Every year, we celebrate Indonesia’s Independence Day which falls on August 17th, it is about a week apart after Singapore’s. When I thought of what I should write about for this special day, suddenly, I recalled about one lady which I met in Papua during my Raja Ampat trip not long ago.
It begins when I learned about #1Traveler1Book movement about a year ago from one of my friends. This movement encourages us to bring at least one book for donation when we travel, especially to the eastern part of Indonesia where the resources that they have in the local schools are limited.
I love books. Not that I am a bookworm. I believe that books can enrich and improve people’s life. Not all children have the privilege to go to good schools or attend enrichment classes. But by reading, it will enrich children in some ways. So, whenever possible, I try to apply this program to the trips I organize. And that was how I met this lady.
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My Encounter with Her Was Unexpected.
I remembered seeing her for the very first time when we were at Wayag, Raja Ampat. While I and my other friends in the group were waiting for our guide to complete the administration matter to explore Wayag, I saw her sitting on the floating platform near to her boat.
She was about to snorkel around the sea-shore where plenty of beautiful fish were, but she accidentally dropped her camera and she was in a panic asking help from the locals standing near to her to retrieve her camera which fell in between the corals on the seabed. It wasn’t too deep and she got it back finally. I remembered her looks as she has blonde colored-hair with a short haircut.
We stayed there for a little longer and then we left to the starting point of Wayag trek.
In Saonek Village We Meet Again
The next day was our schedule to visit the local school and we went to Saonek Village as recommended by the owner of the cottage where we stayed in Waisai. Saonek is just located opposite of Waisai, it took only about 45 mins boat ride or probably even lesser to reach there.
I was the last few who got out from the boat and out from the jetty, I saw a bright house painted in white and blue, and the lady I saw yesterday was there again with two of her guests. She gave us a warm welcome and offered to bring us to the school we intended to go. She was so happy to see us bringing books for the children. At first, I thought she is the chief village but she is not.
“Allow me to change to proper dress,” she said and ran to her room to get changed quickly.
With her helps, we managed to distributed sweets and books to the children at SD Negeri 1 Saonek. Mission accomplished! :) I noticed the children seemed to be very close to her as well as the teachers. She ain’t a teacher or any staff of the school.
“Whenever you want, bring the books to my house and I will read for you,” she said to the children.
“She must be somebody”, my hearts says.
Her Story With Saonek Village
“My name is Ruth.”
She introduced herself again while passing each of us a glass of passion fruit juice she prepared. Everyone was sitting at her house terrace, freshen up with the juice, and she started to tell us about her story.
She came to Raja Ampat, Papua, few years back by chance with the intention only for holiday. But guess what, she totally fell in love with Papua since then. And when she got an offer to support the locals to develop Saonek village, she accepted it. Although lodging is provided, she was in doubt in the beginning on how to survive with the limited fund she was given every month. But eventually, she chose to put her trust in God that He will take care of her necessities here.
And later on, she also told us that we were like an answer to her needs that she had not even asked for yet from God. She needs more resources to share with the children and we came with books just exactly like what she needs.
“Saonek used to be the capital of Raja Ampat,” She said. “ But since the capital has been moved to Waisai, this island (Saonek) is no longer productive. The school is in a stagnant state. The teachers have lost their excitements to teach. The children also have lost their interest to study. So, I hope I can do something for them.”
She goes to the school and supports the teachers in teaching English. She reads books, she communicates, she plays with the children. She wants to be ‘the salt and the light’ as God says. She doesn’t know how exactly to be one. She just does it. She loves the children and people in the village. She will be back every few months and stay for few weeks to see the progress of the village. She welcomes volunteers who are keen to help out in the village, she is also trusted to manage a small homestay on the island.
I was sitting near to her and listening attentively to her. I was drawn in and inspired by her story. I admired her courage to leave her comfort behind and spend times here in Papua to help out the locals with all the simplicity. And then, I recalled, what she is doing now is what I am aiming to do, too. It is aligned to #ShareHappinessProject – to support locals by any means, by what we can do. Instead of complaining, we do something to improve our society.
Papua, been there and it is on my checked list already. But after my meeting with this lady, I unchecked it and put it back again on my travel wish list as one of my dream destinations in Indonesia.
The reason is simple. Because I have found another stronger reason to come back. Yes, to travel with a good cause.
Papua, till we meet again. :)
And to all my Indonesian friends, Happy 70th Independence Day!
Let’s shout out loud..be united! Be greater than ever! Merdeka! ;)
P.S: If you would like to keep in touch with Ruth, please contact me. :)
Read also my friend’s dreams on this special day. :)
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