We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
The group in Indonesia.
As I prepare for my incredible journey to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, I can’t help but wonder about the endless learning opportunities that I might come across and the difficulties I will need to face. Between the language barriers, religious differences, and the mere fact that I will be on the opposite side of the world from my home, I find it difficult to not be somewhat fearful of the journey that lies ahead. However, I remind myself that this will be an amazing experience, that it will open up my eyes to the unknown.
I believe that people are generally fearful of the unknown. The only way to overcome this fear is by experiencing the unknown for oneself. As an American woman, who has a great deal of opportunities and freedom, I can’t help but feel somewhat anxious about traveling to a predominately Muslim country, where women are expected to be modest and subservient. I expect that this will probably be the most difficult aspect of my trip to Indonesia to become accustomed to. Nevertheless, I am excited to learn about the difference in gender roles between the United States and Indonesia and to develop an educated, unbiased opinion about these differences. For the last 20 years of my life I have only ever experienced living in the United States and therefore only understand life from the perspective of an American citizen. However, this ever so anticipated 6 week long trip to Indonesia will help me to understand a new perspective on the world seeing as I will need to assimilate to a new environment and culture.
Not only will the cultural differences regarding gender roles be somewhat of a culture shock for me, but so will the sheer inability to communicate easily and effectively. I clearly am not fluent in Bahasa Indonesian, but hopefully I will learn enough to be able to communicate on a basic level (and ask where the bathroom is!—which is “Di manakah toilet”, for anyone who was wondering). On a more serious note, I will be working for an NGO (non-governmental organization) called Rifka Annisa which provides psychological support for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Because this is a small grassroots level NGO in the heart of Indonesia, I expect that there will not be too many people working there who speak English. Fortunately, we will be taking language classes 3 days a week to help us communicate more effectively with locals and our co-workers.
Along with all these fears and anxieties I have been facing in my preparation for this trip comes great excitement and enthusiasm. As I mentioned before, I will be working with psychologists in helping women overcome their traumatic domestic abuse experiences. As a psychology student at Washington College I not only find this opportunity to be interesting but also crucial for my participation in the field of psychology. It is important to understand different cultures so that you can be sensitive to people’s values and beliefs when attempting to treat their psychological disorders and trauma. I also am studying Studio Art and am planning on fusing these two disciplines to become an Art Therapist in the future. When I mentioned this to Rifka Annisa, they seemed extremely interested in what this type of therapy has to offer, specifically to trauma victims. Although I am still just studying Art Therapy and am not qualified to treat people using this therapy, I am very excited to teach the Psychologists at Rifka Annisa about the benefits of using Art Therapy with trauma victims. I expect that this will be no easy task seeing as I am not a practicing Art Therapist (yet!). Nevertheless, it will be an incredible learning experience for me and (hopefully) for the psychologists at Rifka Annisa as well.
Although there are many aspects of this trip that I am quite nervous about, I’m extremely excited to set out on this amazing journey. Hopefully I’ll learn a lot about Indonesian culture (and perhaps become somewhat fluent in basic Bahasa Indonesian!). I can’t wait to see what the next six weeks has to offer!