The missing part of life

Norman graduated from the Politeknic ATMI Surakarta College in Indonesia. In this story, he bears witness to the voluntary activities of a retired factory worker. As a student, Norman helped with school support for children from disadvantaged communities.

On 8th November last year, we went to Ampel, a village in Central Java to see a waterfall called Semuncar. Before we went to the waterfall, we were welcomed by the villagers and the headman of the village. The headman didn’t charge us a single Rupiah to visit the waterfall. Instead, he asked us to donate a children’s book and took us to the Jendela Merbabu library in the village. When we arrived, children were sitting in a row watching a film together.

Mr. Gunarto, who is in charge of the library, introduced himself. Several years ago he used to be an industrial worker in a factory but felt that there was something missing in his life. When Mount Merapi erupted at the end of 2010, he took part in relief operations for the victims. It made him get involved and from these experiences he found what he had been looking for. This was the answer! When he retired from factory life, he chose to stay and live in the village.

His first initiative to support the villagers was to help promote the Semuncar waterfall. Actually, many international visitors are impressed with the daily activities that go on here. Drawing water from a traditional well, cleaning out the cowshed, farming, visiting caves, hiking on Mount Merbabu, eating the village’s traditional food, picking tea leaves, and drinking tea from the leaves.

Mr Gunarto could foresee that by developing the waterfall there was also the potential for the village children's development. There was already a library in the school, but for a long time it had not been maintained and had became unpopular among students. With only 140,000 Rupiah (equal to 14 US dollars), Mr. Gunarto bought some second hand children's books.

Now, visitors don't pay anything to visit the waterfall. They donate books for the children. After school, if the children aren’t helping their parents in the house, they can come and read books at the library. In this village, the internet signal is so bad that it is nearly useless to watch a TV show. It is a brilliant move to divert teenagers from their phones or tablets to reading books.

Mr. Gunarto has told me his many hopes and dreams. I hope to come back to the village and share with the children my experiences of studying in the city. We can sing, draw, and make handmade crafts together.

Norman A., Indonesia