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Five life lessons for students embarking on Years of Culture–EAA Foundation’s volunteer trip to Indonesia

From the bustling cities to the rural villages, Indonesia is a country with a rich history. Volunteering in Indonesia offers a chance to learn about local traditions and customs, and to exchange ideas and knowledge with local people.

Volunteering is a great way to gain experience, learn new skills, and give back to the community. It’s an infusion of ideas and ways of seeing the world, and a coming-of-age experience for many young people.

Years of Culture has partnered with Education Above All Foundation through its programme Reach Out to Asia (ROTA) to organise a volunteer trip to support one of its projects in the West Kalimantan Province in Indonesia for a group of students from the University of Doha for Science and Technology (UDST) and the Qatar Academy for Science and Technology (QAST), during which participants from both countries will work together to learn from and support one another. 

Indonesia is a diverse country with a rich culture and history, and volunteering there can be a truly enriching experience. We want to inspire our volunteers with some important lessons they can expect to learn as they set off for West Kalimantan, and we hope others who read this also feel motivated to take part in volunteer programs wherever and whenever they can. 

Remember that everyone has their own story

Doha is a metropolitan city wherein people of more than a 100 nationalities live, work and play together. As a result, many of us are already familiar with different cultures and the experiences each of us bring to the table. Appreciating others’ stories and understanding what that means for someone’s approach to interacting with others will help all of us become more empathetic, intuitive, and compassionate. 

Although we’re biologically wired to make quick judgement calls, we need to remember that first impressions can never reveal someone’s background and beliefs. When analysing other’s behaviour, we’re more likely to use our own frame of reference to interpret others’ actions.

Appreciate the importance of community involvement and collaboration

One of the most important lessons that we hope students learn from volunteering in Indonesia is the importance of community involvement and collaboration. ROTA-EAA’s project in Indonesia is designed to work alongside local communities to support their development goals. This approach emphasises the importance of working with, rather than for, the community. This Years of Culture trip service program organised by ROTA-EAA follows this design principle and includes volunteer-led workshops that focus on subject areas specifically identified and requested by local students.

Learn the value of adaptability and flexibility

Volunteering in Indonesia can be a challenging experience, as it involves adapting to a new environment and way of life. From the language to the food to the cultural norms, volunteering in West Kalimantan will be an entirely new experience for many. However, that’s also ideal for learning the value of adaptability and flexibility. Knowing how to be flexible, adaptable and open to new experiences is one of the greatest things you’ll ever learn. It’s also a healthier approach to life in general. 

Understand the importance of sustainability

We hope, as so often happens when you begin to genuinely engage with other cultures, our volunteers gain a sense of global citizenship and responsibility to contribute to a larger, global community. They will be exposed to the interconnected nature of global issues and the impact they can have on people around the world.

By working together towards a common goal, volunteers can see the contributions they can make and become more engaged in finding solutions. This sense of global citizenship can foster greater empathy, cooperation, and understanding between people from different backgrounds. This becomes especially important when trying to address worldwide challenges like climate change and access to education. 

ROTA-EAA’s project in Indonesia is focused on sustainable development. This means that it is designed to promote long-term development goals, rather than short-term fixes. This includes practices such as reducing waste, conserving resources, and promoting environmentally friendly approaches, all of which Qatar also seeks to implement at home. 

The power of cultural exchange

Volunteering in Indonesia provides an opportunity to experience a rich and diverse culture. From the bustling cities to the rural villages, Indonesia is a country with a rich history and many unique cultural practices. Volunteering in Indonesia offers a chance to learn about local traditions and customs, and to exchange ideas and knowledge with local people. Cultural exchange will broaden your worldview and lead to a greater appreciation and understanding of different cultures.

Volunteer trips can help break down stereotypes and misconceptions about different cultures. By immersing yourself in a new environment and living and working alongside locals, you will gain a deeper understanding of the local culture, language, and customs.

This firsthand experience can dispel stereotypes and prejudices that may have been formed from limited exposure to a particular culture through media or other sources. When volunteers return home, they can share their experiences and insights with their own communities, helping to promote cross-cultural understanding.

Learn that there is so much more that unites us than makes us different!