A trip to Taman Bacaan Pelangi libraries is always a heart-warming one, with occasional unexpected twist and turns. The recent trip was by no means an exception.
Joining the then-upcoming trip to open a new library in Alor, East Nusa Tenggara, last August, was an instant yes from my heart. Even before I was offered to come.
The route was Jakarta – Surabaya (stop over) – Kupang (one night) – Alor. Kupang was our gate to the eastern region of Indonesia for the trip. We spent the night there and were met by a generous welcoming bandwagon.
Friends took us around the city. We ate delicious food, visited a kindergarten at a refugee camp (marvelous teachers and beautiful children!), and swam in this clear, blue pond inside a natural cave. It was indeed a smooth landing to the region.
As we landed in Alor the next day, we too were greeted by our friends, the local volunteers of Taman Bacaan Pelangi with Kak Lim Oja at the forefront as well as the head of regency and his family, who came up with options for the first Taman Bacaan Pelangi library in the regency.
We visited each possible site. We went to a couple of villages in the main island of Alor, up in the hilly areas. We travelled by boat to the neighboring, smaller islands. Enjoying chats with friends and the people we met, and feasting on the beautiful scenery of land and the blue sea of Alor.
On a third day, we came to this site: GMIT Pitungbang elementary school, in the Otvai village, about an hour away from Kalabahi, the capital of Alor regency. It felt promising.
She was so happy of the possibility of us setting up Taman Bacaan Pelangi, sharing with us how the children were so keen about reading, but they have not had new supplies of books for the past six years.
Another teacher was listening to our conversation. She came closer and closer, and joined the conversation. First as a listener, then soon enough she started to second the first teacher.
We were taken on a tour around the school. We saw the library. It seemed like a good fit. It was not in its best condition. The scarced books they had were well-read. We could feel the teachers were genuinely excited. There were 100+ students at the school.
We then went to the neighboring village to meet the head of the school, who was attending an opening on a new – and the only – high school in the area. The headmaster too was so open and excited. Let’s wrap it up.
The next day we returned to the school. The children was so eager. They helped with carrying boxes of books, cleaning the room, unpacking the books, and putting the books on the shelves. Shelves – plural, two.
I stood by Ibu Wati. She was watching the students with a glowing smile. “We had a number of people came and said they would help with the books. They took some photos but never returned,” she said.
Ibu Wati added, “But then you came and we have this. God is Kind. God is so Kind.”
We stayed a bit longer for a simple opening ceremony. The four of us took turn to share stories and our background – in the hope that our stories and the books would help widen their horizon and dreams of what they can be when they grow up.
The trip presented us with some unexpected turns. We carefully reviewed our options and were required to be agile in accordance with how things were shaping up.
It is also a prime example of how far we can go if we stay true to our intention and collaborate with sincerity. We can feel that this is right – because throughout we sense the spacious conviction in our heart, and, at the end of the day, the lingering feeling that remains is of joy, lightness, and gratitude.
To see the glitters in those children and teachers’ eyes – makes it all worthwhile. To have beautiful friends to walk this journey with and gorgeous nature around us are God’s gentle nod and smile to us.
Taman Bacaan Pelangi (Rainbow reading garden) is a foundation that aims at increasing access to books for children in the eastern region of Indonesia through the establishment of community children libraries in remote villages. The libraries are maintained the local volunteers. Taman Bacaan Pelangi currently runs 29 libraries in 14 islands in the eastern region of Indonesia.