In the Belu district in the province of Nusa Teggara Timur, Leoni Rodrigo Dos Santos is the facilitator for the Amahatan Reading Camp in the Mandeu Village. Here, many children are refugees with poor literacy skills and the CERIA project with Save the Children aims to ensure that they have access to child-friendly and non-violent learning environments.
The project provides reading materials and capacity building for facilitators and currently there are 18 supported Reading Camps in the Belu District. Thanks to the training sessions provided by the project, Leoni’s capacity and skills as facilitator has increased as well as her self-confidence in delivering interactive lessons. The children experience joyful learning and they seem fascinated with every activity offered in the Reading Camp.
Today, around 40 children attend the camp and positive words have spread and sparked curiosity also outside the village. Many live quite far away and usually arrive in groups. Most of them live in East Timor resettlement sites. Surprisingly, the attendees are not only students, but also those who are not in school anymore for different reasons.
“At first, they watched us from a distance. They looked interested, so I invited them to join in. One of them is a buffalo shepherd who usually herds his animals near the schoolyard where Reading Camp activities are held. He used to go to school, so he can read and write. He looks happy to be with us and, since then, has become a regular participant,” Leoni says.
The shepherd boy, Fendy Bouk, left school after his mother passed away and his father migrated to Kalimantan for work. Fendy now lives with his grandfather and helps him water tomato gardens and herd cows. “I like to read and draw and play with friends,” says Fendy. “So, I am happy with the reading camp because I can have friends and learn with them.”
Leoni has received positive feedback from parents as well, some of them accompany their children when attending the Reading Camp and stay until they finish. Leoni has made a pledge. “Maybe I will not be the best Reading Camp facilitator that Save the Children ever trained, but I will always do the best I can for the children when I’m with them.”
This commitment combined with the skills she has gained has surely resulted in a reading camp which is enjoined by everyone!