Big Hearts, Empty Pockets

It all started with a chance encounter when shopping at Saga supermarket in Sorong three years ago. A cruiser friend of ours, Carol, got chatting to a lovely local lady, Nurjannah Nana, a volunteer English teacher at Istianah Foundation school. She was very keen to have some native English speakers visit her students and so Carol agreed and asked me to go along with her.

Read more: Big Hearts, Empty Pockets

It was a fabulous experience (albeit a bit overwhelming) to meet all the students and staff, and we got to hear a little of the history of the school.  It was founded in 2014 as a charitable organisation to assist orphaned Papuan kids whose futures would otherwise have been very bleak.  The founder, Dr Karsiman, was a university lecturer with a big heart who wanted to help disadvantaged kids. He managed to raise the funds single-handedly with only a small contribution from the Government.  In order to raise more funds they opened the school to local fee-paying Muslim students as well, so it’s unique in that it caters for both Muslim and Christian students.

It all started 3 years ago when Carol and I first visited the school. Here we are with the founder, Mr Karstiman, Nurjannah Nana and staff
The kids are always very happy to have visitors

Sadly, Dr Karstiman passed away in 2020, and while the school is still running, they are struggling to make ends meet. 

Many of the staff, including Nana, are volunteer teachers and support workers, and the school’s now grown to include almost 300 children spanning elementary to middle school.  Of those, many are orphans and are given free lodging and education.  But their dormitories are extremely basic and always flood when it rains heavily in Sorong (which is often). A new dormitory is being built on higher ground, but progress has stalled due to the lack of funds. Similarly, many of the classrooms have bare earth floors and require tiling.

The current dormitories are bleak and flood whenever it rains
The girls’ dormitory is overcrowded and very basic
The unfinished new dormitory block
Still a lot of work to do before it’s ready for the students

Since that first visit, Nana has become a good friend and I visit whenever I can to help the children with their English lessons, although their resources are very limited.  On our last trip back from Australia I was able to bring some English reading books, but we were hampered by our baggage allowance so it’s a drop in the ocean compared to what they need. Bruce and I donate when we can, and have recently agreed to sponsor the education costs for one student, which amounts to the very affordable sum of roughly AU $15 per month or $180 per annum.

Mam Nana as she is known to her students is still volunteering her time but is now the Principal of the school, and with the help of Mr Karsiman’s widow they are attempting to find more sponsors for the orphan students, and more funding for the capital works.

With Mrs Karsiman, who still plays an active role in trying to continue her husband’s good works

We’re so blessed to live where we are, and so fortunate that when our kids were growing up they were able to have such a great education in Australia with state-of-the-art facilities and an education system that we often take for granted.  On their recent visit, Rob and Teneile also came to visit the school with me, which of course was hugely exciting for the kids – they certainly make foreigners feel like celebrities which is a bit embarrassing, but their joy and exuberance is infectious and there’s always time for one more photo!

Rob, Teneile, and I with Mam Nana – we’re all looking a bit hot as there are no fans or aircon in the classrooms
Rob and Teneile were a great hit with the kids
They just love having their photos taken!

We will continue to do what we can to support the school, but I’ve also started a GoFundMe page in order to raise some money for the capital works so please check out the link here:

Also, if anyone is interested in sponsoring the education of one of the orphaned kids (even if it’s just for one year) please get in touch and we can discuss the details.

Thanks guys, any donation no matter how small will be so gratefully received by the school and students.

2 Replies to “Big Hearts, Empty Pockets”

  1. What a lovely idea to help this school. David and I would like to donate through the go fund me page to help with the building works and the school in general. We will send £200 through the page on the 10th December 2023.
    Diane, I had two total knee replacements earlier this year and they have worked fantastically well. David is now 80 and I am 77 and feel like a bionic woman, especially after a bilateral mastectomy with implants the removal of cataracts and 2 new knees!

    1. Wow, guys, thank you so much for your generous offer to donate. The school will appreciate that so much. You’ve certainly been through the mill Sue – the joys of ageing! But I’m so glad you’re both doing well and enjoying life. Here’s to bionic women! xxxx

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