“We come to Singapore to work and contribute. I wanted to bring something home for my own community.” -Rista
Ristanti Ningrum spent years in Singapore as a domestic worker, one of over 230,000 women from the Southeast Asian region who migrate to Singapore to work. Part of her job involved reading to her employer’s son. Through this shared activity, she was inspired to embark on the ambitious journey of singlehandedly starting a children’s library–named ‘Ceria’–in her home village of Desa Bader, Indonesia.
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Ristanti has a dream. She hopes that the children in Desa Bader, Dolopo, will cultivate a love for reading and discovering the world, just like she did after her time working in Singapore. Ristanti was inspired by her ex-employer, Sarah, who instilled a culture of reading at home.
Ristanti and Charlie, her ex-employer’s son, spend several hours a week reading books together. Charlie particularly enjoys books with maps and images of space.
After a decade of working in Singapore as a domestic worker, Ristanti is ready to go home to pursue her dreams and start a new chapter in life.
Ristanti locked in embrace with Charlie before she returns home.
For the past two years, she spent much of her Sundays at LP3I, an Indonesian institute in collaboration with Koleg Islam Muhamadiyah, to pursue a Diploma in Business Management and Accountancy. Ristanti hopes to eventually set up an online business when she returns to Indonesia.
Ristanti returns home to care for her mother, who has since been in poor health following the demise of her father. Both mother and daughter are happy to be reunited again after a long absence.
Ristanti’s humble abode was primarily built using remittances sent back from her decade of working in Singapore.
Joko, Ristanti’s newly-wedding husband, helps to construct and assemble the book shelves. The couple were only just married the week before, but they spared no time in preparing for the opening of the library.
Ristanti’s late father offered his unequivocal support after learning of her plans to set up a community library on her return. He partitioned this space from the main hall of the family home and specially designated it as the community library for the village.
Ristanti continues to receive book donations from Singapore. The boys in her neighbourhood–Dirga, Ari and Chairul–are excited to see piles of books, although most of them are in English. Ristanti looks forward to eventually having her own collection of Bahasa Indonesian books for the village children.
Ristanti and her good friend, Noviyanti, speaking with the younger children before the official launch of the library. Some thirty children came by to the opening party.
As soon as the children make themselves comfortable, they are fully riveted and colour their evening away for the art competition to celebrate the inauguration of the library. Ristanti had earlier been shopping for art supplies for the opening in the city centre of Madiun, thirty minutes from her village.
With the help of a few friends, Ristanti prepares mini personalised cards to invite the children in her village to the official opening of the library. After much thought and deliberation, she decided to name the library ‘Ceria’, which means ‘happy’.
Joko and Ristanti spend time in the kitchen preparing a meal for their guests. Instead of moving into their conjugal home, Joko lives in Ristanti’s family house to help out with the library project and ensure the fruition of her dream. He also moved in to care for his ailing mother-in-law.
Even though she is back home in the village, Ristanti makes the conscious effort to connect with the friends she met and worked with in Singapore. Having been an active volunteer with HOME, a Singapore NGO which provides assistance to low-waged migrant workers, she continues to contribute her time to assist fellow workers in need despite the physical distance.
Joko and Ristanti share a quiet moment together.
Chairul, Dirga and Ari decorate the library walls with the maps brought by Ristanti.
‘Ceria’ was officially opened by Ristanti and Noviyanti on the fourth of July, 2013, in the presence of friends and relatives.