REPORT FROM THE FIELD: Over the Hills and Far Away, A Journey to Ban Village for the Day, By Sam Cook

WEDNESDAY 31/10/2012

Hi, I am Sam Cook a Primary and High school Special Needs Teacher in Northern New South Wales, Australia. Over the last week I have been preparing in EBPP’s Denpasar office to develop an English literacy program specifically for junior and senior high school student of Desa Ban. After spending 4 days in the office I couldn’t wait to visit Desa Ban for the first time!

Along side my new friend Komang, team leader of all EBPP field programs, I journeyed out of a smoky atmosphere in Denpasar to visit, for the first time, Ban village in the mountainous north east of Bali. In Ban I’ll be volunteering as an English teacher sponsored by EBPP. Our 4WD, with Komang driving, took on the movement of an elegant black snake contorting its body along twisted roads, dancing with motorbikes, cars and trucks. Slowly, we slithered up the hills, and our surroundings changed from dull concrete greys to lush vibrant green forests. From our hearts Komang and I discussed our dreams and the importance of the world fighting its’ greatest war- the war against poverty. We shared the joys of being involved in the war, the purpose it gave our lives and the beauty of helping people help them selves.

After 2 long hours of slithering like a snake we reached the dry village of Ban. I could taste dust; a sure sign rain was needed.  Driving into Ban, Komang pointed out newly tarred roads, water reserves, buildings and bamboo plantings all thanks to EBPP. He illustrated in his stories what Ban was like before EBPP was founded. He showed me where the road once was in a sandy river bed. “But now,” he said, grinning from ear to ear, “we have a new road and everyone is happy.” The new smooth tarred road we were driving on was one of many things that EBPP had worked so hard to implement.

Our first stop in Ban was EBPP’s head office. It’s here I met the eclectic mix of EBPP’s staff and volunteers, a variety of teachers, health workers, sustainable and organic farming specialists, all of which are beautiful people so enthusiastic and passionate about their purpose. It was magic to be exposed to an environment full of people who all had hearts full of love.

The staff were so proud to tell me of what they have achieved in the last 14 years. I met with EBPP’s English teacher Eka. With a glorious smile she explained her position as the village’s permanent English teacher and how wonderful the student’s love of learning is.  She conveyed her desire to immensely improve the English of both junior and senior high school students. Eka detailed her immediate focus on a pen-pal relationship with a Malaysian high school, which will be visiting the Daramaji School on the 12th of November, and a creative writing program aimed at developing the students written and spoken English. I identified it as crucial that I make observations and evaluations of the student’s comprehension in both written and spoken English to provide them with relevant teachings that will incorporate their interests and desires. So Eka invited me to visit the schools that were on that day. Wahoo!

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Off we went. Komang and I were joined by Eka and her husband, also a teacher, Pak Made. Komang looked at me with a cheeky smile and says, “Now fun, hold on”. The nose of the 4WD met a steep, bumpy, pothole covered dirt track that looked like nothing was going to tame it.

But at EBPP the word impossible does not exist. We dropped and rose like riding a camel up an almost vertical sandy desert hill; luckily I did hold on, and it sure was fun 4 wheel driving the master!.

sam 2I visited a total of 3 schools; Jatituhu, Cegi and Bunga as well as the sustainable bamboo centre in Daya.  All were petite and modest, but reflected intimacy, friendship, love and the sense that EBPP is one big family.

When I arrived at one of the larger schools, Cegi, the students rushed from their class rooms to get a look at me, they peered from behind their teachers so timid and shy, all to get a glimpse of the funny looking foreigner who spoke half English, half Indonesian.

They had the most beautiful loving smiles and all looked very flash in their new school uniforms. Eka showed me the class rooms, where I met the teachers and students as well as learning about the subjects they study in their daily routine. The students study Indonesian, society and culture, religion, music and art, English, maths, history and geography, as well as being involved in the sustainable and organic farming programs that each school incorporates.

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After observing the students learning in their class rooms, Eka asked me if i would introduce my self and ask some questions in English to make observations and evaluations of the student’s level of English. Of course! There were 7 students to begin with, from both junior and senior high school, which gradually increased to 9 and then 11. I asked the students a question and gave them time to think of what they might answer. I asked the students, “Why would you like to learn English?”  I encouraged them to think about the benefits, opportunities and possibilities that learning English could provide them. Their answers were amazing. They told me of their desire to be able to communicate with foreigners, get jobs overseas and become tour guides for their local area, teaching tourists and visitors about the sustainable environmental practices they had learnt, as well as traditional language, food and culture.


This image painted by students at Cegi school was a majestic metaphor conveying their journey from a cave like darkness into fields of sunshine

My heart was in paradise, and so were the children’s thanks to EBPP. Now benefiting from a nutritious diet and quality education, these bubbly and joyous children had such a passion for learning. I saw it in their sparkling eyes, big and brown; they said teach me, they knew knowledge is power and a means of escaping the big dark cloud of poverty and illiteracy.

For all EBPP staff being apart of the project is their pride and joy. They have come such a long way from staring into the dark storm ridden clouds of poverty and illiteracy, though now it is they who laugh like thunder when they hear the word impossible. It’s they who shower these once poverty stricken communities with education and love, it’s they who shine like the sun with infectious warmth and light. I thank EBPP for such a wonderful experience.

Sam Cook

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