indonesians to secluded locales and outer islands to teach for a year in schools that need support. These educated volunteers share their professions with the kids, showing them their choice of dreams is potentially limitless.
This got me thinking that Inspirational Class might be a good platform for kids in Raja Ampat. Despite the limitations of education and infrastructure, my hope is that by exposing them to alternative aspirations and professions their spirits might be ignited to learn and pursue higher education. So, I started contacting people who are really passionate and would be willing to help me create a Raja Ampat Inspirational Class. I began by contacting my good friend, Maya, who teaches in Arborek. I knew that we shared the same dreams and passion to work voluntarily to increase the education quality in Raja Ampat. Then Menas, a Raja Ampat native from Yenbuba village who works with the Kalabia – a floating classroom that visits each village yearly, became involved and helped me set things up in various villages. After an online poster about Raja Ampat’s Inspirational Class went viral, the numbers of volunteers has steadily increased.
As we started to conduct professional recruitment, we were surprised that within only a few weeks we exceeded 200 registered volunteers! This is a huge number and we were really overwhelmed selecting the most dedicated professionals to teach. Pam/Fam was the first region that came to mind as the place to begin the program. But considering we would be starting activities during the west monsoon season, we decided it might not be a good idea to travel that far without adequate and safe sea transport. So we chose the villages of Arborek, Sawinggrai and Yenbuba as the schools for the first Inspirational Classes, simply because we wanted to see how effective the classes would be in Raja Ampat.
From the initial 200 volunteers, we selected 24 as the first teachers. We were very excited as they came from all across Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, and Maluku) and represented diverse professional backgrounds i.e. pilots, business managers, and software engineers. After almost a year of preparation, Raja Ampat’s first Inspirational Classes began on July 24, 2018.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be in Raja Ampat that first day of the classes because I had to attend an important international training session in Sulawesi. Of course not being there to witness history being made caused me to feel extremely sad. But my heart was warmed by how the dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly during the preparations. Despite the distance, I stayed in close contact with the team during the process of transferring the professionals to the various villages and was kept up to date on the progress of the first class’s activities, via Whats App.
Ken, a volunteer teacher who is also a pilot said, “Raja Ampat Inspirational Class was my first teaching experience, and it opened my eyes to how important education is for the kids. At the opening ceremony held on the school’s field, I cried as we all sang the Indonesian National Anthem. Many of the kids did not wear shoes, but they touched me deeply by showing their spirit and desire to study.”
The interesting part of this program is that inspiration works both ways. Sometimes the volunteers who intended to inspire the children were instead inspired by the students. And it was a wonderful feeling to know that many of the volunteers admitted that the experiences had impacted their life personally.
After the class ended, the volunteers asked the students what they wanted to become; now they can answer, “I want to be a pilot!” or “I want to be engineer when I grow up.” All their dreams were documented through “Tree of Hopes”, where the students may be able to harvest the fruit of hopes they planted during that day.
“One day teaching, inspiring for a lifetime” is a tagline for Inspirational Class. I start believing that despite only teaching for such short amount of time, it will be become ingrained within the kids’ mind, that they believe no dream is too big, and they are free to choose whatever they want to be when they grow up. I thank all volunteers of the first Raja Ampat Inspirational Class, for making a small contribution for the betterment of education for kids in Raja Ampat. I hope this causes a ripple effect of many good intentions that will make Raja Ampat an even better place to live.