by Jack Gorham
My voluntary work in the school garden of the BCU school in Central Kalimantan began on the 18th of December, following the Human Force camp, and lasted three months.
The experience was fascinating. I stayed in the volunteer house in Rungan Sari for the three months I was there, with three fellow volunteers. Whilst working in the garden I learnt so much from my fellow workers, Wulan, Randika and Suci, who all lived in the local area. As a team, we maintained and developed the garden, whilst also looking after the fish and chickens. The BCU garden is a sustainable permaculture project – established and maintained by Yayasan Permakultur Kalimantan – and includes numerous garden beds for growing local fruits and vegetables, a hydroponics system, a chicken coop and a grey water system. The chickens’ waste can be used as a natural fertiliser and their eggs are also sold to the local community. The waste produced by the fish in the aquaponics system is also used as a natural fertiliser and the grey water system filters the water used in the school kitchen, allowing it to be used in the garden pond.
In terms of development, we created clearly defined paths and garden beds around the site, which allowed for easier access to the beds and prevented the plants being damaged. The paths also helped support the school’s vision to create a more environmentally focused curriculum, as by creating paths we made the garden more accessible for students and made it possible to lead classes in the garden. We also extended the garden and created new garden beds, which allowed for more space to grow plants. Due to the tropical climate of Kalimantan, plants grow quickly, which meant that a lot of our work was maintaining the garden and preventing weeds from growing.
The school’s permaculture garden is having a positive effect on the community by providing jobs for local people, as well as helping educate the school pupils on the environment that they live in, hopefully making them more conscious of the environmental decisions that they make throughout their lives.
Before my time volunteering in the garden I was part of the Human Force camp. It lasted ten days and consisted of volunteering at various permaculture gardens, doing local activities such as sunrise hikes, attending a local wedding and visiting two traditional Dayak villages! The Dayak village experiences were really interesting and gave me an insight into authentic Indonesian culture. Witnessing traditional dance, celebration, cooking and a way of life so different from the west was fascinating and has further sparked my interest in studying geography and anthropology at university in the near future.
Overall, I had a good experience; I’m glad that I did it and one day I’d like to return. I got to see a part of the world practically untouched by tourism and it felt like a very authentic experience. I’d like to thank everyone that I met there that made me feel welcome and at home!