Mackenzie (in blue) with friends and family in Madura, the location for her library project.
Inspirational adults striving to make a difference in their communities are out there. Inspirational teenagers, however, are not as easy to come by, and one particular 14-year-old in Jakarta has created a project which would make any parent proud, regardless of age. This young lady is doing everything she can to bring books to the island of Madura for children who would otherwise have no access to reading material. This Girl Scout’s name is Mackenzie Winton, and Girl Scout she is, through and through.
When you hear the term Girl Scout, you often think of girls selling cookies for charity, but it’s far more than that. The Girl Scout mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place and the Girl Scouts have been in Indonesia for 50 years. For 10 years, Mackenzie has been passionately girl scouting, meeting fellow scouts from all over the world – herself having practiced this tradition in the USA, Nigeria and now in Jakarta. After seeing first-hand the lack of educational resources in these countries, this Jakarta International school student began working on her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award available in USA Girl Scouting, which involves a seven-step process culminating in solving a community problem and making a lasting and sustainable change.
Mackenzie’s demeanour is calm and collected yet full of enthusiasm. “I’ve known that I want to be a teacher when I grow up since I was three years old,” Mackenzie tells me as we chat after school ends. “Prior to choosing the Girl Scout Gold Award, I participated in service trips in remote communities – Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Laos – and attended Global Issues Network (GIN) conferences. I realized that I wanted to make a difference in a remote community in Indonesia.”
And making a difference she is. Mackenzie has been running book drives through her school, and with the help of other schools has so far collected 3,700 books, 1,000 of which are in Bahasa Indonesia. Nearly 100 Girl Scouts have participated in read-a-thons, bake sales and coin collections to further support the library project. Her aim is to collect many more books in Bahasa for the children in the Lombang community, near the town of Sumenep on the eastern side of Madura. Mackenzie wants to fill her library with interesting and educational reads for the children of the village and surrounding areas, to give them a window to the world and a chance at a brighter future. Currently, all the books are being catalogued at Mackenzie’s home – a massive task in itself – before the stocking and opening of the library, which is planned for early June this year.
The Madura Library Project is run in conjunction with, and supported by, Leksmono Santoso of Remote Destinations, a travel company specializing in showing guests the more secluded parts of Indonesia. Mackenzie has also had massive support from her mentor, Linda Hahn Santoso, Ed.D of Destiny Learning, an initiative which helps educational needs of children. Funds have been raised to build the library through monetary donations from individuals and families and Mackenzie has been overwhelmed by the response and generosity of her supporters.
Mackenzie travelled to Madura to meet the families of the villagers where her library now stands. From Surabaya, the drive to the village in Madura takes six hours, and Mackenzie and some of her friends and family were able to meet the children and symbolize the beginning of the building by laying the first brick of the new library. “The children were really excited when we visited – I don’t think they had seen a Caucasian person before! It was really nice to see their excitement.” Since their visit, the structure has gone up, further bricks laid and a roof now completes the finished building.
When asked what her future plans were, Mackenzie replied with, “I would love to build more libraries, which would be amazing!” At the root of the Madura Library Project is Mackenzie’s passion in life, education, which she feels extremely lucky to have had in her upbringing and wants to share with others who are less fortunate. She aims for her library to be a place for the students and community in Madura to discover something new and different. “Reading opens up a whole other possibility,” Mackenzie adds, and I agree.
For those wishing to donate books, please email Mackenzie Winton on [email protected]. Mackenzie is mainly looking for children’s books in Bahasa, however all books will be graciously accepted.