Have you ever felt completely powerless in the face of societies turmoil? Have you ever thought to yourself ‘What’s the point?’. Living in this day and age, when the complex issues of our society are constantly crashing upon our foundation of hope, like tidal waves breaking on the crumbing city walls — their urgency and intimidation make us reluctant to walk the path of change. So what keeps us going? When we experience other people respecting and taking part in our own meaningful work, it reinsures and reignites our sense of purpose and motivation to continue. In our travels to Lombok in search of passionate change makers, we were gifted with the meeting of Aisyah, a strong women who creatively morphs trash into fashion. Aisyah embodies the hardship as well as the persistence of being a change maker, this was extremely prevalent when she demonstrated her craft to us and knighted us to further teach other students, and when she was re-inspired to expand her eco-art.
Having arrived in Lombok, the contrast of paradise to pollution was abundantly present. This made us all the more excited to begin our session with Aisyah and learn form her expertise. And so it began, Aisyah greeted us with her intent smile and put us straight to work. We started by washing the pieces of neglected material collected the day before from our beach clean up with the local students (which was transformative in itself). Then we gathered in a circle, clueless at how we were going to transform trash into trend. We were shown how, and then shown again, and again, and again, to the point where our circle became a sea of “I get it!… Oh wait, can you help me again.” This was the moment where I began to understand the level of passion and determination Aisyah possessed. Despite how many failures and sighs of frustration she witnessed, she never stopped approaching us with laughter and a will to pass on her passion, and because of that we caught on. One by one we began to stand, waving our multi-colored bracelets in the air in accomplishment. She taught us well enough that we became confident to teach what we just learnt to other wide-eyed students.
The next day, after the rich melody of mid-day prayers came to an end, the local students began to trickle in. Giggles and a sense of anticipation filled the air as we gathered to explain the approaching activity. The messy pile of the trash we gathered as a group was scattered amongst the grass and we could see that the students were slightly confused at what was about to happen. I sat and begun to take them through the step-by-step process I had just undergone. It was as if we had replayed our session with Aisyah, except we were the teachers and our newly made friends the students. I began to comprehend the level of patience and attentiveness needed to sustain enthusiasm amongst the kids, but slowly I could see the ripples of knowledge manifesting before my eyes. The kids who understood the process of the bracelet making started to teach their friends, and then their friends would teach more children, and the beautiful process continued. I felt the effort and time I was investing in teaching was directly paying off and effectively setting change in motion. But the ripples of change and knowledge moved even further then we expected.
We awoke in the morning with notifications of photos that Aisyah had posted. After seeing us passing on her work to local students, she held another workshop at a rural school in Lombok, widening the ripples. Though sharing stories and sharing capabilities, Aisyah was re-inspired to keep moving forward with her work in a whole new light. At the end of the session she had with us we expressed our gratitude for her and the work she goes. She began to shed tears and told us how hard it is to do the work she does. She told us that it give her hope to see such young people being interested and involved in the environmental movement. She gave us her tears of hope, and I too was filled and re-charged to stand strong and persist in stepping forward.
It is easy to doubt the effectiveness of our work in this world and if change is truly taking place at the rate it should. When we feel that powerlessness and inner despair, it is of grave importance that we remember the ripples, the excited faces that are ready to learn, the power of passing on our passions to the generations before and after us. Thousands of candles can be lit by one iridescent flame. Each of us hold the power of being that flame, it is only a matter of kindling the fire and refusing to let it burn out.
Written by Gabrielle Royo-Fay