Danish School-Building Teddy Bears in Indonesia

Text and photos: Nicolai Wichmann / Plan Denmark

Like many other primary schools in Indonesia, up until a year ago, Kalimaro Primary School on Central Java was rundown, dirty and unfit for children. The classrooms had dirt floors, old furniture and only a couple of small windows for lighting. As a result the 213 pupils there developed headaches and had trouble focusing in class.

In 2009, the Danish-based company, Nature Planet decided to rebuild the school in collaboration with the Danish branch of the international development organization, Plan International. Nature Planet produces its series of “Sweetheart” soft toy in factories outside of Jakarta. Co-founder, Michael Severin therefore thought it suitable that a percentage of the profits could support schoolchildren on Java.

A better schooling
During the first year of the collaboration, Nature Planet donated $25.000 dollars to Plan’ efforts to rebuild the school, and another $25,000 is currently en route. The first amount went into building three bright classrooms with tiled floors and brick walls – now been painted in bright colors and decorated with children’s drawings. New school desks and chairs replaced the old benches and the schoolteachers received additional training

The changes have had substantial impact on the pupils’ concentration and efforts. When asked, a little girl answered, “It used to be dark and dusty, and it was hard to listen and to learn. Now it’s bright and nice. It’s gotten easier to listen to the teacher.”

Up close and personal
Nature Planet chose Plan International as collaborative partner, because the NGO puts great emphasis both working in unison with local communities and providing transparency for donors. Michael Severin has been able to follow the reconstruction efforts closely and in April 2010 he visited the school himself.

Michael had seen pictures, but the personal experience touched him deeply. “It’s incredible to see what we have helped accomplish in Kalimaro, and it shows what big a difference, you can make. But we’re not going to stop here. Nu we need to finish this school and then it’s on to the next one,” said Michael.

The children were also very happy to meet Michael, who gave them all a teddy bear to take home with them.

The primary school still needs three more classrooms, and the adjacent kindergarten is most aptly described as a rundown shack. However, with more money en route from Nature Planet, it is expected that Plan will finish rebuilding the entire school in 2010.

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