Taman Bacaan Pelangi runs children libraries all over remote areas in Indonesia’s overlooked east. The organization relies on dedicated local volunteers like Baco to run the facilities, while others travel to rotate books every few months. JG Photos/Monik Harahap

Library Rewrites the Future for Children

BY :MONIK HARAHAP

MARCH 20, 2015

The children on the island of Rinca, in East Nusa Tenggara, don’t flinch when a Komodo dragon decides to traipse through their village looking for lunch. But when a boat nears Rinca with boxes of children’s books, the kids come running down the rickety dock screaming. On Rinca, a 90-minute boat ride from Labuan Bajo, in the easternmost region of Flores, Komodo dragons are an everyday occurrence, like cats or chickens in other villages. But when volunteers from Taman Bacaan Pelangi, or Rainbow Reading Garden, drop by the sunkissed village with new books for the children’s library, there is reason to be excited. “The books are really important for the children,” explains Baco, the volunteer librarian, who makes his living as a fisherman. “The kids’ future is so much brighter with the books and the library here in the village.” Arriving at the village can be daunting. Remote villages lack many of the modern amenities we have come to take for granted. Toilets, running water and electricity are all rare and coveted, not to mention things like children’s books, colored pencils and notebooks.

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Baco is a dedicated man. When he is not out on the ocean, searching for the days’ catch, he is encouraging the children of the village to come and spend a few hours with their favorite books and stories. Baco, 36, arranges creative activities meant to keep the library enticing to the kids. A few of Baco’s favorite activities include reading and story-telling competitions.

Almost every day, the library is packed with children between the ages of 4 and 12. In a village with little access to electricity, the library is the local hangout for children. Most days, right after lunch and their afternoon chores — fetching firewood, fetching water from the well or helping their fathers mend fishing nets — the children make their way to the library.

Some children busy themselves reading, discussing pictures and far-away places. Others arrange the books on shelves, choosing which they want to read, while some kids play games and wait their turn at the book shelf.

Nila Tanzil, the founder of “Taman Bacaan Pelangi,” thinks the world of Baco. “Taman Bacaan Pelangi is grateful to have a volunteer like Pak Baco,” says Nila, who now has 29 children’s libraries across 14 islands in eastern Indonesia.  “He’s been managing the library on Rinca for the past five years and he dedicates every ounce of his spare time to the library and Pelangi activities. I wish we had more volunteers like him. He truly is a local champion.”

Baco dedicates some of the time he spends in the library to reading aloud to the children and talking about their favorite stories. Baco prefers folk tales. “I know I am getting older and it is hard to keep up with the children and to get them to sit and read for a while. But someone has to ... and there is a great joy to giving the kids the chance to read books and discover new worlds.”

In a few weeks, Baco’s oldest daughter, Rosni, will graduate from junior high school. Next year she will have to move to Labuan Bajo to attend high school. “I will support all my children and make sure they get a proper education,” said Baco. “Even if that means they have to move far away from me and the rest of the family.” Rosni dreams of being a teacher. “Beside that I want to improve my English and gain proper computer skills,” said Rosni, who is currently ranked top of her class. But Baco doesn’t just take care of the kids on Rinca. He treats “Taman Bacaan Pelangi” volunteers, who rotate the library’s books every few months, like family.

Baco insists on having volunteers stay for dinner, if only to show off his wife’s amazing cooking skills. Despite being far away from the big cities and buzzing metropolis, children in Rinca have the same dreams as all the children of Indonesia.

Sometimes they simply do not have access to the same books and opportunities. Luckily, people like Baco pour their heart and soul into making sure the children do not feel left behind.He’s been managing the library on Rinca for the past five years and he dedicates every ounce of his spare time to the library and Pelangi activites

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