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18 June 2024

Two Navitas teachers visit Classroom of Hope

Two Navitas teachers were selected by Scott Jones to represent Navitas in Lombok, visiting a primary school supported by NET partner Classroom of Hope.

In April this year, Shelley Barons, English Trainer & Assessor, Navitas Skilled Futures (Liverpool) and Sheera Lee, AMEP Trainer and Assessor, Navitas Skilled Futures (Canberra/Bankstown) had the opportunity to visit a remote region of Northern Lombok. There, they joined the opening celebrations for two new school classrooms built from sustainable, earthquake-proof bricks, supported by Classroom of Hope, the NET, and essential local partnerships.

Reflections from Sheera

Hiking through the North Lombok’s humid jungle to witness an educational transformation by Navitas and Classroom of Hope deeply impacted me. Reflecting on the journey, I gained insights into corporate responsibility, education, innovation, and community support accompanied by my colleague, Shelley, whose presence enriched the experience.

Upon arrival at the school, I was struck by the stark contrast between the old, weather-beaten classrooms and the two new, innovative structures taking shape alongside them. The use of ‘Lego’ blocks made from recycled plastics was particularly inspiring. Not only were these blocks environmentally friendly, but they also provided a level of safety and stability that was crucial in a region prone to earthquakes. Additionally, meeting the remarkable individuals from Classroom of Hope, dedicated to constructing sustainable schools using upcycled materials, added another layer of inspiration to the experience.

One of the most powerful realisations came when I learned about the role of community support in making this project a reality. While Navitas’ funding was crucial, the project would not have been possible without the collective effort of volunteers and the wider community. Hearing stories of the community’s input, from constructing rudimentary pathways to creatively transporting blocks on motorbikes, underscored the invaluable contributions of each individual toward the project’s success.

Meeting the teachers and children was undoubtedly the visit’s highlight. Despite the challenges they faced, their infectious smiles and warmth were truly uplifting. Teaching impromptu English classes in the new classrooms allowed me to witness firsthand the thirst for knowledge and the potential for growth within each child. Moreover, I was thrilled to immerse myself in learning Bahasa Indonesia while delivering the lessons, which served as a powerful reminder that language should never be a barrier to learning and connection.

In conclusion, this experience has left me deeply grateful – to Navitas and Classroom of Hope for their dedication, to the resilient community for their warmth, to the children for showing me the impact of education, and to my colleague Shelley for sharing this journey with me. While my grasp of the project may be limited, it reinforced my belief in education as the cornerstone for societal advancement and individual growth. Looking ahead, I aim to broaden my understanding and participate in similar initiatives, thus enhancing the transformative impact of education for a brighter tomorrow.

Reflections from Shelley

I was honoured and excited to be selected to visit Lombok, Indonesia, to meet our partners at Classroom of Hope, and we managed to fit so many amazing, unique experiences into just five days!

Early Sunday morning we flew to Bali then continued on to Lombok, meeting our Classroom of Hope contacts along the way – Cofounder Nicola, CEO Tanya and Programs Manager Rachael. It was awe-inspiring hearing the stories of how these incredible women became involved in the project – arriving in Lombok on holidays, volunteering for week, then many years later still there, building schools and changing lives! Our purpose in Lombok was to attend the official opening of two new classrooms at a remote primary school, SDN 7 Jenggala, built by Classroom of Hope to replace buildings destroyed by an earthquake in 2018.

The two-hour journey from Lombok airport to our hotel was like driving into another world. The busy motorway gave way to narrow roads lined with verdant jungle vegetation and roughly constructed shopfronts and houses. Picturesque mosques and temples, white with brightly coloured minarets, dotted the landscape. We wound our way down a mountain, through teeming rain, our driver skilfully dodging monkeys, dogs, wedding processions and a constant stream of motorbikes! We arrived at out hotel just in time to watch the stunning sunset over the ocean and ate a delicious dinner of nasi goreng at the waterfront restaurant.

On Monday morning I was awoken at 5am by the soulful call to prayer from the local mosque, closely followed by a rooster crowing – definitely not the sounds of home! Our driver arrived at 8am to drive took us to the school, through rural scenery of lush green rice paddies with farmers pushing manual harvesting equipment, and up into more remote villages, with traditional-style houses dotted throughout the dense foliage. Dogs and chickens wandered across the roads, villagers went about their daily lives, and of course there was still the endless stream of motorbikes.

We parked and met the rest of our entourage – Jeffry, Satria and Rangga from Happy Hearts Indonesia (another charity involved in building the classrooms) and our photographer and videographer. We then had a half-hour hike to the school, through the jungle, in the heat, navigating extremely steep inclines and slippery declines. We’d been warned that sturdy walking shoes and a certain level of fitness were required, both definitely true! It was hard work, but the scenery was stunning: a babbling river, hills of palm trees, small clusters of colourful houses, and halfway up, an impressive Buddhist temple.

Finally we reached the school, puffing, drenched, and feeling less than glamorous as the photographers started clicking away! The whole school community was there, eagerly awaiting our arrival. We got a real movie-star welcome, students presenting us with garlands of fragrant frangipani flowers, fresh coconuts and delicious uwi fries. We were treated to dance and choir performances and speeches thanking Navitas for our support. No-one spoke any English, so Rachael and Jeffry translated for us. Sheera and I had the honour of cutting the ribbons to officially open the new classrooms, then christened them with an impromptu English lesson – greetings and numbers – which the students joined in enthusiastically.

Tuesday was our teaching day, which meant another hike up (and back down) the mountain! The children were ready and waiting for us when we arrived. There are six classes in the school, with around 60 students altogether. In my class there were 20 students, and we had a great time learning English words for family members, animals and body parts. We sang “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, doing the actions and getting faster and faster! The boys tended to be more adventurous in volunteering answers, and the girls showed off beautiful handwriting and artwork. They were all excited to be given sparkly stickers and Chupa-Chups!

The block classrooms are an incredible innovation, introduced by CoH founders Nicola and Duncan. Made of 100% recycled plastic bricks – exactly like big Lego blocks – the classrooms are durable and earthquake proof, they look stylish and modern, and inside are surprising cool and airy. We were fortunate to visit the Block Solutions factory in Mataram, to see the bricks being made. The Classroom of Hope team are currently planning a waste management education program, that will hopefully see Lombok being able to use local plastic waste – the sheer volume of which is shockingly evident no matter where you go on the island – for future block production.

There was so much more to our Lombok adventure – snorkelling in the Gili islands, seeing turtles and being stung by jellyfish; visiting spectacular beaches, an ancient Hindu temple, and a traditional village where we attempted to spin cotton and weave a sarong; and hearing stories of the work being done by these amazing people in Lombok. But the highlight was our two days at SDN 7 Jenggala. There was such a feeling of gratitude, contentment and harmony in the school. There was nothing in the way of material resources or technology, yet the students were engaged and enthusiastic and clearly had great respect and affection for their teachers. I felt humbled and incredibly lucky to be there representing Navitas.

We would like to extend a huge thank you to the Classroom of Hope team who welcomed our teachers to Lombok: Nicola Courtin, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Tanya Armstrong, CEO, and Rachael Conroy, Programs Manager. We also thank SDN 7 Jenggala and the surrounding community for their warm welcome and for sharing their incredible commitment to securing safe and sustainable education for their young and future generations.

Visit the Classroom of Hope website to learn more. 

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