“We know it’s something we need to do to make them love reading,” says Agus, a Literacy Activist in Indonesia

Literacy Council of Northern Virginia Featured Interview

Last week, LCNV had a special guest in our office, Agus. Selected by American Indonesian Exchange Foundation (AMINEF) / Fulbright Indonesia, Agus is a  Media and Public Relations student at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), but more notably, he is an activist in Indonesia promoting the literacy level of the general public. Agus was introduced to LCNV by our librarian, Bruce. Bruce met Agus from one of his volunteer positions, and once Bruce learned about Agus’ effort in improving the literacy level in Indonesia, he excitedly brought him into the office of LCNV.

Growing up in poverty and exposed to a variety of hardships, Agus likes to be involved in the community, and assist people in bringing positive changes to their lives. Once he realized that the low literacy level is a concern in certain areas of his country and people lack the passion for reading, Agus was determined to change that with his friends and started bringing books to the communities – village by village, town by town. “I am trying to build up small communities and teach people how to read,” Agus states. He is a permanent volunteer for Backpack Library, a project funded by his friend Ziadah. For rural areas where the road condition is bad and people have very limited access to the outside world, Agus and his friends ride motorcycles to the communities and bring books to them in backpacks. Agus also has a small library in his home, where he teaches 5-12 year old children English, and encourages them to form the habit of reading. Apart from his own projects, Agus is teaching at Peduli Anank Foundation, a shelter in Indonesia for underprivileged children. At the foundation, he teaches a 3rd Grade Class and traditional dance to children who cannot afford to go to school.

“It is something that we have to do for our community. We care about our people, and we know it’s something we need to do for making them love reading,” says Agus, “I was born in low economic level and have been aided with a scholarship from elementary school to where I am now – so I understand the difficulties they face and can feel what they are going through in the process of learning.”

While conducting these projects, Agus and his friends face many difficulties, such as seeking donations, going through the long, enduring process of regulations, and explaining to people about what they do. “Sometimes people don’t understand what we are doing – they come to us and ask, ‘why are you here? Do you have money to give us?’  they think for doing  this work we come with a lot of money,” says Agus, “but there’s only one in a hundred of people who would say that. There are so many more moments I enjoyed throughout that process. I enjoy talking with them about their problems and solve them together with the community.” Once after Agus assisted a community, the community kept doing the activities and internalized it as a part of their habits.  “That made me feel very, very proud and fulfilled,” says Agus.

Agus’ story is an inspiration to many of us and echoes with the core of LCNV. By sharing his story, we hope to motivate more people who have a similar goal to improve their communities. As Agus says, “I want to emphasize that we live in a community. We have many problems, and only we can solve them.”