Journal from the Ground
by Mazalan Kamis
Visit to SMU 3 (High School 3)
Time really flies for me in Aceh. My stay in Aceh is fast approaching
the end. There is so much more to be done, so many meetings to attend,
so many places to visit, etc. It is decided that I will dash from one
venue to another, so that I will accomplish as much as possible during
the last few days in Aceh.
A case in point is a visit to Sekolah Menengah Umum 3 ( Public High
School 3). The school is not affected by the tsunami, but many of its
students are victims of it. The school is one of the best high schools
in Aceh. We receive an invitation to visit the school from one of its
teachers who earlier discovered that Saiful is an alumnus of the school.
Rather than postponing the visit to a later date, we decide that it is
best to have a quick visit to the school before I move on to the agenda
of the day, which is conducting the second day of the workshop (see
below). Saiful and I meet with the principal of the school first and
then proceed to one of the classrooms to interact with students.
Discussing the sister-school
program with the school principal. Looking on are some of the
heads of departments of the school.
Talking to the students about the
role of ARF in facilitating the interaction between them with
students in the United States.
Second day of Workshop for Volunteers
The participants are busy with proposal writing throughout the session.
The aim is for each one of them to have a draft proposal upon completion
of today’s exercise. I remind them that they must be able to teach their
colleagues about the process of writing a grant, which can effectively
deepen their understanding about their very own project. I also remind
them that they are indeed lucky since grantee organizations had already
promised them funding provided they submit a decent proposal.
Discussing some points with the
Visit to a model home project
Due to lengthy and uncertain bureaucratic processes and endemic
corruption, many international donors decide to proceed cautiously with
the rebuilding of infrastructure in Aceh, and this includes building
houses for the victims of the tsunami. One international organization
was considered too ‘hasty’ in declaring that it had the resources and
the design, and was ready to proceed with building houses for all
communities destroyed by the tsunami. The organization was kicked out of
Aceh last month!
What many organizations end up doing is building model homes on private
land. Mercy Malaysia, for example, is building an earthquake-proof model
home in the compound of Syiah Kuala University. Saiful and I briefly
tour the site this evening.
Model home project under
construction by Mercy Malaysia.
Visit to SMP 1 (Middle School 1)
Our last itinerary of the day is a visit to SMP 1, the school where
Saiful received his middle school education. SMP 1 was completely
destroyed by the tsunami, and as a result the entire school was now
placed in another school. In order to accommodate this new arrangement,
the school now operates in two sessions: SMP 1 operates in the
afternoon, while the other school does so in the morning. Schooling in
the afternoon means the children and the teachers have to bear the heat
which can make learning extremely uncomfortable. By the way, electric
ceiling fans are a luxury in this school.
Meeting the school principal in his
tiny-makeshift office. He is separated from his staff by a row
of cupboards. The principal is Saiful’s former English teacher.
Posing with the teachers of SMP 1,
many of who still remember Saiful as a student of the school.