Two years ago, I travelled to Indonesia to learn about alternative methods of delivering education. Education – and its ability to empower – had captured my interest for a long time. From the high school teachers that instilled in me the confidence to pursue seemingly impossible dreams to the piano students I fondly watched grow up, I was convinced that education was the “way out” of a fettered life – and I wanted to be part of that liberation.
Armed with nobel intentions, I found myself at a school for underprivileged children on the outskirts of Yogyakarta. The classroom had no desks or chairs; only the stubborn curiosity of 30 children with an intense eagerness to learn.
I went to the school under the guise of a teaching internship, but the reality was that I learnt and gained so much more from being with the students than what I suspect they collectively gained from me. The people making a true difference were the dedicated teachers who gave up comfortable salaries to give these children a chance at a better life. I felt mostly like novelty.
I came home from Yogyakarta changed yet unchanged at the same time. If I am brutally honest with myself, I went to Indonesia for pretty selfish reasons. I wanted to understand the unfamiliar. I wanted to see a different corner of the world. I wanted to experience what life is like for impoverished communities, but with the reality that I can and will go back to a home in the developed world.
Sometimes I wonder what these kids would think if they could understand why foreign people come into their communities – only to disappear again. We eagerly thrust ourselves into exotic places seeking life changing experiences from the daily reality for millions – if not billions – of people. We flock to the developing world chasing this idea of self-actualisation, whilst so many around us struggle to meet the very basic of needs.
And so, in this strange way, we seek fulfilment from the unfulfilled, richness from the poor.