Working At Grassroots: Through The Eyes Of A Southeast Asian

by Lyn Phang

17 Aug 2017

I have been fortunate to be able to be part of the GK Indonesia family this summer. My internship with GK Indonesia was certainly an enriching and inspiring one for me. As a Malaysian, I was excited by the opportunity to be able to work close to home with a grassroot organization involving community and youth development work. For me, it was an opportunity to work in a new country in South East Asia and to still be able to gain experience in a field I am passionate about.

My 2 months internship working with the urban poor communities of Jakarta had opened my eyes to many different aspects about working in a NGO, Indonesia and its people. I learned a lot about working with people at all levels of the organization and the challenges of being lost in translation and communication yet still being able to work together to get things done. I learned about becoming aware of time management and teamwork. Most of all, I learned about the unique stories that each individual shared with me in the communities, each compelling and humanizing in its own way. Through working with GK Indonesia and its mission for the communities I saw the value of 'Pancasila', the five foundational principles of Indonesia, in its people - a strong community, working together and a commitment for a better future together.

Malaysia and Indonesia are similar in many ways; our language, the diversity of the people and cultures and even food. During my time in Indonesia, I found myself comparing both countries constantly particularly in the development of our nations and the people. The hustle and bustle of city traffic, warm climate and the proliferation of constructions everywhere all seemed too familiar. Yet, I also found myself adapting to many of these similarities that make it uniquely Indonesian; from the madness of Jakarta traffic congestion (it's no joke!) to the swamp of 'gojeks' (motorcycle taxis), the warmness and patience of the people to the natural beauty and diversity of the country. Indonesia is a beautiful country with much to offer and the potential to grow and develop into a powerhouse nation.

Working for GK Indonesia had provided me with a mirror to reflect on myself. One of my most rewarding moments in this internship was to witness the eagerness of the community youths in wanting to learn, to be empowered and move forward together. I saw the energy and passion of the youths to make change for themselves and how they can make an impact directly in their own communities. It reminded me of the reason I want to work in international development sector and further solidified my passion to commit towards social change and development. The experience had helped me better understand how I can make a tangible impact in my own capacity at the community level and the responsibility to give back.

I am grateful for the everyone who had made my GK Indonesia experience a memorable one, from the GK staff, volunteers and communities to my fellow GK Interns. It was not only the opportunity to work with the underprivileged communities and learning about grassroot initiatives but also a time of character building for myself. I learned about myself, about each other, about the communities we were working with, about the country and overall I believed we all learned we had the ability to affect change in our own way in making the world a better place.

Thank you GK Indonesia for having me!

Lyn Phang is currently in her second year of M.A. degree at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) majoring in International Development. A native of Malaysia, Lyn is interested in the areas of human development particularly on education and youth development.