By Anne Scott,
Vice President of Global Programs
Here at last! I left the United States on Wednesday morning, and by Saturday morning, after too many hours in the air, I arrived in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Then I went on a seven-hour drive, up a winding road into the mountain district of Bener Merieh. An additional 4 kilometers by dirt track leads us up to the village of Pancar di Lombok, which sits on the high mountain top at about 8,000 feet above sea level.
In the dirt front yard of a simple wooden house surrounded by colorful fruit trees and coffee plants, with oxen tied to a nearby fence and chickens running about, about 20 village children are gathered, singing and laughing and playing games.
Parents and grandparents are happily watching their enjoyment. For a long time, before 2006, children could not come out to play or go to school. Due to conflict in this area of Aceh, they were confined to their homes. Day-by-day they lost opportunities to learn how to communicate their needs and ideas, explore their world, gain knowledge and make friends.
The children gathered today in Pancar di Lombok are recapturing lost time through structured play. Guided by their facilitator Kemalawati, the children play games and sing rhyming songs that build physical coordination, literacy and numeracy skills, memory recall, and a sense of belonging with fellow playmates. Tapping his toes and snapping his fingers to the beat of an introducing song, 6-year-old Ari takes his turn in the children’s circle to shout out with confidence, “Namanya saya Ari!” (“My name is Ari!”)
In this area of Banda Aceh, ChildFund International is working in 33 villages like Pancar di Lombok, helping children and communities to rebuild after the end of the long conflict. The ChildFund team has trained village community facilitators such as Kemalawati in how to engage and teach children through structured play. Kemalawati’s ability and enthusiasm, and the obvious affection that the children have for her, demonstrate that the ChildFund team has succeeded in its task.
The facilitators work with the children for two hours after school each week day. This activity is part of a larger project to rebuild communities like Pancar di Lombok. The ChildFund team is also helping to strengthen school curricula and bolster families’ incomes.
I’m coming down from the mountain now, feeling good about the difference that ChildFund is making in the lives of children affected by conflict in Aceh.
Anne Scott joined ChildFund International in August 2008 as vice president of Global Programs.