In this day and age, the progress of a community is often seen by how modern they are. Many aspects of cultural traditions and communal activities are left behind in favor of the hustle and bustle of city life. However, with a nation as diverse as Indonesia, it would be a waste to overlook their unique potentials like that. Our partner organization Omah Sinau in East Java proves that it is indeed possible to go forth without having to go urban.

Surrounded by lush greens and mountainous backdrop in Lumajang, Omah Sinau prides themselves on being close to nature. It is the home of scenic natural landmarks such as the Tumpak Sewu waterfall and merely 5 miles away from the famous Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. Suddenly, morning walks take on a new meaning as exciting treks that lead to picturesque caverns right on our backyard!

Volunteers Lisa, Lucie, Manon, and local staff in the garden. Photo credit: Omah Sinau Gesang

However, being close to nature is beyond skin-deep for this organization; they are currently in the midst of developing their permaculture project, which aims to be ecologically sustainable. Permaculture is an agricultural system that utilizes the natural features and patterns of the environment, so that we do not damage the ecosystem with our farming habits. On the contrary, the farming process is designed to maintain the environment as well. We take and take so much from Mother Earth; it is about time that we give back, too.

This permaculture project is also part of their social enterprise initiative, which aims to empower the local community through capacity building. By introducing the new means of agriculture, the people who are involved in it have a chance to improve their financial stability in a more sustainable way. Omah Sinau is currently also developing a community-based tourism, in which the community can establish businesses and raise environmental awareness through their practices.

The proceeds of this initiative will also fund the activities that the organization holds for the local children and young people. Omah Sinau houses the English Club where kids and youths gather every week to learn English through fun, interactive activities. In 2016, they also started a traditional dance course. That way, they are equipped to get to know their cultural heritage as well as the ability to thrive in this increasingly multicultural world by providing the opportunity to learn an international language. Through these programs, they hope that young people will be more drawn into actions that benefit their personal development.

Dance lessons in Lumajang. Photo credit: Omah Sinau Gesang

With so many new things to learn, many of us would wonder how are they going to pull it off? As a volunteer-based organization, Omah Sinau emphasizes the importance and advantages of exchanging knowledge. Volunteers, who come from all walks of life with various expertise, will be able to share their skills and experience through workshops or informal discussions. In return, volunteers will get an insight on the local wisdom and get to know the local culture better during their stint, from traditional arts and crafts, to cooking the scrumptious signature dish of Lumajang.

Lucie’s watercress is ready to be harvested and served for lunch! Photo credit: Omah Sinau Gesang.

Learning experience can go both ways, and the impact can be immensely significant for development of a growing community with a strong drive to thrive. In contributing to that development, we hope to also grow as human beings, who continuously strive to be better while also staying true to our roots.

Contact us at [email protected] to join this program!