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2016 June – July • Volunteering at Peace Place – Felicitas Zschoche from Germany

Feliz Zschoche, whose first language is German, was gracious enough to write a report for us about her experience as a volunteer at Peace Place.

Introduction

My name is Felicitas Zschoche and I am 25 years old. I recently graduated with a degree in psychology. My spirit animal is a dove, the sign of peace. Coming from a very unconventional family background, I have very creative parents, which shaped me to be open-minded all my life. I grew up in a multicultural metropolis (Berlin) as well as in the countryside. Due to my psychology study I have lived in two small towns in Germany, and also in Finland and in Melbourne, Australia. While I was hitch hiking in Australia I was looking for voluntary work and found a flyer about AVP workshops at a Library in Broome. Immediately, I was fascinated. It took a few phone calls and my contact details were forwarded to Nadine Hoover, the coordinator of Friends Peace Teams Asia West Pacific. She suggested I go to Pati and here I am.

My aim was to become an AVP facilitator and to learn about the peace process in Pati. Previous to my arrival, I didn’t expect anything and I could not imagine the workshop dynamics and effects. I was surprised about the effects of the approach: the peaceful and safe atmosphere Nanik and Petrus create, and the positive effects of focussing on the goodness of oneself and the others.

In total, I learned a lot during my last two months in Pati. I learned about how to build peace, I learned about the Indonesian culture, I learned a lot about myself.

 

Paud Joglo Preschool

At the preschool I was mostly observing the first weeks. I got to know the three teachers, Bu Laras, Bu Erni and Bu Ninok and the children. During free play I accompanied the children and taught them counting in English or just played with them. It was a little bit hard to establish a good relationship with them as my Indonesian was limited, but often you don’t need many words to make yourself understandable. On the second day I spontaneously worked with the oldest age group as Bu Ninok was not there. I taught the kids the English names of animals, vegetables and fruits. We practiced the new learned vocabulary with the game”Di mana … ’CAT’?” (Where is the cat?). It was a lot of fun.

         

In the second month, I started to create ideas for teaching the children about their environment and to focused on that topic for one full week. I was really passionate about it. I started to tell them about the bad effects of plastic, the origins and what behaviours are environmentally friendly and which are harmful to our environment and therefore for us too. Nanik translated in Indonesian and I always made every fact visible by drawing simple pictures and cartoons to help them understand the topic. After teaching the theory, I had few ideas of how to make the behaviour visible and valuable in daily life. We first started with reusing plastic bottles as planting pots. The children really enjoyed the garden work and loved their own little chili plant.

Next activity was a street clean up. Some of the children got plastic bags to collect the plastic garbage next to the streets together.

It turned out to be a really great day as the children have been absolutely focused, passionate and wanted to collect every single plastic item. Another activity was to colour cotton bags for their parents to take to the food markets and to replace the use of plastic bags.

Furthermore, I started a cooperation with Green Book, which are based in Bali. With their help we will fundraise a ‘green’ library, so the children can read books about different environmental topics to fulfil their thirst for more ‘green’ knowledge.

Another special experience at Joglo Preschool was to accompany two children with special needs, one is almost deaf and the other with Down Syndrome. Both do not speak. It is very interesting to see how they are integrated in the groups and daily routines, how they build friendships and take care of each other.

At the end of the semester, shortly before Ramadan started, we did a little educational field trip with them and introduced them to the farmer’s life and struggles. We visited an owl breeding farm where they use owls to fight the local mice plague. While some of the kids were super excited to touch the owl, others were more hesitant. Afterwards we let them plant their own tomato plant at a local plant nursery. The kids have been amazed by their own little plant.

After returning from a family trip to Jogjakarta, we bought the traditional Indonesian music instrument Angklug at a bamboo market. On Monday, every child got assigned one piece of it, representing a certain note. According to the melody every child had to pay attention to take his turn and when to be silent because others are playing. Of course, it was most fun when all could play loudly together in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The daily structure of the preschool is adopted from AVP workshops, such as the gathering, silence, remembering and closing.

 

Afternoon English classes

The English classes take place twice a week. Often we just talk in English with each other about hobbies, wishes, the future, what we like and playing AVP “light and lively” games. If they need extra time for exam preparation or a lot of homework, Nanik is focussing on that.

Once, I taught our kids from the English afternoon class what resource is used to make plastic, the production cycle from oil to all the plastic things around us (fan, glasses, chair, cutlery, etc.) and most importantly where the plastic ends up. I was really passionated about telling them the difference between the biological degradation of an apple and that the plastic bottle will be still on earth after we all died and that the non-degradable micro plastic kills our fish and other animals in the ocean. After watching a short 4-minute educational video, I asked them to paint what they learned, found sad or most interesting. It feels so good to educate the future generation about their environment and to raise environmental awareness, especially in a country where environmental pollution can be found every day next to the streets, on the beach or in the jungle. I enjoyed teaching them about the three R’s – reduce, recycle and reuse and what concrete behavioural changes and solutions there are.

 

AVP workshops

My first AVP workshop I could attend was with Muslim school kids in Tundomolyo. Nanik and Petrus were running a Basic AVP Workshop with Pak Sunhadi, who is the school director and a Muslim leader in his village, Tundomulyo. He is hoping that not only his school kids, but teachers, parents and the youth will experience the AVP workshops soon, too. This time the Basic Youth Workshop was done with school kids aged nine to thirteen years. Only the first session of the Basic Workshop was used to better get to know each other. This was necessary although these kids already attended a previous AVP workshop three month ago. This time new activities like the ’concentric circle’ (to break down barriers by getting people talking to each other) and the ’two chairs’ (feeling the differences between being a volunteer or being encouraged) were used. With a lot of Light & Lively games, a relaxed atmosphere with lots of laughter could be established easily. It was nice to see that the kids opened up in the concentric circle and were more brave to speak with each other than last time, as well as in front of the group. In comparison to the last time the children additionally were ok to sit in mixed gender groups (which is not common in Islam in this area), were able to make eye contact and better accepted all group members.

One of the overall goals of the workshop was to address the gender inequality by letting them experience gender equality during the workshop. While working on known problems, new problems showed up, especially when the girls painted self affirmation pictures, but were drawing their moms, explaining they cannot do anything without their mom. For the next workshop, we want them to learn to be responsible and take initiatives for the group, as well as bringing them closer together, in order to build a stronger connection between them.

One month later, Petrus, Nanik and Sunhadi were runnning a two-day workshop with the children. This time an American family, who were staying for five weeks at Peace Place, attended too. It has been amazing how brave the children were to speak out loud and how relaxed the atmosphere was. Games like broken squares where you are not allowed to communicate verbally were very effective to learn how to trust in the group and to see the overall group goal.

Another great experience was an AVP workshop at a church in Ketanggan. Gloria, Petrus’ niece, and her husband Bowo, the pastor, are both working at this church. Petrus and Nanik are always trying to make their town and region as peaceful as possible. Therefore, they are not only running Peace Trainings at schools, farmer villages, Muslim communities, but churches too. This time, we attended a three hour workshop with a Mennonite congregation. The AVP basic workshop highlights the goodness in everyone. Through affirmation activities and playful games everyone got to know each other and quickly build a safe atmosphere within the community. The congregants played name games and took part in icebreakers and group-building activities. It was satisfying in spite of the language barrier to be able to connect on a human level through humour and physical interaction. The workshop was successful as they want to continue with the Peace Training.

 

Experiencing the Muslim culture

While I was living in Pati, I experienced the holy month of Ramadan. I decided to join the fasting, even though Nanik and Petrus are not fasting as they are Christians, same as me. But I wanted to immerse into the predominant culture. Once I started fasting I appreciated the daily prayers over the speakers, which are really loud. I managed not to drink or eat for three days from sunrise to sunset. Due to the climate and the huge amounts of water I need, after the first three days I continued not to eat from sunrise to sunset. It has been an amazing experience.

Nanik arranged for me to live with at the Muslim house of two of our preschool kids. I was amazed to hear about this idea. Finally, Bu Eli the mom of the family agreed and I could stay over for one weekend at their family house. It was a very special experience. It was my first time eating Sahur at night with the family and wearing a hijab. I was speaking in Indonesian about religion and could further practice my Indonesian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day Bu Eli took me to the mosque. We did the ritual washing beforehand and afterwards I was wearing the typical praying clothes while following the praying moves. Even though I did not know what she was praying, it was a very special experience for me. But I also was aware of not worshiping a different god than the one I believe in. Experiencing the restriction of water and food intake, makes these goods more valuable, makes me grateful for what I have and how they are as easily taken as given.

Another great experience was the invitation to the local mosque of the village leader of Muktihajo, Pati (where Peace Place is located). He took me to the mosque, where they were reading the Al Qur’an over speakers. It was really interesting to see what was happening, what you just could hear very loudly five times a day before. During Ramadan Muslims read the Al Qur’an twice over speakers. A group of readers is sitting together for two hours, sharing the parts which need to be read. To me it sounded like an Arabic song, which they sang. Petrus explained that a previous president said that Allah cannot hear the prayers in silence, so it is better to do it over speakers and which has not been changed since then. At the mosque it was very important to the group I met there to make me understand that Islam is not about terrorism. Almost everyone was repeating this fact twice. They were very welcoming and I enjoyed their openness.

Fira, a girl from the English classes invited me to spend Idul Fitri with her family. I was very excited about this. It was a great chance to experience this special Muslim day with her family which can be compared to Christmas in my culture.

Furthermore, I lived with Sunhadi’s family in Tundomolyo for few days to get to know the Muslim culture in their village even better.

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Petrus’ work

Petrus is involved in many different local projects. One example is his mediating work between two farmer groups who are rejecting a local cement factory, which limits the local water resources and destroys the landscape the local farmers depend on. The cement factory is supported by the Indonesian government and financed by German investors. The local farmers split apart because some of them are accepting the CSR investments and some others not. One of the major groups who are most negatively effected are the Sikep farmers.

Petrus’ connections and friendship with the Sikep community allowed me an insight into this unique traditional Javanese lifestyle and beliefs. They understand themselves only as farmers and appreciate the simple life. They follow their own unique religion, called “Agama Adam”. I visited the Sikep community twice. First time, they explained to me their struggles and we visited the sites where the cement factory buildings are planned. The second time, we arrived at the community’s own school building. The teacher explained about their culture. The Sikep community does not send their children to government based schools. Even homeschooling has not been practiced before as the process of learning is understood on a voluntary basis and a desire to know only what is needed as a farmer. Nevertheless, since 1993 Sikep members accompany their children, who voluntarily gather together to learn writing and reading. Other than this special learning approach, the Sikep community follows a set of rules, which are especially important to them, such as no feelings of envy, jealousy, anger, and desire. Behaviour such as accusing and stealing are strictly forbidden. Even though marriages are built on love and only happen within the community, the doors were open for a newcomer to visit.

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Family life

Living with Petrus and Nanik is a real pleasure. They are such a kind, generous and caring couple. I instantly felt welcomed at their home from the safe and peaceful atmosphere they not only create in their workshops, but at their home too. I feel absolutely blessed to share this part of my life and this amazing experience with them.

Over the last two months they really integrated me into their family life. They introduced me to their family and friends and took me to all their special family events like a traditional Javanese wedding in Jogjakarta, a Muslim funeral of an aunt, to the concert of their son’s graduation and whenever there was a special or routine family gathering. I always felt comfortable and loved to be so close to their culture and social life.

During my stay an American family of four visited Peace Place. This was a special time filled with lots of additional activities like a picnic at the nearest lake, visiting the traditional market place and more. The youngest daughter played the violin and could join Tito (Nanik’s and Petrus’ youngest son) playing the violin too. When Wiwit was at home we sometimes were singing Indonesian songs and Wiwit accompanied us with his guitar.