Ho Ho Ho! Holiday greetings to you all! Who here has been a great bookworm throughout the year raise your hands because Taman Bacaan Pelangi is about to play books Santa. Yes! This December we delivered 5,000 new story books to elementary children in Flores in collaboration with Alibaba’s kid company, UC Browser. Thanks to UC Browser now 5 schools in West Manggarai & Manggarai district have each received 1000 new storybooks under their trees. They are SDN Gololasing, SDI Wae Nakeng, SDI Kaca, SDK Paka & SDK Pongkor.
The reason we chose these 5 schools out of 108 library partners was simple. The 5 were those first establishments located quite remotely from main access. We started the library partnerships years ago, one establishment even dates back to 2009. It was about time to pay them another visit with more books to add to their library collection.
Distribution of the 5,000 story books to 5 schools took 3 days to complete. From December 14th to December 16th we basically lived on the road from Labuan Bajo to Satarmese and Ruteng then back to Labuan Bajo where the 5 heavy boxes of books were delivered from Jakarta.
Our 1st stop was SDI Wae Nakeng in South Lembor sub-district, the nearest of them all which is 2 hours drive from Labuan. From there we went straight to Satarmese sub-district heading to SDI Kaca. We went past the beautiful shore of Repi beach & the quiet hills of greens & rice field that made all the bumps & cracks along the 5 hours drive worth our while.
At 5 PM we reached the principal’s house, Ibu Nella who offered us meals, place to stay for the night, & friendship. She took us in even thou she had never met any of the delivering members. The next morning after sharing breakfast with her family, we visited SDI Kaca’s library where children welcomed us with beaming smiles & cheerful greetings despite the unfamiliarity. We figured it was the mysterious heavy box we were carrying around that brought them excitement. Too bad we couldn’t stay long there for SDK Paka’s principal, Bapak Alosius was already ringing us constantly on the phone. “ Kids here are just as excited to meet you guys. We’re all ready for you. Do come meet us soon.”
And so the santa continued the ride to SDK Paka where we met with the same enthusiasm & ecstatic children who just like the children in Kaca werent shy at all being with us strangers let alone being in front of the camera for the testimonials. Books in hands, smiling at the camera they screamed,”Thank you, UC Browser!” Same with the faculty who had taken the time to prepare us cookies & morning coffee, they were all game to act out their appreciation for the new books. Before we said our goodbye to SDK Paka, both faculty and teachers assembled themselves for the last testimonial & waved us off to our next destination, SDK Pongkor.
It took us an hour to get to SDK Pongkor and boy was it some ride. Although Bapak Tedi the principal was out, he appointed 2 of his faculty members to welcome us. Accompanied by the students they cheered gleefully as our sleigh ride entered the school. They had just finished the exam week and were cleaning up while their teachers busy grading their tests. Still they gave us the warmest welcome, not just for the books but also for the fact that they got to see us. The books were the gifts, the meeting was a blessing.
From Pongkor we proceed to Ruteng where we spent a night drooling at the hotel room, exhausted from another 2 hours drive on our belt. One must be in fittest form if one is out to play santa. In the morning of 16th December with one box left & one more stop to make, SDN Gololasing in Molotkondo which is also as far and remote as the previous 3 schools. Thankfully the headmaster,Bapak John was in Lembor for the day and he was glad to collect the package there. That saved us some 3 hours. Happy coincidence!
Although the road trip was a book delivery mission in which Taman Bacaan Pelangi & UC Browser were on the giving end, it also put us on the receiving end. Thanks to the long hours of contemplating on the road we’ve come out of the trip with a fresh outlook on why we do what we do. That is to share whatever we are in abundance of. The fresh air provided by the countryside, the spectacular view stretching from Labuan Bajo to Satarmese and back, the familiar warmth offered by strangers, strangers who turned to new friends, new stories & perspective. These are the abundance of things we’ve got in return for sharing, for playing santa.
Happy holiday & Merry 2019 from Taman Bacaan Pelangi & UC Browser.