Forging connections in remote Indonesia

by Samantha Cunnington  CERES Global intern

My heart is up in the clouds, my mind is eager, and my eyes are wide open.  Regardless of how cliché it may seem I truly have had the time of my life. I could paint paragraphs of the beauty we experienced in every single location throughout the tour however I would like to focus on my personal favourite, the beautiful Sembalun.

I would like to point out how eternally grateful I am for Victoria University, Ceres Global and New Colombo Plan to have received this opportunity to attend the Indonesian study tour.

Prior to arriving in Sembalun my expectations and knowledge of the village were limited. I was aware the village was impacted from the Lombok earthquake’s last year, but I couldn’t comprehend the severity of devastation the community experienced as a result. Speaking out of ignorance I was anxious to visit after being briefed on the wreckage by our facilitators. Not only was I anxious about witnessing poverty firsthand but I was also ambivalent about how we would be treated by the locals.

My perception couldn’t have been further from the truth.

On day one we gathered in a communal space and were welcomed with open arms by numerous Community Development Centre (CDC Sembalun) members. My heart was crushed after listening to the members speak about the challenges the Sembalun community is facing in terms of attracting tourism, marketing and combating pollution after the aforementioned earthquakes. Aside from the crisis the community is facing I remember the following words being spoken “Everything will be okay as long as you keep a smile on your face”. Spoken from someone who essentially lost everything, the words are extremely inspiring and speak volumes about the strength of the individuals within the community.

I will hold this beautiful sentiment close to my heart for the rest of my life, as a reminder to forever and always be grateful.

Throughout the time we spent at Lembah Rinjani Villa and Resto, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work alongside two different groups. Firstly, I had involvement in the women’s group. The local women are such gentle souls with exceptional talent across several fields such as cooking, sewing and jewelry making. Together we brainstormed many ways in which we could promote their businesses such as branding and marketing strategies. I left the group feeling satisfied we had made a positive impact not only on these women’s businesses but also on inflating their personal confidence and self-worth.

Secondly, I had the opportunity to work with the waste management group. My group worked closely with Iwan (a CDC member) brainstorming realistic strategies on how to directly reduce plastic waste within the community through the use of ‘eco bricks’. An eco brick is a plastic bottle packed with clean and dry, non-biodegradable waste to a set density to create a reusable building block.  Once complete eco bricks can be used to build furniture, garden spaces, full-scale buildings or simply used as decorations. We fundraised money within our study group and built a solid foundation for Iwan to continue to educate and share his knowledge with the rest of the community via eco brick workshops. I hope to be able to continue assisting on this project from Australia.

To top it all off Sembalun is unbelievably scenic. Witnessing the breathtaking mountainous panoramas as we strolled through the local farms was an amazing highlight. Another highlight was the hike we did up Pergasingan Hill. Camping 1700m above sea level was an experience unlike any other and witnessing the sunrise from the hill was the definite cherry on top.

My experience in Sembalun has opened my eyes to traveling in a way I didn’t think was possible. I believe this tour has shaped me into a better person. I left the community with such a heavy heart and will cherish the memories for the rest of my life. I will be forever grateful for the special connections and friendships I made on this journey.

By | 2019-07-17T17:33:03+00:00 July 17th, 2019|CERES Global, Indonesia|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Bazz July 26, 2019 at 12:55 am - Reply

    What a beautiful reminiscence Sam, of what was clearly a wonderfully enlightening and valuable experience for all you touched. May your impact and memories endure for many many years.

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