A cultural experience in Aceh

by Leonardo D. and Sole B., Work study and Voluntourist, IHF Aceh

When we stepped out of the Aceh airport, the first sound that we heard was the Adhan, the Islamic call for prayer that comes from the mosques. And we felt that song as a welcome by Banda Aceh, and as the first step inside a completely different culture and a new experience.

When we managed to arrive at the Center, warmly welcomed by the two co-Directors Jessica and Timea, we were really excited and willing to begin our experience with IHF.

As days passed, things got better and better, we began to know the local volunteers and the kids, both really nice and curious about Italy and our culture; as we were about theirs.

The world knows Aceh only for the tsunami struggle of 2004 and the separatist civil war, but we immediately realized that the real face of Aceh is the one of a working and vibrant town trying to recover from the Tsunami shock, full of nice and welcoming people, all really curious and willing to know more about different cultures.

Knowing better the local volunteers and hanging out with them made us appreciate deeper the aspects of Indonesian and Acehnese culture, favored also by the fact that this is the month of Ramadan, in which the Islamic culture gets more vibrant. We had the unique opportunity of breaking fast in the house of a local volunteer and we appreciated even more the local food and traditions.

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We have also been teaching a storytelling class to the older students with a Chinese work-study volunteer, and after having told an Italian and a Chinese story in English, we made them tell us Indonesian stories and we reflected on the morale of the stories; they seemed so happy to know new stories and to share theirs!

Also, Italian classes are held, and local volunteers and some of the students are attending, and everybody seems to enjoy the classes a lot, which turns out to be a fun at every lesson.

On Saturday, we had Buka Bersama with the students, it has been a great occasion to get to know the students better and to play with them; and on Sunday, we had a great farewell party for Jessica, who is sadly leaving on Tuesday. We all made traditional dishes from our countries and we broke fast all together with the local volunteer in a really special atmosphere. It has been a great weekend.

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IHF is doing a lot here to help the students and the Acehnese community; we will go back home with a new point of view thanks to this incredible experience. If someday you read that IHF is an inspiring story by one of the many IHF volunteers, believe it!

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