On February 2, 2019, a team of students and teachers involved in the IndoNation Building organisation of Singapore National Academy, collaborated to provide support to seventeen underprivileged children from SDN Gebang 2, which is an isolated primary school in Sidoarjo. Just two years ago, there was no electricity available in the school, which speaks volumes about the conditions there. We decided to visit the school with donations including books and uniforms for the children as well as to give them an interactive English lesson.
Due to its location in rural Sidoarjo, the school is not easily accessible. To get to the school, we had to ride a skiff, or a small boat, through a river that seemed to stretch for miles. In good weather, the boat journey would take an hour.
We interviewed our boat driver about the transport in the area and he said, “The time taken to arrive at the school relies heavily on the weather and the tides. During high tide, approximately an hour is needed, but when the tide is low, we have no choice but to wait two to three hours to be able to drive our boats there.”
The river is the children’s only pathway to go to the school. The water is brown from the eroding banks, but we enjoyed the relaxing boat trip.
Upon arriving in the school, we were welcomed with cheerful greetings and laughter by the students. After introducing ourselves we started the day by teaching the students English, as it plays a vital role in their lives, being the language of international communication. Firstly, they learned the alphabet by playing an interactive handwritten board game and recited numbers from one to ten in English.
Next, to spike their interest, we demonstrated a simple experiment with Coca-Cola and Mentos mints. This experiment made the children so exuberant. This was then completed by a brief explanation of the spectacular reaction between the soda and the mints.
We switched back to teaching, but this time, we tutored them on some professions in English. Apparently, some of them aspire to be doctors, while the rest of them dreamed of being teachers or policemen in future. It is extremely easy for them to give up on their dreams when there is hardly any support or financial help, yet the look on their faces showed determination. Then we sang a song while playing the game “Simon Says.” We all enjoyed dancing, and everyone took turns being “Simon.”
This teaching activity was a heartwarming and uplifting experience that gave us an insight into the difficulty of teaching and adapting our social skills to better communicate with young children. In addition, it taught us various things like how to manage unexpected circumstances, and how to tailor the teaching materials to the students’ potential.
This touching event was rewarding for both parties, and it left us with more awareness and knowledge of the lives of other people. Furthermore, helping these children has given us a sense of purpose and satisfaction. We are certainly lucky to be able to bond well with the students from SDN Gebang 2, and overall, this serves as a gentle reminder to always be grateful for what we have been blessed with in life. Most importantly, the trip to the school made us realise that it is crucial that we give back to the underprivileged so that they can have the chance to do well in life, using education as a stepping stone.
“I have never expected to feel so much happiness with people I have just met. During the service, it was clear that their faces were much happier, not when we gave them toys, but when we played and danced around together. From this experience, they have in turn broadened my mind and taught me valuable life lessons.”
– Nadine, Singapore National Academy
“It was very delightful to be around the students, all of us coming together, singing and dancing our hearts out. At the beginning, I thought I was merely going to hand out donations and leave, but I am glad I got to bond with them.”
– Lala, SMA Bhayangkari 1 Surabaya
“All this time we’ve thought that the whole of Sidoarjo was a city, but as it turns out, there’s an area where we’re required to use a boat to get to. The students were incredibly friendly, and even when we just arrived, they welcomed us with excitement. This was definitely a joyous experience.”
– Indhira, University of Airlangga