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Three Weeks That Empowered Me

January 20th, 2020

It was so humid and blistering outside. Klaten was the hottest place I’ve ever visited in Indonesia—although probably it was caused by the climate change—2019 was the second hottest year in history, according to NASA and NOAA scientists. While carrying a book, I stepped down onto the green grass, bare-foot; the grass covering the Titian’s beautiful garden. There were around twenty teenagers waiting for my presence, all of them seem intrigued, because of course, I was a stranger which was interesting for them. They were all sitting on the grass field, wondering what comes next. Nurul Liza, the coordinator of Community Learning Center at Titian, gave me a warm welcome, and then she let me lead the discussion. “Hello,” I said. I kept my eyes staring at each of them and put on a huge smile. After explaining a bit about myself, I asked them, “Who are you?” Right after that, each of them introduced themselves by telling me their names, homes, and high school names.

There were three boys and the rest were girls, with an approximate age of sixteen years old. Not all of them were Titian scholarship awardees, there were also some teenagers living around the Paseban, Bayat area. On that day, I was excited to give them an insight about socioemotional literacy based on Guy Winch’s bestselling book, ‘Emotional First Aid’. Days before, I tried to summarize and comprehend the first two chapters of the book: Rejection and Loneliness—after realizing that both chapters are so easy for youngsters to relate to. Those teenagers were very eager to ask questions about alternative ways of how they cope with their life, especially aspects that related to rejection and loneliness. Then, I presented them with my opinion and interpretation of the book.

My first excitement increased once they started asking so many unpredictable and detailed questions like, ‘How to prevent prejudice?’ or ‘Is it possible at my age to help a friend solving their personal problems at home?’, and I was really awed by it. I postponed answering one of the questions, because I have not done any research regarding the subject of the question; and a Titian staff, Nisa’u, was impressed because of how I handled it. Nisa’u is one of the alumni of Titian Scholarship Programme who became one of Titian’s staff members. She now focuses on the alumni management of Titian. The feeling was mutual: I was impressed at Nisa’u’s reaction as well, because she showed such a nice and keen gesture by blatantly saying that she learned something from me, and of course, I learned from her and all the teenagers present, too. Since that particular case, I understood that most of Titianers (‘Titianer’ is a word used to describe Titian scholarship recipients) appreciate small things and also learn small things from everyone they meet (I also witnessed similar things in the days after). Nurul Liza, the one who assisted me most with Titian’s literacy programmes, is also a Titian alumni, and now she ignites the light of literacy at Titian Bayat’s library. She has the big responsibility to encourage the kids and teenagers to read more books and she is a book reader herself.

After that day, the reel of activities never stopped. Some of the teenagers were curious about the books I published in the past few years. Then, I agreed to give them sharing sessions about my books and the story of being a writer and also a community founder. We had that particular session twice; one session at a Junior High (SMPN 1 Bayat) inside the Abisatya Library (this library was also reconstructed and developed by Titian Foundation) and one in CLC Titian Bayat. When I conducted a sharing session in SMPN 1 Bayat, I was quite surprised when a teenager sat in the back row owned one of my books and asked me to sign it.

The activities I undertook in Bayat were all spiritually fulfilling. I talked with the teenagers of senior high coming from different schools every day, when I got a chance in the afternoon (when they got back from school) in the Community Learning Centre. They often visit the CLC building to learn, finish their homework, or just hang out with their friends. Happily, I made some new friendships with them; it’s not just because I was a volunteer, it’s because we had built trust between one other to exchange knowledge and build a true friendship. I inevitably felt that they had a strong willingness to develop during my interactions with them.

The Titian scholarship awardees have a regular gathering in every Sunday (that’s why they name it ‘SG’ or ‘Sunday Gathering’, where they could have some new knowledge from various sources presented by the competent staff, volunteers, or guests. I had an opportunity to give three generations of scholarship awardees (around 200 teenagers) some insights about the use of social media. Days later, I and Nurul Liza visited an elementary school and gave a short class about social media for kids. For the pre-school students, with Nurul Liza, we also visited the school and read them interactive books. After spending weeks in Bayat, I also got a chance to visit Titian Kaliurang for just a night. Even though it was a short visit, I feel fortunate that I still had a chance to have a sharing session about the process of becoming a writer and how important literacy is.

Never in my life would I have imagined about how a place in the middle of a village could possibly empower so many people in the community. From my perspective as a volunteer, Titian Bayat is so enriched by lots of intellectual activities. I felt that that my cognitive and creative abilities were used and developed every single day I spent in that place. Once I woke up, I knew that there were lots of new things that I could learn and explore in Titian Bayat, even small things. I am always fascinated when I recall my memories the first time I interacted with those kids and teenagers. Being involved with Titian made me double-highlight the fact that all of us humans are equal; we are all having the same brain capability, we are struggling together in figuring out how to survive life and living life to the fullest. Being a volunteer with Titian taught me to work both with heart and mind, it is somewhat inexplicable; definitely one of the life lessons that more people should try.

Once I got home, I thought I would cry, but apparently not! The reason was obviously because I knew that those kids and teenagers I had met in Bayat and Kaliurang are in good hands—Titian provides a bridge for them to lots of knowledge and opportunities and Titian also ditches the stigma that education is a privilege. Education is for everyone. Well, there should be more places like this! (SL)

An Open Discussion Parent Meeting in Bayat

November 21st, 2019

The Titian Foundation scholarship programme aims to improve the quality of life of its student beneficiaries by empowering them with access to education. Aside from providing financial assistance, mentoring activities like character building for the direct beneficiaries, it also includea giving counselling to help parents create a conducive environment at own home to allow their student to evolve. One way of achieving this is through the mechanism of Parent Meetings.

For previous parent meetings, the sessions were arranged seminar-style, with specific topics. This year it was done differently. The meeting between our scholarship facilitators and the beneficiary parents/guardians were carried out in stages, to give time for two-way communication and more intimate discussions. The meeting for parents of Grade XI (Generation 11) students was held on November 12th and 13th and Grade X (Generation 12) on Tuesday and Wednesday 19th and 20th November. In these meetings, the scholarship facilitator explained all the activities that have been conducted with the students and an outline of how students have progressed. What followed was a discussion about how the students had progressed at home and any difficulties the patents had in guiding the students. In general parents saw a positive development in their children at home after they had participated in Titian activities. The students were more independent and responsible, but what still needs improvement is time management, setting priorities and emotional control.

For Grade XII (Generation 10) students, the parent meeting was held as one session on Thursday, November 21st. The topic of this meeting was preparing students after graduating general high school/vocational school, either subsequently pursuing tertiary education or joining the workforce. Parents are encouraged to support their children’s aspirations and still be receptive when their children experience failure. A testimony from a parent of Titian Foundation scholarship alumni from Generation 3, who nonetheless lives in financial limitations as a pedicab driver, said he gave full support to his daughter when she wanted to move to Jakarta and study Tourism in college and his daughter even got a double degree as a result of the collaboration programme with a university in Thailand. Another speaker in this session is a private university Lecturer of 19 years. She gave an overview about college life and the support needed by their children during those college years.

Teamwork and synergy are continuously being worked on so that the Titian programme can help its beneficiaries cross the bridge to a better quality of life. (FD)

Spreading Love with Stories

November 10th, 2019

Sunday, November 10th, 2019, was a fun day for the children of Nyanggit hamlet in Rembitan village, Central Lombok. How could it not be? After its residents all came together to clean the village, the boys of the village then bathed together in one of the nearby springs, called Mertak Tune. These two activities brought out the natural playfulness of the children with them joking and laughing together. After the children were clean the fun continued with a game of marbles. This age-old game is still played frequently by the children of Nyanggit.

That day was made even more special for the children due to a visit from the travelling community storytellers (Doing) from Solo, Central Java. This activity is a joint collaboration between Titian Foundation and the Women’s Reading Club (KBP). The group not only did a story-reading session with the children of Nyanggit, but also held a workshop on storytelling for the mothers. The group has conducted storytelling activities in several areas in North Lombok regency before. The group members are volunteers to this cause, devoting time, energy, thought, and even covering their own expenses for children and mothers of Lombok.

The children were very enthusiastic about participating in this storytelling session because they had never experienced it before. They were also amazed by how the storytellers can think up the stories so well and make them so enjoyable. A total of three stories were read. The tales told by the group facilitators were very persuasive with a lot of moral messages. For example, getting the children to protect the environment by putting trash into the dumpster and also to share and care for each other. They told their stories with lots of enthusiasm and creativity. In one fable of a monkey named Moli, one facilitator played the role of Moli, mimicking the sound and movements of a monkey just like a real one. The hilarious performance of the storytellers had the children bursting into laughter, obviously very entertained. The children were also invited to sing along and imitate song movements in between the stories. The songs were simple and related to the message or meaning of the story being told. One such song lyric was:

“When you see trash, you take, you throw it away … to where? … to the garbage bin”

After having fun with the children, the storytellers gave a storytelling workshop to the mothers. The storytellers shared knowledge about the types of tales, such as fairytales, fables, legends, folklore, etc. They were also introduced to simple storytelling techniques using simple props; hand puppets, and sticks as well as the types of intonation reflecting the character being played, facial expressions, body gestures, movements and songs. The storytellers also stressed the benefit of storytelling in the development of children’s imagination and thinking ability. Likewise, children are more receptive to moral messages or good values learned from stories so that, hopefully, these will be adopted in their daily lives ultimately developing their good character.

In addition to providing materials about storytelling, the mothers were given the chance to practice the techniques learned from the workshop. When the storytellers asked the mothers to practice storytelling, there was one elderly woman in the village of Nyanggit who then came forward and told a story using the Sasak language. It turns out she is very good at storytelling and knows a lot of Lombok folklore. She always reiterated Lombok folklore to her children when they were young, either before going to bed or in their free time. Unfortunately, the habit of storytelling is no longer practiced by younger generations. Mothers who took part in the workshop, for example – who are currently in their 30s and 40s – almost never tell stories to their children.

The habit of storytelling is an expression of the culture that needs to be preserved. The session with these storytellers brings enthusiasm and enlightenment about the importance of storytelling and the benefits of telling tales to children. It turns out that the practice of storytelling of these volunteer storytellers is a manifestation of their belief about “Spreading love with stories”. Titian wishes continuous success for these storytellers, hopefully the knowledge and enthusiasm brought to Nyanggit village can be replicated and implemented so as it can bring about positive change and at the same time preserve the expression of the culture. (TA)