Posted on May 25, 2011

Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar students and faculty volunteers recently returned from a trip to Indonesia Cordoned by Reach Out to Asia (ROTA) and Vodafone Qatar.  The trip also represented a partnership with the Indonesian Titian Foundation, and involved workshops with local students and teachers.

The volunteer trip focused on building the knowledge and capacity of both students and teachers at the ROTA SMK Vocation School in Bayat and was the first ROTA trip that involved partnering with a single Qatar-based University.  The Bayat School was set up to offer children in the region an opportunity to continue their education and obtain vocational skills.  A number of courses are offered, such as IT, entrepreneurship, English, and local arts and crafts. Many of the students attending the school are on scholarships funded by ROTA and Vodafone Qatar.  The project fell under ROTA’s Community Development Program Department.

“The Community Development Department strives to create a movement of volunteers and responsible global citizens within Qatar,” said Mohamed Abdullah Al Saleh, ROTA Community Development Manager. “These volunteers carried initiatives to improve the quality of Education at the Indonesian Community.”

In Indonesia, volunteer-led workshops were designed so that direct interaction with their Qatar-based equivalents would help develop much needed skills in Indonesian students and teachers.  Student volunteers lead courses in Photoshop, fashion design, sewing, pattern-making, and logo design, while VCU teachers offered arts training workshops, and exchanged ideas with a women’s pottery village in making their products more creative and marketable, to ensure a higher income.

“From the feedback we received from both the ROTA VCUQatar volunteers and Indonesian students and teachers, we can confidently say that this was a highly successful trip,” continued Mohamed Al Saleh. “The ROTA volunteers made excellent role models, with the local students warmly accepting them.  We know that this has been a life changing event, and we can use this experience as a model for future trips based on skill development for educational institutes in Asia.”

The ROTA VCUQatar volunteers shared the same thoughts and conclusions.

“This trip was an excellent opportunity for VCU students to build interpersonal skills,” said Lesley Gray, VCUQatar Student Affairs Representative. “The experience of directly absorbing themselves into a culture completely different from theirs also made them realize that people from different parts of the world aren’t unlike them and have the same dreams and aspirations.”

Students from Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar were impressed with the Indonesian students’ passion and eagerness to learn.

This is my first trip to Indonesia, and I was amazed by the fervor the students showed, keeping in mind that it is not easy for kids to get an education here,” said Basra Khalid Bashir, Head of the Student Government Association at VCUQatar.  Added Fahad al Kawari, another student volunteer “It was a life changing experience for me…These youth don’t have much but it is their passion that gets to me.  I am now a strong believer that everyone as fortunate as ourselves has the obligation to give back to the community; whether it be the local community, or community in a developing country.”

Indonesian students and teachers were grateful for the knowledge exchange, and the hope that VCU volunteers shared with them.

“I would personally like to thank ROTA, Vodafone, VCU, and the Titian Foundation for making this trip happen,” said Dr. Supardi, principal of the ROTA SMK Vocation School. “I have seen the students excited about the workshops and so motivated about their futures.”

Added Tri Diyah Lestari a ROTA/Vodafone scholarship student, “Because of the scholarship, I was lucky to get a chance to get an education.  Most of this region is poor, and I hope that ROTA and Vodafone continue supporting children in this region, because most of our families are facing financial challenges to go to school.  Personally, this experience with the VCUQatar students has inspired me to start my own non-governmental organization in the future, to further develop educational opportunities in the region.”

The trip also included a cultural component for the Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar students, with the volunteers visiting temples, museums, mosques, the Klaten Emperor Palace, and watching a local ballet performance.

For more information about this trip and other ROTA success stories, please visit