Asia West Pacific 

Awaken the Culture of Peace with a Gathering at Tondomulyo, Indonesia

Rewritten by Petrus.

Gathering in Miftahul Huda School in Tondomulyo, Jakenan in January 2019 was very pleasant. We saw many smiling faces, both children and parents. What a change from the militant, closed community of a decade ago. Indeed, you could see that some children had problems with their teeth, but they looked cheerful and happy when they saw Nadine Hoover and Kins Aparece. For many children, Nadine’s figure is very well known, because every time Nadine comes to Indonesia she always visits Tondomulyo. They greeted and shook hands with Nadine and Kins, a skill foreign to their former generation. One of the Madrasah Ibtidaiyah (Islamic elementary school) sixth grade students said he had known Nadine since preschool. She did her usual thing of getting out the globe for the children point out where they are now in Indonesia, where Kins came from in the Philippines, and where Nadine comes from in New York. One child would hold up their hand to represent the sun, and rotate the earth to see how Indonesia and New York take turns “sharing” the sun. As Nadine’s children go to sleep, the Indonesian children wake up. Through these meetings the children learned to recognize maps of the changes during the day and night due to the rotation of the earth. They would trace the flight routes from America to Indonesia and from the Philippines to Indonesia with their fingers and name the countries they passed by.

When talking about the peace training, children said they still needed more training so they could keep practicing. One student said she hoped she could still attend the training next year when she goes on to the pesantren (Islamic study center) in Jepara. Almost all the third to sixth grade children participate in our training to build peaceful lives. Fifteen of the sixth grade children will graduate in mid-2019 and about half of them will continue at Islamic boarding schools outside Pati. 

We did get-acquainted activities with the preschool children. We asked, “Are you uncomfortable greeting new people?” Many heads nodded yes. We explained that greetings are cultural. There’s no “right” way to greet, so follow others, show the way or make it up! After that we sang together.

When visiting we also met parents. They used to feel afraid when they met foreigners. Now they feel very happy and are courageous to speak. They expressed their gratitude that we visited and paid attention to their children.

Nadine discussed and shared experiences with eight teachers over two hours. Rilli, a first year teacher at Miftahul Huda, said that Nadine gave a lot of knowledge including methods in assisting children. The thing she remembered and began to practice was that children could not be immediately introduced to letters or numbers, but they needed to learn to recognize shapes and colors. Activities for play must be given sufficient space and time, and you could not suddenly stop the child while playing or you interrupted the development of their thinking. Give them a moment to complete their thought or activity.

Mar’ah, a teacher of five years at Miftahul Huda, said that from the meeting she learned about the stages of child development, including the stages of writing. She hopes there will be a special time to learn more when Nadine comes next year. While Puji said that she got a lot of knowledge, including about the children’s world of play. So we should not be confused if our children do not want to learn, but what adults should do is provide toys, materials and playgrounds that are sufficient for children’s needs. The toys do not have to be much, but what is important is how to give the child the chance to play with enough materials and time to develop their thinking, then she showed how children learn to write. Actually, at the stage of making a journal the child will make graffiti and in time a circle will appear, then lines and dots. When Introducing letters starting by using circles and lines. From the meeting, the teachers increasingly understood that teaching children to write does not have to be forced to directly introduce letters or numbers but through the process of playing and making scribbles. By drawing, children one day find their own way of learning. When children encounter problems, they can easily solve them with good attention and encouragement.

Kins & Nadine visit to Madrasah Ibtidaiyah Tondomulyo

Puji said, “At first, I did not believe what had been said by a friend who had studied with Nadine at Peace Place about the stages of scribbling. Then after the children started to form a circle, they would find it easier to introduce them to letters.” Puji wondered how writing letters a, b, c, d, e, f, g and so on could begin with a circle. Before working at Miftahul Huda, she has worked in a preschool in the city for more than 6 years and she had never gotten any knowledge about the initial stages or methods for introducing letters to children. After the meeting in January, Puji changed her approach to children aged 5-6 years with this method and it was truly amazing. Children found it much easier to recognize and write letters! This experience was finally shared with parents, because so far parents had always complained about their children who were not able to write. After the child creates circle indirectly in their drawings, the child is ready to learn to write and learns quickly and easily.