Each year, Indonesians studying at the National University of Singapore (NUS) take time to give back to their homeland. They call it their Misi Kami Peduli (MKP) – Mission We Care.
The elaborate undertaking involves months of fundraising and planning, followed by time spent on the ground in an area where they feel they can make a difference. For 2012, they chose Pemenang Timur and Tegal Maha in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.
"After several considerations, we decided to go to Lombok and asked for suggestions from the local institutions. From their suggestions, we decided to go to North Lombok," said Lim Vanessa Novelia Gunawan, 22, the project director.
From December 7th-14th, a group of 24 students descended on the villages, armed with concrete goals: providing clean water, improving farming techniques, and motivating local students to pursue higher education.
"We divided our team into two groups of 12. Each group was stationed for eight days," said Lim, one of several participants Khabar Southeast Asia interviewed in Jakarta or via email.
"We provided water pipes with a total length of 5km for Tegal Maja Village and 2.6 km for Pemenang Timur Village," she said.
"The pipeline was placed to deliver clean water directly to the two villages. During the course of our stay, we urged the villagers to install the donated pipes and checked on the water springs and distribution to the residential areas," she explained.
In the area of agriculture, the student group – known as the Indonesia Association of NUS, or PINUS – worked with local cashew plant farmers, especially with seeding.
"We brought simple equipment, and we gave five machines that peel the cashew seeds to each village. We conducted workshops on how to peel the seeds properly, as the seed contain harmful chemicals," she said.
The student volunteers also presented programmes in local schools, and donated notebooks, pencils, erasers, and pens to 1,750 students.
"We are teaching in elementary schools and junior high schools in the villages to encourage them and to motivate them to pursue higher education," she said.
A gift of time, money, and gratitude
It was the biggest care mission ever undertaken by PINUS, with a budget of Rp. 300m (S31,100), according to Lim. Students spent months scraping together funds to support the programme.
"We experienced some difficulties in securing funds for the project because we are based in Singapore, and we mainly looked for Indonesian sponsors. We identified three ways for fundraising: sponsorship, fundraising events and donation drives," said Adinda Mutiara Sabila, another mission participant.
"We also held an event named 'PINUS Sports Day' and 'PINUS Games Night' to gather donations from some of the Indonesian student in Singapore," added Adinda, 23.
Vice Project Director Stephanie Hardjo, 21, agreed.
"The preparation for Misi Kami Peduli 2012 began long before the new academic year started. We started to search for the targeted beneficiaries for this project in July 2012. As one of the initiators, I personally have to allocate some of my time to lead my team and manage the project," she said. The students said they found the experience uplifting.
"Personally, my main reason for joining MKP is to help others who are in need. It allows me to help my fellow Indonesians and hopefully improve the development of Indonesia," Lim told Khabar.
"I am grateful for this opportunity. After living in Singapore for six years, I finally can do something for my home country. It gets really easy to forget how lucky I am because of all the stress given by the academic requirements."
"As an Indonesian, I am grateful that I could contribute back to my country," Adinda added.