Posted by: viaprograms | March 15, 2011

Volunteering in Jakarta

This week VIA volunteer, Jenny Schuch, writes about her experiences working at a non-profit in Jakarta, Indonesia and her thoughts on civil society.

Volunteering with an NGO in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, has offered me the unique opportunity to experience an incredible hub of activity.  Nevertheless, it is on work trips to the field where I get to see real communities tackling real issues related to democracy, governance, and human rights.  This last weekend I traveled with my coworkers from Tifa’s Governance and Democracy Program to visit several of our partner organizations in Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra, a region with a history of conflict and now facing governance and corruption challenges of regional autonomy.

Such field visits are used to monitor the progress of civil society work and discuss how to strengthen or expand our partners’ efforts.  This particular trip was also used to brainstorm methods for strengthening democracy in Aceh during the upcoming local elections.  Over the course of our three day visit we met with a group of Islamic leaders, anti-corruption activists, political activists, and the staff of a school for democracy training.  Taking the opportunity to learn a little more about the local culture, we also enjoyed trying mie Aceh (Acehnese noodles), lontong Aceh for breakfast (rice cakes with coconut curry), and drank copious amounts of the uniquely brewed coffee for which Aceh is famous.

I have passed through Aceh on vacation once before, but I’m so happy with the insights and friendships I made with locals there this time and am impressed by their commitment to strengthening democracy.

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