I arrived at the village with my box of books this morning, assuming there would be no teachers still. I wasn't too sure what to do with the books. I just showed up and figured it would fall into place somehow.
The markets at Selpele Village always seem more lively than those at Salio. In part because they are held at the jetty, and that's where all the action is. And in part because few of the children attend school and instead fish from the jetty and run through the market filling the air with sounds of youth and play.
This morning was no different.
The jetty was full of kids when we arrived, and more came to the markets carrying bundles of bananas or buckets of chillies atop their heads.
Once trading got underway I set about seeing if I could interest the kids in some books, but, unlike the students at Salio Village, these children didn't seem that interested. Rather than shock and awe and excitement the general reaction was tentative. I don't know if the kids were unsure of me, unsure of the books, or unsure of the gift but no one was having it.
Like leaving milk out to tame a cat I put the books out on a table and left them there for the kids to look at as they were ready. Even then they were slow to approach and when they did they weren't at all inclined to reach out an enjoy the books.
I modeled turning pages. Still nothing.
Eventually one of the adults came over and I explained that I had these books to leave with the village but I was unsure what to do with them because the school had been closed for some time. I was informed that actually there was a teacher there now and promptly escorted, with the books, to see her.
At this point the children's interest was piqued and they formed quite a trail behind us as we made out way to the school. I figured the kids must just have been shy and had taken a while to warm up. The experience stayed strange, though.
None of the children that followed us down entered the school building. Inside, there seemed to be only two students attending class. Why, I have no idea.
The teacher was formal in her thanks and I asked what else she needed for the children. She made a request for teaching aids (like markers and wall charts) and school uniforms for the students. She asked if I would come back and spend time with the children next time I visited and then she ferreted the books away to the library and I was left wondering what had happened.
I returned to the markets confused and somewhat deflated - wondering why so many students still aren't attending classes and wondering how best to fill their needs. And then, slowly, I started to see children coming to their mothers at the jetty clutching, with great pride, goody bags full of the notebooks and pencils I had taken to the school. I reminded myself at that point that it was my first time communicating with a teacher at Selpele Village, and to not to compare it to Salio with whom I've been developing a relationship with for the past 12 or so months.
My intention when I began this project was not to fill Raja Ampat with books, it was to fill a need that one school had. I would like to be able to provide books for other villages, but I was reminded today that every village, school and teacher has different needs and that communicating with the communities I am helping to ensure that those needs are being met is what is important.
So. How did the day finish? Pretty well. I hung out at the markets eating jambus that I bought from one of the local kids who has the biggest smile you've ever seen. I left the books with the teacher for her to look at and use and I have made arrangements to return next month, spend some time with the kids, take some teaching resources to her, and talk about how useful the first box of books have been and what she needs more of.
All in all, I count it as a success. We have a second village that we are able to help with resources that they don't currently have.
Keep scrolling to see some photos from the day...
|Approaching Selpele Village|
|View from the jetty|
|View from the jetty|
|Jambus for sale - this is not the kid with the biggest smile you've ever seen!|
|Following the books to the school|
|Kids + Books, outside the school|
|Selepele Village School|
|Kids + Books|