Six months after the original Earthaware project on Bintan Island, Indonesia back in November of 2011, I am back for teaching at four community centers and to work with the staff of The Island Foundation (TIF) developing curriculum for the next year of classes. A quick recap of what is happening here: Bintan is an hour ferry ride south east of Singapore. About a decade ago rampant luxury resort development on the north side of Bintan island resulted in the forcible relocation of indigenous people to areas not within sight of the tourists and resorts. This included both land based natives and the ocean living "Orang-Laut" (translated as People-Ocean, similar to Orangoutang meaning People-Forest). The sight of these gentle people in their home made boats off shore from the resort beaches was deemed unsightly by the resort owners. As a result the Oran-laut were driven from the waters they had fished and lived on for longer than written record. The relocation landed them on the eastern side of the island. In support of these people and to preserve their rich cultural heritage TIF has setup community learning centers in seven of the refugee villages created as relocation points. The centers are individually staffed by locals trained by TIF, they teach skills for the new life forced upon the people. There are day, after school and adult classes in language, computer skills, world awareness and life strategy. All classes are offered free of charge. TIF exists as a NGO on donations mostly from Singapore donors.
The Earthaware program offered on Bintan inserts a bit of extra fun into the kids curriculum offered by TIF. We first take the kids out to the nearby beaches or into the jungle and selectively harvest sticks, branches and useful waste materials as fodder for making sculptures. The topic of the making is usually animals of either the ocean or the forest (last time the marine manatee called a Dugong, this time stingrays and octopii). As we make our creatures we talk about the environment and the impacts and appropriateness of the materials we have found to build with. Then we create stories and names for the creatures and put them to song. The process generally takes 6-8 hours over two days per location.
This simple video covers that activity of the June visit location by location.
The Earthaware contribution has been to bring programs for greater awareness of the environment, the effect each human has on the environment and methods to reduce negative impacts on the environment. After six sessions with from 13 to over 50 kids at different community centers and schools during two visits to Bintan we have seen memory and changed behavior formed in the kids about the experience and the messages imbedded in the teachings. With this proven success TIF has asked for greater involvement by Earthaware. We spent the last two days of the June 2012 visit with the teachers from each community writing curriculum and sequential learning experiences that build upon each other for greater awareness of Earth and Ocean and the elements of human interface that enhance or damage each.
Perhaps the most impactful and future oriented result of the sharing sessions was our ideation of BLUE CAMP, a workshop platform for visitors to visit Bintan, spend time both learning from and teaching the locals about the variables of this amazing place and its importance to Indonesia, Asia and the planet. We expect to be back in 2013 for more Earthaware and Bluecamp events.