Three students of TTU School of Humanities and Languages (HSL) had just had a trip to Puhsarang, a small Indonesian village where they all literally gave their hands to help in community engagement projects for the sake of local development, with one particular project that helps convert wastes into compost a student described as “humming fun”.
The ten day trip with participations of over 40 students from different Asian countries was organised by the Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS). It had two sessions with three and seven days in length. The first was to introduce students with the culture and code of conduct expected of the students and the latter was an opportunity for the students to have hands-on experience where they’re needed most – Puhsarang Village.
Puhsarang is a small highland village of the western Kediri City, part of the East Java Regency of Indonesia. The main force for the thrust of its economy lies in the attractions for tourism. But due to the infrastructure developing not as fast to ensure the well-being of the local residents, Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology therefore organised the 2019 Community Engagement Development (CED2019) to help encourage exchange of culture, ideas and experience of students coming from a variety of countries and the host, as well as the development of the locals.
During the first three day session, the students spent their time in Surabaya City, learning about the local unique cultures, making friends with other members in the group, and making final tweeks for the project assigned to their group that they will implement in Puhsarang in the latter seven day session.
“The sky of Surabaya is raked in a golden sun, very different from the white-hot sun in Vietnam that I’m so used to. The golden glow makes it seems like in Indonesia, everything has a very picturesque charm so unique to this country.” Said Danh Le, one of the three SHL students from Tan Tao University.
After enjoying Soto, and especially Sate, a local signature dish that Danh described as “too good to stop”, they all started packing up, getting ready to “lend their hands and brains” to Puhsarang villagers for seven days.
The main leg in their journey to Puhsarang Village of Kediri City, Indonesia is the implementation of eight projects. These projects ranging from library renovation, solid waste management, compost making and organising workshops on marketing for small businesses.
The group of Le Minh Nhat was on the lead of the sanitation mapping project. They took the responsibility to help locals to build a dumping site that is sustainable to the environment. The result of their project would not only show in preserving the health of local landscape, but also help to grow the tourism in the area.
Le Quang Danh’s group meanwhile helped to make use of the vegetation always at the disposal of the locals. They transformed those otherwise useless dead twigs, branches and fallen leaves into liquid compost to fertilise their own crops and vegetables. Puhsarang villagers could also sell the rest to make some more money if they don’t use all the compost they can make.
“My project really ‘hummed’ not only in terms of its odour, but also because of all the fun we had, too.” Said Danh.
For the group of Tran Thi Thuy Tien, in the mean time were trying to find solutions for the economic development of the locals through roselle flower, a plant available widely in the area. Roselle flower helped local residents as much as becoming dried products and being sold to a few locals and some tourists as tea. Tien’s group took the initiative to help find more products made from roselle and then coaching them to do branding beside the basics of marketing. They succeeded in making roselle jam, roselle candy, syrup, ice cream, decaffeinated coffee, and skin moisturising lotion.
“Our project, to some extent, was the most realistic of all eight, for it helped to a great extent in diversifying products made from roselle flower. It will secure better the growth of health and wealth of the native of the area.” Said Tien.
Before leaving Puhsarang Village to come back to their home country, all participants gathered in the farewell gala night on the 27 of July. They shared their final moments with each other to enjoy traditional acts performed by people and children with whom they were working alongside to help.
“Leaving Puhsarang also means that it leaves behind in my mind an impression lasting till the day who knows when, not because of this being the first time ever I traveled abroad, but because of the meaningful changes we could help initiate for the future of people living in the village.” Said Nhat after the trip.
Whether converting compostable wastes, organising the dumping site or making sweets from roselle flower, all of the students had tried their best to use whatever personal skills they had to help make the lives of people in Puhsarang Village better through initiatives cheek by jowl with the nature.