Friday, January 20, 2012

A School for Watambune: a 21st century school fund raising effort

Its been a while since my last post. Long Service Leave of 18 weeks has meant that I could completely refresh my mind, indulge in a lovely long holiday and visit places and people that inspired me to think differently and be a better person.
My travels took me to Sulawesi, an Indonesian island. In 2011 I connected three schools in a fund raising project, the "Watambune School Building Project". It was obvious to me, as we were building a brand new multimillion dollar school for our students, that we could do something for another community that needed a new school of their own. Of course a more modest set up, but I was keen to engage our kids in a fund raising effort to make the joy of a new school happen for another community while we were looking forward to our own brand new facility.
My own Principal, Michael Dunn was supportive and encouraged the effort and the wonderful Chris Rawlins Principal at ACG school in Jakarta was willing to participate, leading an effort in her own school which raised several thousand dollars. We already had established connections with our online Bear Exchange project which operates annually. Our third school was Red Hill Primary School and Principal Chris Hamilton, in Canberra. All three schools are PYP and saw the benefits in the global connection, the online collaboration and action that could occur for our students.
We met (online and face to face), talked, planned and made possible a student led fund raising effort to build a new school for a very needy community in central Sulawesi which is managed by the Salvation Army Education Korps. A late participant was the ACG English school in Auckland, whose students contributed money raised in an event at the school. Four schools across three countries made it a truly international effort.
The collaborative wiki kept us in touch, celebrated our successes and documented our journey to learn about the community and raise money to make this new school building a reality. Discussions on the wiki became useful forums for ideas by the students and teachers. Our Twitter hashtag #wsbp, announced milestones in the project. The wiki site tells the story, but suffice to say the effort put in by the students of all three schools was inspirational. We raised a total of AUD$34,000, exceeding our $25,000 goal and we now have a bit of a kitty to launch the next project, a boarding facility in Palu to accommodate 25 students who wish to continue to high school education.
In November a team, which included 2 teachers from ACG Jakarta, myself and other supporters visited the region and attended the Foundation Stone ceremony. Jaka the orangutan and star of our Bear Exchange was a fellow traveller and a huge hit with all the kids. A 3 hour journey - by car and when the road petered out, by motorbike into the mountains afforded us spectacular scenery and an exhilarating ride in a 35 bike convoy! The ceremony was a joyous occasion and the visit also a great opportunity to see how the students are fairing from the first school building project in near by Bambakanini (carried out in 2010 by QHHC and a UNICEF grant). The kids are happy (and now going to school regularly) - the village has a more settled feel and has become a growing community with access to electricity for the first time. During the visit we called in on several other schools at Tomodo and Dombu as well and delivered new stationery items, books and toys. It was lovely to meet the locals, teachers and kids. We have also uploaded slideshows and video footage of our trip to share with teachers, students and other supporters.
The ultimate goal of the project is to offer a quality education to the kids in these villages around Palu so they can enjoy, and benefit from, their learning which we hope will give them greater opportunities in life. As well as the new building, the school will be equipped with furniture and resources. Uniforms have already been provided which gives the students more of a sense of community and pride in going to school.
July will see the opening of the school. Teachers from all three schools will be attending as well as key people who have administered the effort from QHHC (Qantas Helping Hands Community) and the Salvation Army Education Korps, Palu. Video and photos, regular postings and tweets will connect the schools with the trip.
In the first half of this year we will be able to follow the building process with our Palu friends taking photos of each building stage when they visit the site. These will be uploaded to our wiki and engender discussion and comment from all our participants. Being able to follow the process in this way, engages our students with the effort and makes it very real to them - they can see the fruits of their labour through to completion.
I hope this has begun a more permanent relationship. There are plans for a village soccer gala during our stay in July, upcoming teacher training workshops and ongoing support with resources, equipment and clothing are also important contributions we can make. Our connections will grow and flourish and through our online presence we can watch the school build, find out about the students' progress and understand more what its like to be a child in rural central Sulawesi.

Projects such as this are a major team effort. As well as a big thank you to the Principals of all four schools that supported the effort - I also want to thank and acknowledge Marianne Doble and David Holmsen from Cranbrook School for their support and facilitation of our big events to raise money via the Cranbrook Cares Community. Michelle Eddy and Bianca Cheshire from ACG Jakarta who did a great job both at their school and on the visit in November and all the other teachers and students who participated across the schools. Also Janneman Usmany, Grace Nelwan and the team from Salvation Army, Palu for making our November trip so wonderful. And finally Brett South, who tirelessly works to make these projects happen, and the team from QHHC.


  1. Great writing, sunny. Yes, i'm the first reader (maybe) and the first comentator (absolutelly). Thank you for your support and effort to help my country. We'll waiting all of you.

  2. Thanks Alex, nice to see you online. Looking forward to seeing you again in July.