German students studying in Bali give back to the community
National News - June 07, 2007
Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Banyuwangi
A new initiative by a group of German students studying in Bali is putting smiles on the faces of elementary school students from economically disadvantaged families.
Recently five members of the group traveled to Banyuwangi in East Java to hand over 100 elementary school uniforms to students from the Macan Putih and Pengantigan elementary schools.
Third grader Reni Nurtiniyah could not hide her excitement after receiving her new school uniform, despite the fact she was not entirely happy with the color.
Coordinator of the program, Robin Schwiderski, was smiling himself as he watched the students jump with joy after receiving their uniforms.
Robin was awarded a scholarship from the German government to study in Indonesia. He is among 80 German students now taking part in a six-month study program at Udayana University in Bali.
During a trip to Jakarta and Yogyakarta in March, Robin and fellow student Patrick Gehl were surprised to learn that other areas in Indonesia, aside from Bali, were disadvantaged in terms of development and education.
Many school-aged children in rural areas are unable to continue their education because their families do not have the money to buy uniforms, textbooks and shoes.
Concerned about the problem, Robin and Patrick joined forces with other German students participating in the program at Udayana University to initiate a program to raise funds for education in Indonesia.
"We all had the opportunity in Germany to receive a very good education, and we were fortunate to be able to come to Indonesia and join a good program, so we wanted to set up something to do with education," Patrick said.
"We think that education is the key to development in Indonesia. This is why it is very important for us to give people in Indonesia the opportunity to receive a good education. We would like to give more children the chance to go to school", he said.
To raise the Rp 4.5 million (approximately US$500) required to purchase the 100 uniforms to donate in Banyuwangi, the group held fund-raising events in Denpasar, Bali.
Robin, Patrick and fellow group members Laura-Marie Schons, Jens Fischer and Christine Trepkau traveled to Banyuwangi to hand the school uniforms directly to elementary school children.
"This was a big boost for us. We raised money and purchased 100 uniforms with it and we wanted to give them to needy children straight away," said Robin, who is from the northern port city of Hamburg in Germany.
Patrick said the group had agreed to donate uniforms first because uniforms are seen as the most expensive item students require to be able to attend school.
They also wanted to hand over the uniforms directly to students, despite the fact they would have to dig into their own pockets to do so.
"We didn't want to hand over money because we were afraid it may not be used for the correct purpose. So we thought it would be better to give items such as uniforms, school books, pencils or even food directly to the students," Robin said.
"One reason why we chose to donate uniforms is because a lot of people are afraid that when they donate money, it might not go to the right people.
"We heard about a lot of scams where donated money did not go to the poor but ended up in the wrong hands. So we explain to people wanting to donate money that we will buy uniforms for the school children with the money and distribute the uniforms directly to the children," he said.
The group launched a Web site (www.educationforindonesia.com) at the end of May detailing their charity projects in Indonesia. They will set up a foundation in Germany to manage their activities in Indonesia.
Robin is confident his group will be able to obtain more funding for their project in Germany after their success in Banyuwangi. He also expects the launch of the website to generate further funding.
The group has organized a fund-raising event to be held at Bacio Club Bali on June 15, in conjunction with Bali-based bands including Superman is Dead and Navicula.
They also plan to hit the beach in Kuta, Nusa Dua and Seminyak wearing red and while elementary school uniforms asking tourists to donate money to buy economically disadvantaged children school uniforms.
Macan Putih elementary school principal Suyitno said he was touched by the effort and generosity of the German students because most of the 126 students attending the school are from poor families.
"This is the first time foreigners have visited our school, and they even gave school uniforms to the students. I'm very touched by the gesture," Suyitno said.