Last year, Taman Bacaan Pelangi decided to revamp our library on Papagarang island, Flores. The island is located two hours from Labuan Bajo and just a couple miles northern of Rinca. Papagarang is very small and it takes maybe half an hour to go around the island. The two hills offer a great view over Komodo National Park and all the other islands. Most of the people work in fishing.
Having no freshwater source itself, the people of Papagarang need a daily boat which transports fresh water, vegetables and other needs. They also bring fish from the island to be sold at the fish market in Labuan Bajo almost every day.
There is a small elementary school on the island but no place for children to read. Since most of them have no books at home, Papagarang is a good place to set up a new library.
Since I have spent four months in Melo, Taman Bacaan Pelangi wanted me to be in charge of the relocation and renovation of the TBP’s library on Papagarang. I liked the idea because I could go swimming and eat fish! We agreed on a deadline and a budget. I have visited the island in December in order to meet with the teachers and take a look at the island. There were a lot of things to do and to be fixed.
My host family lives in the far west of the island. It takes 2 minutes to go to school which is already the center of the island. So the question whether something is far away is kind of redundant because you can reach any point in the village in less than five minutes. I live together with my guest parents and four children. The children are full of energy which makes it fun to live on the island and in their house.
The school maintains a building which is suitable for our library but full of trash and broken school equipment. In order to create a schedule I needed to determine whether there is any other unexpected work to do. As it turned out the floors needed to be rebuild as well.
My goal was to use the first day as an introduction day and finish with agreeing on a two week schedule with the teachers. Since schools are sometimes hard to convince with our ideas, I expected some arguing and debating. But then, this was absolutely not the problem. The teachers were extremely open for all my input and added their ideas and solutions.
We were talking for half an hour and started working the same day. We worked in the morning and in the afternoon sometimes just three of us but sometimes 20 when the children helped us out. I was seriously surprised by the attitude and the efforts everybody put in to the project. On the second day we enjoyed a lot of support by other people in the village. They offered us cool drinks and food.
The progress was phenomenal. After grinding up the walls, painting the library from inside and outside, fixing the floor, building a fence, cover the floor with a carpet and all the other things we did to fix the building, we were very proud. A local carpenter created bookshelves and tables which we positioned in the new library.
With the help of some children I organized the books and created categories. It was a lot of work but with the great support of the people and especially the teachers we achieved our goal and opened the library on January 26th 2016.
Papagarang Island, January 2016