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.
Fiona Cheung is currently serving as a volunteer in Indonesia at the Krapyak Islamic School. This post was written before her departure.
My interest for exploring new cultures, and a desire to volunteer abroad prompted me to participate in the AUA summer program. At a young age, my friends always said “she is a vagabond” – a constant traveller. As each birthday passed, this silly truism became more legitimate. Soon enough, it became a love affair. Thankfully, it was requited love. The summer before my senior year in high school, I participated in a volunteer program in Granada, Spain. I taught English to children from ages 14-16 from all around Spain. The summer of 2010 was unforgettable; this summer I hope to experience something equally memorable. I only have about a week until I leave and I cannot be more excited. Funny enough, I do not feel nervous at all.
There are only a few things I know about Indonesia. First, it is the largest Islamic country in the world even though it is a cluster of states. Secondly, their primary agricultural good is rice, and peanuts. (My father travelled to Java in his early twenties. Being the natural gourmand that he is, he knows very esoteric facts like these.) Last but not least, the people of Indonesia are supposedly quite petite. The reason why I know this? There is an antique picture of my grandparents on their honeymoon in Indonesia, riding an elephant. The tour guide in the picture looks miniscule; although that may be, of course, because of the huge mammal in the photo.
I am looking forward to experiencing a completely different culture in Indonesia- one that is incredibly pious and conservative unlike Western culture, which is liberal and laissez- faire. As I am about to embark on this journey, there is one particularly fond memory which keeps coming back to me. At one of my high school closing ceremonies, Craig Kielburger, the creator of Free the Children, made a guest appearance. I remember the way he spoke – softly without lacking in strength, confidently without being pedantic, and with such compassion and charisma that even I propped up from my seat. He recalled meeting Mother Theresa a week before she passed away, and it was this moment that stuck with me:
‘So there I was, Mother Theresa holding my hand… she said to me “We cannot do great things but we can all do small things with great love.”
With Mother’s Teresa’s words of wisdom in mind, I believe “we can all do small things with great love” and make a profound impact.