By Safira Hasna
I joined a volunteer program in an education community called Gerakan Suka Baca in Depok, Indonesia, founded in 2016 to improve literacy awareness, especially among children. Gerakan Suka Baca (GSB) has two main focuses: 1) to teach elementary school children who are tissues, sellers, and buskers, in the street of the Depok area. 2) to open a reading booth at Depok city park to improve literacy awareness by reading books aloud and making crafts or coloring book for children visiting the park. GSB also regularly holds discussion forums in collaboration with other communities, usually to discuss books or films. Another program commonly held is educational tours such as taking the children to museums or other educational places as a form of appreciation for the children’s participation in learning every Sunday.
However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, those activities have to be suspended. There are no study visits, a reading booth in the afternoon, and other educational activities. In May 2020, we should have held an event to commemorate Earth Day in Car Free Day Area. It was also planned on the way back from the events the volunteers would campaign reading books in public transportation to improve literacy. All volunteers missed those kinds of activities.
Within the pandemic situation where social gatherings are to be avoided, the founder of the GSB community named Renita, discussed with fellow volunteers to plan how the activity could still occur even if it were only virtual. It was decided that we would have virtual tutoring for elementary school children, i.e., volunteers are to monitor students remotely by communicating with their parents through WhatsApp. However, physical activity is also still conducted by visiting students at their homes by keeping in mind physical distancing.
For volunteer activities, GSB conducts Instagram Live with various themes such as discussions on school subjects (math, science, and English), reading aloud, and crafting (as a substitute for reading booths). Besides, other virtual activities are also carried out online, such as books and films review and educational tours through video conference applications. On this occasion, GSB also invited non-volunteers to participate in virtual activities.
Indeed pandemic has changed everything. Activities which previously during a normal situation took place offline through direct interactions so we could quickly spread happiness to others now it becomes painful. Thanks to technology, we can still interact with each other even though virtually, which is essential to maintain mental health. Not only the expression “stay safe” is given to people; expressions such as “stay sane” are also needed in these times. I believe one of the best ways to stay sane during a pandemic is to stay connected, interact more, and join as volunteers in the community that you are interested in.
Safira Hasna – a fresh post-graduate from Universitas Indonesia majoring in communication is a volunteer of Gerakan Suka Baca in Depok, Indonesia.
This article was submitted as a part of APYouthS’ Article Submission program. We are calling for enthusiastic and impassioned youths in Asia-Pacific who are willing to share their firsthand experience regarding youths projects and activities, volunteering involvement, conferences, exchange, and scholarship programs on the APYouthS’ website. Submit your article now through https://bit.ly/submit-writing-apyouths.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of Asia-Pacific Youth Service.