In our first week in Lombok in 2009 we headed off to meet around 30 Iraqi and Vietnamese refugee kids in Ampenan. They ranged in age from kindergarten tots through to teenagers who came together two or three times a week for English classes run by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Everyone in the younger students’ classroom for lunch
A mix of posters and toys from Indonesia and Australia
For most refugee kids the IOM’s classes were the closest they got to formal school. Although in theory they could have gone to a local school, organizing this wasn’t easy and not speaking Indonesian made it much harder. Most refugee families also preferred their children learn English, rather than Indonesian, as it was likely to be more useful when they were resettled to another country. Thankfully, IOM, with the help of some highly dedicated local volunteers, set up some classes. Working with little more than a dictionary and a handful of English language novels, the teachers were committed to teaching their students English and, where they could, the basics of other subject like maths and science.
An Iraqi student with his favourite teacher (left) and (right) Brynna speaking to the older students
With the help of all your donations, we decided to help the teachers out! Before leaving for Indonesia, Rowan and Brynna scoured Melbourne’s education bookshops and op-shops for books – basic through to advanced – on everything from English and maths, science and history, story books and short novels, and colouring activities, games and posters. After getting permission for a bit of extra weight on our flights, we loaded up and headed over to Bali with over 200 books in tow.
In Bali, we settled in with some fellow volunteers to sort and code all of the books, posters and games, as well as putting together sixty folders of English and maths worksheets. The next week we arrived in Lombok, ready to help the IOM volunteer teachers build up their library!
Sorting and coding in Bali
IOM library here we come!
Excitingly, by late 2010 most of the refugee families we met had been resettled to other countries to live permanently. The few remaining in Indonesia moved to join other refugee communities. Although IOM’s classes are no longer needed for refugees, our donations are still going thanks to the ever pro-active volunteer teachers.
The resources we donated are now used by the volunteer teachers and their colleagues to teach students at local Islamic schools. In keeping with the theme of Lombok Kids, many of these schools have little in the way of resources to build up decent libraries, so the new books and posters are a fantastic help!
Older students check out maps of the world and the solar system
Inspired by an Australian friend who ran regular art workshops for Lombok’s refugee kids in 2008, we decided to do the same as a once off while we were there. Always keen to meet new people and try something different the kids were super enthusiastic!
We started the morning by covering the walls with new posters. The kids volunteered one at time to have the outline of their heads drawn on a piece of paper. Grabbing a few colours out of the new textas and crayons they all got to colouring… their pieces of paper, colouring books and each other’s faces!
Iraqi boys show off their art work (left) and (right) an Iraqi girl beaming with her new toy and freshly coloured face!
We finished off the day with a treat takeaway lunch and a new cuddly toy – all the way from Australia – for each child.
Refugee kids and their toys
Refugees in Lombok
Most of the kids we met in 2009 were from Iraq, with a small number from Vietnam. A lot of the 200 or so adult refugees in Lombok were also from Iraq, while others came from places like Vietnam, Iran and Afghanistan. How long they’d been in Indonesia varied from two to three years for most of the Iraqis, up to nine years for some of the Vietnamese who weren’t recognised as refugees. Thankfully, the IOM allowed everyone – asylum seeker and refugee children – to come along to classes, so the Vietnamese kids weren’t left out.
Although having the classes was a fantastic thing, life in Indonesia was still pretty tough. Because refugees only ever transit through Indonesia – even though it can sometimes be for a few years – they’re not allowed to work and children often don’t go to school. The IOM staff we met in Lombok seemed to be doing the best they could to help, but with around seven staff to look after all the needs of 200 or so people, there was only so much they could do.
Thankfully, most of the refugee families we met have now been given the chance to make a new home for themselves in other countries. There are still lots of refugees in other parts of Indonesia, and hopefully, if we have a chance to help them out again in future we will.
In the meantime, we wish the families we met in 2009 the very best for their new lives!
Lombok refugee kids
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