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By Ardiani Hanifa Audwina (YES 2014-2015, Indonesia, hosted by AFS USA in Batavia, IL)           

It has been more than four years since I returned to Indonesia after my YES year, but volunteering is still something that is very important to me. My YES exchange year in Northern Illinois introduced me to the joy of volunteering. I did more than 100 hours of community service during my year in the U.S., ranging from serving food in a homeless shelter to playing with disabled children to building houses for underprivileged families. This spirit of volunteerism is one that I try to keep strong now that I’ve returned to my home community.

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Reading is my favorite past time. I will read anytime, anywhere; but this sentiment is not shared by most youths in Indonesia. A study titled Most Literate Nation in the World from Central Connecticut State University found that Indonesia ranked 60th out of 61 surveyed countries in terms of reading interest. Beyond just the lack of interest, schools in Indonesia usually have poor libraries, and the price of books here is high, therefore young people don’t have easy access to books.

Most people acknowledge the importance of reading to improve their lives, yet most don’t get excited about reading. And most people who like to read only start to develop the interest in their university years. My project team and I realized that we needed to build reading interest in students while they’re still young. We applied for a YES alumni grant to implement a project to promote literacy and reading interest among youth in Bandung. We choose to do it in May 2019 because National Book Day is celebrated in Indonesia on May 17 every year. 

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The project started with volunteer recruitment in January. From around 80 applicants, we selected 25 volunteers to help with this project. After the team was built, we met to plan details, such as workbook content, event location, and guest speakers. We began publicizing the program in mid-April and found that online promotion through Instagram and Facebook ads was the best way to get the word out.

The project was composed of two workshops and one main seminar. The workshops were held on May 5 and 12 for middle and high school students. At the first workshop, students learned about the importance of literacy and intellectual rights, and in the second workshop, students learned about digital literacy, which is very important in the current digital era. Students were also given opportunities for hands-on learning through making posters and CVs using the website Canva and learning how to paraphrase text to avoid plagiarism. 

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The seminar, held on May 18, was open to the public. There were 200 participants registered, and we invited three guest speakers. Two of the speakers were YES alumni: Arry Khaminov (YES ’13) and Ayunda Nisa Chaira (YES ’15). The third speaker was Ivan Lanin, a public figure who promotes literacy in Indonesia. Ivan, also known as “the walking Indonesian dictionary,” talked about the importance of Indonesian language skills in the digital era. Ayunda shared her writing experience and encouraged seminar participants to start creating and writing, stressing that literacy is not simply about reading. Arry discussed the importance of digital literacy and how to be wise with internet use. At the end of the seminar, students who completed the best assignments were given prizes. Since the seminar was held during Ramadan, we concluded by breaking fast together. 

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Participants were very positive throughout the entire event, and we received excellent feedback. Our hope is that the participants will spread awareness so that more people will value literacy, and, hopefully, we can continue to hold this program every year. We’d like to thank the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Bina Antarbudaya Chapter Bandung, and all the speakers, volunteers, alumni, and participants involved in this project. Without their support, this event would not have succeeded. 


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November is the month of International Education Week! 

What have the people in your host community learned about your country? What have you learned about the U.S. that you didn’t know before?

Check out this month's story prompt at bit.ly/YESstorywriting and submit YOUR for International Education Week!

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