The children giggled when Kancil leaped into sight to prance around the stage with a little girl named Raya. Familiar with the predictable misadventures of the mischievous mouse-deer, the young audience members eagerly watched for more of the character’s high jinks.
What proceeded to happen on stage, however, had the children puzzled: Kancil stole a legendary cucumber called Timun Mas, which was not part of the original tale. Even more perplexing, Raya and Kancil then stumbled upon Malin Kundang, a character from another childhood folklore who turned into stone.
But instead of protesting, the audience remained captivated by the fragments of folklore comedy-dramas combined into one play called, “Trip to Wonderland,” written by Sundea Salamatahari.
With the help of volunteers from the non-profit group Indorelawan, the amalgamation of traditional tales came to life through the efforts of Aku Bantu: Reading Garden in Jakarta on Saturday. Aku Bantu, which stands for Anak Kreatif Untuk Baca dan Tulis (Reading and Writing for a Creative Child), aims to nurture children’s innate love for stories and storytelling through literature.
“I wasn’t so sure [about the play] at first because I’ve only written one children’s book. I’ve never written a script,” Sundea said, adding that the uncharted territory had initially made her nervous.
“But [the project] just felt right,” said the author.
Tommy Sinaga, who works full-time as a social media expert in an advertising agency was proud of his involvement.
“Indorelawan announced this project in their newsletter, which I subscribe to,” said Tommy who played the role of a farmer. “I’ve longed to do volunteer work with children; I immediately signed up!”
Tommy’s enthusiasm convinced his friends to join the project, despite their full-time working schedule.
Playing the leading role of Raya, is Dwi Angelina, a student of the National Development University (UPN). She confessed she had no experience in acting, but was eager to be a part of this project.
“I’ve never done acting before, so it was kind of nerve-wrecking,” Dwi said. “But I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to volunteer in something so different.”
Partnering with McKinsey’s Young Leaders for Indonesia (YLI), Indorelawan has expanded its volunteering projects to other cities, including Wonosobo (Central Java), Yogyakarta, Palembang (South Sumatra), Bandung (West Java) and Makassar (South Sulawesi).
Meanwhile, Indorelawan volunteer Ario Bimo Utomo chose to focus his efforts on elementary to high school students living in rural areas by introducing them to current economic issues, namely the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s Economic Community, with the hopes their new found knowledge may help them make more informed choices in university and the workforce.
With the help of the Gadjah Mada University’s (UGM) student organization Future Leaders Party (FLP) Ario established a volunteering project to “bring Asean closer to the heart of Java,” the UGM student said.
Little did Ario know, his proposal for bringing the concept of globalization to Indonesia’s rural areas was the answer to a current problem faced by the citizen of Wonosobo, whose Tlogo state elementary school lacked teachers fluent and qualified enough to teach its students English.
The English classes became part of Ario’s first project with Indorelawan.
“This program is so helpful for us because we had no English teachers available in this region to conduct the classes,” said Turoji, the elementary school’s principal. He also commended the volunteers for their passion and enthusiasm, which helped boost the students’ motivation in learning.
Other Indorelawan projects include its collaboration with Save Street Children (SSC) and the Reading Room which invited Palembang’s street children to a festive celebration of Indonesia’s Independence Day with games and treats.
Indorelawan sees a high demand for volunteerism in Indonesia but the most common problem the organization faces is commitment, said Indorelawan director Dhika Sadjad. Therefore, some of their volunteering drives allow for one-time participation, especially for those new to the non-profit effort.
“We’re hoping that with a taste of volunteerism in some of our drives, people will continue to commit to us, our partnered organizations or other volunteering initiatives,” Dhika said.