Oblate-pioneered Academy offers scholarships to quake, Tsunami survivors

Friday, October 13, 2006
By nias

CILACAP, Indonesia (UCAN) — Brigita Denis Dwinatalia’s dream of studying psychology at state-run Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta crumbled when an earthquake hit south-central Java Island on May 27.

Her family’s house in Guwosari, a village in Yogyakarta’s Bantul district, was one of more than 17,000 destroyed in the quake. As a result her family had to take the money that was set aside for the 18-year-old Catholic’s university studies and use it to build a bamboo house to live in.

Dwinatalia was left with no means to pursue her dream of further studies. Then she found out about a scholarship program offered by the National Maritime Academy (AMN, Indonesian acronym) in Cilacap, Central Java. Students of the school who received scholarships after their homes on Nias Island were destroyed by an earthquake on March 28, 2005, did volunteer relief work after the Java quake and talked about the program.

The academy is in Cilacap, 290 kilometers southeast of Jakarta and about 150 kilometers west of Bantul. It appointed a contact person for interested young people in the affected areas of Central Jakarta and Yogyakarta.

When the person offered her a scholarship, she was initially hesitant. “At first I was not sure because it did not fit in with my original plan. But then I realized that such an opportunity might come only once, so I accepted it,” she told UCA News Sept. 19 in Cilacap.

She and three other students from Bantul entered the academy this year to study and train to join the merchant marine. “I thank God that I can study for free for three years,” Dwinatalia said.

Another scholarship recipient, Firmatus Firman Laia from Hiliwaebu village of South Nias, a district in North Sumatra province, explained that the academy gives him a scholarship and weekly pocket money. The 21-year-old Catholic entered the academy last year.

The oldest of six children recalled that his parents’ two-story house was destroyed by the 2005 quake. Laia had been studying for one-and-a-half years at a teacher training school, but those studies came to a sudden halt.

“As the first of six children I feel responsible to support the family. I must continue my studies and must succeed. That’s why when I learned of the availability of the scholarship, I immediately applied and took the test. I was very glad that I was accepted,” he told UCA News.

“Thank God, I can continue my study at this academy,” he added. Nias is 2,250 kilometers northwest of Cilacap.

The school also extended scholarships to young people from Pangandaran, in West Java province, which was hit by a tsunami in July. A young woman named Dedeh, one of four students who took advantage of the offer, told UCA News that she is studying navigation. “I want to be a sailor,” she said.

According to AMN director Fredericus Sutanto Adi Prayitno, the eight students from Java bring to 210 the number of scholarships the academy has offered to families affected by the three natural disasters. The other 212 come from Nias, 114 of whom entered last year and 88 this year.

Some of these students receive weekly pocket money as well as scholarships, he said, but this depends on the economic situation of their family. Each scholarship is worth about 1.5 million rupiah (US$163) a year in tuition fees, with the pocket money given to some students amounting to 70,000 rupiah.

“We want to help people as many as possible through this educational institution,” Prayitno said, adding that this derives from AMN’s orientation to the spirit of love.

Father Carolus Burrows, who pioneered the academy in 1985, told UCA News Sept. 20 that AMN received donations from various overseas organizations such as Misereor, the German Catholic bishops’ agency for development aid, Caritas Ireland and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation.

“We want to help people who have nothing. That is why we need enough money to cover all expenses,” he said, citing tuition, meals, health care, clothes and school supplies as the students’ primary needs.

“We want to give an opportunity to the survivors even though they are still traumatized. I hope it will give them hope, eliminate their trauma and revive their spirit to live,” he added.

AMN is managed by the Maritime Education Directors Foundation. It has a three-year diploma program and educates its students in areas including navigation, ship mechanics and shipping administration. It has produced 1,400 graduates since it was founded and currently has 425 students.

Source: The Indian Catholic Website

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