Communities Working Together

The Papuan Project today is a powerful testimony to the communities' determination to improve their quality of life through reading.

"I used to be a war chief and led my people in war," a community leader from Irian Jaya, Indonesia explained. "Now I want to serve my people by promoting skills in reading and writing. To do that I realize I need to learn to read and write first so that others will follow me."

Twelve language groups in Irian Jaya have identified learning to read as essential to improving their quality of life. Community leaders are motivated to help illiterate children and adults become good readers in their own languages and subsequently the national language, Bahasa Indonesia.

This strong commitment to literacy led the twelve language groups to establish a partnership with four Indonesian NGO's and SIL International. Created in 1998, the Papuan Education and Development Project is the result of that partnership.

The Papuan Project equips communities to produce reading materials and build libraries in their villages, in addition to training literacy teachers. Many of the books contain valuable information on health and agriculture. Local people use their reading skills to learn more about malaria or AIDS. In the Tehit language, along with books about malaria prevention, a health seminar was offered to teach people how to make mosquito nets more effective by dipping them in repellent.

Language groups involved in the Papuan Project do not work in isolation. Training workshops are an effective forum for different groups to interact and learn from each other. Vision and goals of the projects are determined by both a local literacy committee, and a provincial-level leadership team. The leadership team consists of four Indonesian nationals and one SIL consultant.

Local communities, national partners, and the Indonesian government are proud of the Papuan Project's success. In 2001, the Department of Education nominated the Papuan Education and Development Project to receive UNESCO's annual literacy award for its work among minority language groups in Irian Jaya.

The Papuan Project today is a powerful testimony to the communities' determination to improve their quality of life through reading.