Sitting over three continental plates, Indonesia is one of the most volcanically active places on the planet. The tropical climate combined with the nutrient-rich soil which emerges from volcanic eruptions create the perfect environment for hosting the abundant wildlife and plants which call the Indonesian archipelago home.
In Java, the most densely populated island in Indonesia, you can visit the active volcanoes Mt Bromo, an out-of-this-world spectacle surrounded by a sea of sand, and Mt Ijen (ee-jen), which oozes electric blue fires atop a seducingly tranquil acidic lake. However, volcanoes are not the only thing that’s hot here. People mainly claim it’s the spicy food, but we’ll save that investigation until later. I spoke to some of the locals living in the city of Surabaya (which is only a day trip away from Mt Bromo and Ijen) and discovered some deeper issues which are causing much heat in Indonesia.
This is Mellisa, a current Indonesian AIESECer whose family has previously hosted Australians on exchange in Surabaya. In her local AIESEC chapter, she helps in the creation process of new projects and looks after incoming volunteers from around the globe. I had the chance to have a conversation with her about why AIESEC was relevant to Indonesia, and ended up learning a lot of new things which are worth sharing with you.
“Many people don’t know this, but Indonesia is a diverse country. There are over 300 ethnic groups which have sparked some political and social tensions. Sometimes it can seem like what we are proud of as a nation is also the source of negative stereotypes. But by simply getting to know someone who is different to you can be so eye-opening, and it makes me wonder why it’s so hard for all Indonesians to approach each other with an open mind.”
Behind each project is a story, and Melissa was happy to explain a bit more about the context to why they exist:
One of these projects, Winter Happiness, aims to help students throughout elementary and high school better understand different cultures and instill a refreshed perspective in viewing differences in others. Volunteers in this project also work with children with disabilities in these schools. Due to the lack of government funding, creativity and resourcefulness are important in running the schools.
“We make our own wheelchairs by refashioning old chairs and wheels which would have been thrown away. Volunteers from around the world teach English and share their cultures with the children, who often come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our team opened up a crowdfunding page and raised €400 which we proceeded completely to the school.”
The projects are designed to accomplish a stitch in the patchwork for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Whilst Winter Happiness works towards Quality Education, it has ripple effects LITE Project aims to promote understanding and social acceptance to those living with HIV. Young Indonesian blogger Amahl Azwar writes, “there is taboo on talking about HIV. There’s something about the word ‘HIV’ that makes people very nervous. One of the main reasons for this endemic is due to the ignorance towards it.”
A great misunderstanding is that HIV is not transmitted through touch alone – Princess Diana once said “HIV does not make people dangerous. You can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it.”
Indonesia is one of the largest emerging markets in the South-East Asia region. As the workforce and economy expand, the skills of the locals need to catch up.The Social Entrepreneurship project offered in Bandung allows volunteers to work with locals and villagers to build new business canvas models and to help train skills such as English communication and research and development. This project is aligned with SDG 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth.
Women in Indonesia are traditionally in domestic roles and are "comfortable with it". However, statistics show that 316,000 Indonesian women experienced domestic violence (source). Genital mutilation is at an alarming 49% for girls aged 0 to 11 years old (source). Women Empowerment project aims to give women a voice and challenge the current realities they face every day, both at home and in the workplace. It also aspires to inspire women to pursue further education and work. This project is aligned with SDG 5: Gender Equality.
There's a project for most of the SDGs in Indonesia, so make sure to check out what's available right now at aiesecaustralia.org/explore/indonesia, or contact us at email@example.com for more information.
Hard work in Indonesia is rewarded with the variety and affordability of the local cuisines. As promised, we investigated some of the mouth-watering menu items and street foods you definitely want to find yourself digging into when you’re visiting.
“My favourite dish is probably rawon,” says Melissa, her gaze softly drifts as she reminisces the dish, “it’s a famous dark beef soup that’s usually served with mung bean sprouts, salted duck egg, and sambal (chilli sauce).”
Beef rendang is a slow braised beef shank, marinaded in a mildly spicy paste made of lemongrass, lime, galangal (the south-east Asian cousin of ginger), and coconut milk. The flavoursome meat compliments rice dishes well.
Sate kelapa (coconut satay) is commonly prepared with beef or chicken with a coconut satay sauce, a variation of the peanut satay. The skewers are barbecued and served with chillies, beans, and soy sauce. There are many other types of satay which means that you have the chance to surprise your tastebuds with something new without venturing too far.
If you need a break from meat and are craving some vegetarian or vegan dishes, pecel is something worth trying. The vegetable salad base consists of cooked long beans, bean sprouts, cucumber, and cassava (aka tapioca, a root vegetable). It’s then drizzled with a homemade chili bean sauce or peanut sauce depending on your preference for spice.
There are plenty of tourists who seek Indonesia for the beaches and to take selfies in front of temples shrouded in jungle. But there’s something missing from the picture in the stories of your friends basking in the Bali sun and sand. Beyond the horizons of Bali is the rest of Indonesia, often underappreciated for what it beholds and misconceived by stereotypes and ignorance.
“Volunteers come and go, but the impact and changed perspective is long-lasting and clear,” remarks Melissa, whilst sharing with me her stories of the volunteers she meets.
Sometimes you don’t need to travel halfway around the world to change it. Sometimes it’s as easy as paying a purposeful visit to your neighbour.
To find your volunteering project in Indonesia, visit aiesecaustralia.org/explore/indonesia, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.