By Nelly Andon
In August 2016, my husband and I spent 2 weeks touring Flores, starting from Labuan Bajo and ended up in Maumere. We love travelling, and we have been travelling in many parts of the world for over 30 years, but this trip by far one of the best. For me, travelling in the land of traditional textiles, couldn’t be more exciting than any other destinations on this planet. Not only that I have been a volunteer for Connect Indonesia, The Charity since the year 2000 and always in the lookout for new weaving villages, I do have real excitement meeting weavers and see how they work producing all those amazing ikat textiles in their spare time.
During this trip, we landed in many amazing weaving villages, and one of these villages is Desa Sikka Tua. The journey here was on our agenda, but the purpose was only to visit the Old Church there left by the Portuguese Colonie, over one hundred years ago, it was built in 1889 to be exact. The interior of the church is truly special and breath-taking, depicting the pattern of Old Sikka Ikat. The patterns that you can see inside the wall of the church can also bee found in the ikats textiles were woven in this region.
On arrival, we were not fully aware of the weavers’ presence here, but on exiting the church, we met a few senior women offering their ikat textiles to any visiting tourists to the church. My excitement grew when I saw a small quarter at the bottom of the churchyard, near the beachfront, where the weavers perform simple weaving demonstrations. Here you can donate a mere US $20, and witness an amazing demonstration from the groups, staging the Ikat weaving processes from preparing the cotton plant, right through to the finished product. This may take up to 2 hours of their time and devotion, but they are very proud and happy to demonstrate this to their visitors. I felt so elated with the demo that I continued to chit-chat with the weavers to find out more about their weavers’ groups and their activities. I promised to get in touch with the group and to do anything in our power to reach out to them and to share our reading glasses with those who need them in the groups.
Finding true volunteers to do volunteering work without any financial reward is extremely hard in Indonesia, hence we try our hardest to stay connected with those who have worked with us on the glasses project. We have been so very lucky to have worked collaboratively with a few local charities to help us distribute the glasses to our weavers, but other times we have gone through severe frustrations in the process of finding someone to help us out in a certain region. This was one of the major issues we found with Sikka in 2016. At first, we found a few people who offered help, but later all arrangements failed to no avail. We felt truly guilty that the weavers in Sikka were still waiting for our glasses to reach them.
Late in September this year (2017), I needed to visit Indonesia again to visit sick relatives in Jakarta, and during this visit, I took the chance to go back to Timor and Flores. After almost one year since we met the weavers of Sikka, Olvira Ballo (our Project Manager in Kupang) has agreed to join me to visit Sikka and to distribute the glasses ourselves. It felt so amazing to be able to pay our promises and to weave a better tie in our relationship with our weavers there. We managed to distribute over 120 reading glasses to the weavers and getting to know most of the members of the weavers’ group there was a real bonus. A PROMISE MADE IS A PROMISE KEPT!! INDEED.
Our sincere gratitude to the staff of the Keluarahan Sikka, particularly the Secretary of the Kelurahan who has made a huge effort to arrange the distribution. As usual, our huge gratitude to Ms Olvira Ballo, our project manager in Kupang, who have devoted so much of her time to this project, and has tirelessly supported the journey of our glasses to many parts of Indonesia. Thank you, Ira, you are the gem of this nation.
I would like to point out and to make it clear to the world, that all Connect Indonesia, The Charity’s volunteers are 100%, pure volunteers. We don’t get paid to do any volunteering work with Connect Indonesia, and we don’t claim expenses. Every penny spent during our trips is funded from our own pockets. We treat every visit and every journey as part of our holiday and part of our donation to the societies.
If you are interested to volunteer for Connect Indonesia, The Charity, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to welcome you as part of our devoted team.
Our sincere gratitude to all our donators, supporters, volunteers who have faithfully supported the project from the start. All we have done is truly appreciated by our weavers all around the country. God bless us all.