PADI Course Director Simone Gerritsen moved from the Netherlands to North Sulawesi, Indonesia in 1996. For a period of 2 years she would set up a dive center for a large hotel in the village of Tongkeina, near the capital Manado.
Due to various circumstances, the 2 years became an indefinite period and Tongkeina became Simone’s residence after a year. Gradually she became more absorbed in village life and realized that many things were inadequate. She began building a community center in the village and a small clinic in 2000.
First impression of a school
At some point she ended up at the elementary school, or at least, something that was supposed to pass for it. The situation was unacceptable by Dutch standards. There was too little furniture, an asbestos roof, lack of teaching materials, and teachers were not paid, who in turn regularly did not show up. All in all, not a situation where children could receive a solid education.
In addition, many older children walked aimlessly through the village because further education after elementary school was not possible. This brought about many social problems such as drunkenness, violence and child pregnancy.
Simone began on a small scale in 2001 to pay school fees for children whose parents could not afford them. Furniture was also made and the roof of the elementary school was replaced with one without asbestos. Initially, these costs came out of Simone’s own pocket, but when a second school came asking for help and the number of families wanting to be helped increased, other methods had to be found to raise money.
The schools organized dance and singing performances and guests of Thalassa Dive Center were asked for contributions. It worked and by 2003 the two elementary school were functioning at a slightly higher level. Meanwhile, some older children were also receiving support to attend one of the city’s high schools and other ways to raise money had to be thought of again.
The first “sponsor parents” came on stage and helped Simone keep everything going.
A new call for help
In 2004, the principal of another elementary school in a nearby village came asking for help. A government school, consisting of 2 small buildings, one of which had collapsed and sunk into the sea.
At that time, 60 children were attending school and had to be taught in two small classrooms simultaneously on 6 levels and only 2 teachers. Financially this was impossible and besides that it was a government school, so there was no motivation to help. Until Simone walked into the school one day and saw the misery. Something had to be done about this.
Through guests of the dive center, friends, family and private donations, a new building was constructed in 2005 with 4 classrooms and the second building was completely renovated.
New furniture was made and on was officially handed over the school to the government. At the opening ceremony on March 20, 2006, the government promised to send more teachers and after a critical speech by Simone, promised to build a high school for the area as well.
A new building
Promise makes debt. And after consulting with the church administration in Tongkeina, the village’s old church became the site where the new school should be built. But how to get money?
By chance, Simone came into contact with Ocke Schuttevaer and his wife Norma. Two Dutchmen who were visiting the hotel where Simone lived and worked.
These 2 wonderful people donated a large amount, but more importantly, register the project with “Wild Geese” and the NCDO (Dutch Commission for Sustainable Development). Both these organizations are “doublers and increase self contributed donations by 76% and 100% respectively.
The origins of the foundation
This was also the moment that the ever growing organization had to get an official status and the foundation “Kehidupan Anda” was established in the Netherlands. After some struggles and changes in the board, in 2006 Paul, Yvonne and Rob (“old” friends and guests of Thalassa) took over the board of the foundation.
Construction of the school began on November 1, 2006. The original plan was to build 6 classrooms; 3 for the Junior High School and 3 for the Senior High School. The existing elementary school was located directly behind the new school and would not be renovated until………………….In December 2006, a large tree fell on one of the three old buildings and completely destroyed it! The village asked for money to rebuild it after which Simone decided to make a second floor on the building to house the elementary school.
The first students
In order to meet the new school year, a lot of hard work is being done and on July 14, 2007, the first students in the school start their further education. Furniture comes by container from the Netherlands. Written off but very useful tables and chairs… their transport is sponsored.
The school is immediately too small we need more space and with the remainder of the money a start is being made to build more classrooms … but there is not enough left to finish this at once. It will take until 2012 to finish this annex and it is not enough.
And how to proceed now?
Currently, more than 340 children use this school building. There is not enough furniture and we need more classrooms. This is our aspiration for the coming years. We can only do this with your help.