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Fostering Community Development: Petra Christian University Community Outreach Programme 2023

As part of the Global Service-Learning programme, Nur Hawalia, a part-time Biomedical Engineering student at SUSS, seized the opportunity to participate in the Community Outreach Programme (COP) from 12 July to 6 August 2023, organised and hosted by one of SUSS’ partner institutions, Petra Christian University (PCU). This year, the theme of the COP was “Community Development in the COVID-19 Pandemic” and it was attended by more than 100 participants from universities across the world.

The programme aimed to give student participants a rich and immersive learning experience while responding to real-life challenges and fostering community development. An integral aspect of the programme’s learning experience provided student participants with an opportunity to reside within the community during their stay.

Participants at Kebontunggul Village

Hawalia’s 3-week programme took place in Kebontunggul Village, one of the three COP communities in Mojokerto, a city in the East Java Province. Though it was her first time staying in a village, she recalled it to be an “amazing experience”, where she was enveloped in the warmth and hospitality of the villagers, especially her host family, who treated her like their own daughter and was always ready to extend a helping hand when needed.

During her stay in the village, Hawalia immersed herself in the villagers’ cultural ethos of “gotong royong”, which also means cooperation. Hawalia shared her observations, “The villagers treated us all the same, even with our different backgrounds. They value solidarity and communal harmony which is expressed in “gotong royong”. People aided each other during their key communal events.”

Residents of the village and participants spending time together

During their stay at the village, participants also took part in different community development projects that focused on educating young children, building a water reservoir and renovating the stage located within the village, where villagers perform traditional musical instruments for tourists on Friday nights. 

In her involvement with the education projects, Hawalia would start her day at 7 a.m. with the kindergarten children. Together with other international participants from Australia, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and the Netherlands, they would find creative ways to conduct engaging lessons on topics such as colours, shapes and numbers for the children. Through their teaching, PCU shared that these creative approaches have inspired the children to strive for academic excellence. In addition to their teaching role, the participants also repainted the school.

Education project participants including Hawalia (seated second row on the right), at the kindergarten school

Participants after painting the kindergarten school

On the last day of the programme, Hawalia fondly recalled how most kindergarten children skipped school to bid the participants farewell. Beyond these notable projects, the COP enabled participants to forge special bonds with their host families and villagers, enriching the experience with deeper connections and greater meaning for everyone.

The learning experience at the COP also emphasises the importance of everyone’s assets and role within the community, fostering a strong social support network. Hawalia echoes this statement as she reflected, “...people frequently rely on their communities for emotional support and help when they need it, and a network of resources. Local community contacts play a critical role in creating social links, offering support, and facilitating group initiatives for positive change”.

Through meaningful partnerships with overseas institutions such as PCU, SUSS students have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of global and intercultural perspectives and allow them to apply what they learned to make real-world community impact.

Hawalia's COP experience organised by PCU exemplifies the profound impact of collaborative community development initiatives and reciprocal partnerships. Whilst the projects undertaken by COP participants have inspired positive transformation and empowered the community at Kebontunggul Village, the generosity in sharing from the community has left a lasting and priceless experience for all of them.

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