A SYMPHONY OF LIVES ON FLORES ISLAND

Marina D’Costa

Young people today are looking for platforms that give them an opportunity to explore themselves in a way which creates value for the people around them. Pax Romana IMCS Summer School in Flores was a platform that united students from different countries to be in solidarity with lives on Flores Island. The summer school had little of everything for students across the globe, even languages were not a barrier. It was a demonstration of how international students hailing from various ways of life can live together in harmony only because they all shared one common goal. To achieve this goal they travelled all the way to Flores in Indonesia. The context for the summer school was clear, it was a journey of solidarity and in the process transforming lives of young people. I was thrilled to see how young people make best of opportunities to enjoy life each moment, to share something about their life and listen to the stories of others. In moments of the summer school where things didn’t go as planned by the organizers, I saw young people unite themselves through a song and dance to express their spirit of resilience. That is what we young people bring to the fore, we bring hope. Through our journey across the Island in 10 days we brought hope and courage to the people of Flores Island. Their lives influenced us and little of our expressions and concerns for them influenced their way of life. I was moved by the design of the summer school, really pushing us out of our comfort zone where we didn’t know if our next meal was on a bus, on a boat or in a village. We all were prepared to tuck ourselves in any corner of the room to spend the night under the stars. This was so much fun. I believe we really didn’t miss the glorious tourist agendas of Indonesia. We are proud because we lived and ate with the real people of the land, what more a group of international students would ask for. To add, we were blessed to be trained by experts on human rights and agendas on sustainable development goals. This training gave us an opportunity to energize our intellectual capacities to do social analysis and raise questions for the good of the locals in Flores. We shared our reflections, we debated over our perspectives and ensured we understand why we say, what we say and shared our experiences we had back home in our countries. Learning the severe issues on migration and human rights trafficking gave us an insight into the ugly side of Flores Island. How often we as tourist or travellers fail to address the lives of people and keep ourselves engaged in the scenic beauty of the places. We forget the fact that, what really makes this place beautiful is not the scenic beauty but the people of the Island. I am so privileged to be part of this journey in solidarity which taught me to trust, to surrender, to be grateful, to be courageous and more than anything, to be a human. As I was travelling through Flores I kept connecting the lives of people in Flores to people back home in India. Struggle of the indigenous people for education and livelihood, the issues of sanitation in the slums of Mumbai and other cultural similarities which truly helped me have my moments of solidarity with people in Flores. The summer school raised a very obvious question – What am I doing in Flores? Why I am not in the villages back in my country? We too have the same issues, we too have the same struggles. I learnt that this was a platform created so we can experience this journey ourselves and then implement a similar model for summer school back home in our countries. I recalled the summer camps in my student movement which gave me a similar exposure and opened a whole new world to me. The best way to engage young minds for a cause is to show them the reality and guide them in social analysis. It is this walk into the real world that brings a new realm of understanding for social justice. My effort each day is to work on the creative process to sensitize young people through experiential programs. Young people redefine social activism, they chose their battels wisely. Post the summer school in Indonesia, I have shared my experience with my network of young people and have encouraged them to come together to build platforms for young people to explore themselves and the world around them. The real work of the summer camp continues in my life as I plan my work at the grassroots with the young, for the Young.

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