The Narwastu Foundation is a church-affiliated volunteer organization leading a Community of Learning (COL) school in one of Papua’s remote and impoverished areas. Established in 2009, in the village of Binime where personal welfare has suffered due to ethnic clashes, the Narwastu COL school provides formal, basic academics, healthcare and healthful-living skills to children and adults to improve lives and advance the community.
Under this “one roof” approach, eight highly-motivated, well-trained staff with support from the parent teacher association, 50 children attend preschool, elementary and high school classes. In addition, more than 500 adults attended functional literacy classes. Lessons strategically incorporate local, traditional beliefs with modern knowledge to amplify changes in attitudes and behaviors. All of this is accomplished in only three classrooms constructed by the community using their own trees to build walls, desks and chairs. A portion of this program supports materials for a small micro-hydro power installation on a nearby river which will provide electricity for the evening literacy classes; now taught under candlelight.
The mountainous terrain puts the nearest health center five hours out of reach to citizens of Binime. Together, Narwastu and USAID trained workers to conduct medical check-ups for students to address major health issues; a priority among the community which suffers from high mortality rates, malnutrition, and malnutrition-related health problems linked to worms and anemia. Children learn adopt good hygiene practices, such as hand-washing and tooth-brushing, through songs, routine check-ups and instruction. Monthly workshops, encouraging discussion, are held at Narwastu where adults in the community learn healthful-living skills such as personal sanitation, bathing, food handling, water boiling, nutrition information and disease control.
The school is more than just a school – it is the core of community progress and a forum for public dialogue to promote the well-being of the people of Binime. The Narwastu Foundation and USAID work in partnership to support this holistic approach of sustaining the Binime community by equipping its members with life skills. This COL model transforms communities through specialized education, targeted healthcare, and citizen collaboration which fuels sustainable progress.