Running From Bali to Jakarta To Help Indonesian Education
When Scott Thompson decided to run to Jakarta from Bali, he had no idea what he was getting into.
The feat itself sounded insurmountable: racing an astonishing 1,250 kilometers through more than 30 cities across five provinces in 25 straight days. Then there was the maniacal regime: covering more than 50 kilometers each day, running up to eight hours a day in some cases. Not to mention the blisters, the pain that shot through his knees and hips with every stride and the unforgiving equatorial heat — all in the name of charity.
It was a tremendous amount of pressure.
But Thompson, who works in the energy sector and has called Indonesia home for nine years, has never shied away from pressure. He defied all odds and completed the run, which lasted from March 8 to April 1, raising Rp 3.8 billion ($400,000) for Indonesia’s underprivileged children in the process.
The following day, he was back in the office.
Not bad for a guy who humbly describes himself as “just a bald, middle-age guy who happened to run from one place to the other.”
Thompson’s painstaking journey is now culminating in a priceless opportunity for the children of Indonesia.
“I never expected something so tangible, to be able to fix my eyes on something like a computer lab complete with teacher and 16 computers,” said Thompson, who was in Kintamani, Bali, on Thursday to open the first of four Rumah Belajar , (learning centers) named in his honor.
The learning centers, built to provide dropouts and underprivileged children with the necessary language and computer skills to get ahead in life, will be fitted with state-of-the-art Microsoft computer software and centered around a curriculum created by Binus University that will earn students certification from the information technology-savy institution, acknowledging their completion of the four-month program.
While Thompson’s steel resolve and experience running other endurance races around the world came in handy during the 25-day run, it was the cheers and encouragement of strangers who lined the roads when he ran through the towns that pushed Thompson to keep going.
“We were able to just chip away kilometer after kilometer,” said Thompson, explaining that his most emotional moments came while running through the smaller villages. “I would get a tremendous boost when I was running through a village and hear my name coming out over the mosque’s speaker system. When you hear that you get a tremendous feeling of warmth and sense of community out of that. People who don’t even know you are willing to come out and wave you on, shake your hand and call out to you. It wasn’t a call to prayer, it was a call to say ‘Hey, come out and watch this guy running.’ ”
A press release from Yayasan Anak Cinta Bangsa, which coordinated with the Cempaka Putih Foundation in Bali to build the first learning center, explained that in addition to the Rumah Belajar Scott Thompson in Bali, there will be a Rumah Belajar Scott Thompson in Jakarta and two other undecided locations chosen from the 30 cities Thompson ran through. The learning centers will provide 450 underprivileged children every year — a total of 1,800 children — with the necessary computer and language skills to get ahead in life.
“Besides Bali, there will be three other Rumah Belajar Scott Thompson that will mark the journey of Scott Thompson from Bali to Jakarta,” YACB executive and founder Veronica Colondam said in the press release.
“Per YACB standard in every Rumah Belajar, students who graduate from our program will receive certification from Binus University. We are hopeful that this Rumah Belajar will give opportunities for the underprivileged children around Kintamani to improve their skills. We also see the potential for the other vocational programs to be offered in the future, such as hospitality class, especially [on the] cafe and restaurant [industry]. This will allow Rumah Belajar to work with the Cempaka Putih Foundation for employment opportunities for those who graduate from the program.”
Despite having four learning centers named in his honor, Thompson remains humble. For him, this is just the start — he’s already figuring out how to keep the learning centers running for years to come.
“Now we have to expand on that and keep Berlari Terus [the name given to the foundation born of Thompson’s run] going,” Thompson said. “We have to figure out how to keep this going. It gives me the impetus to get back out there again. There will definitely be another run. No question.”
Thompson is playing his cards close to his vest, but he has a few ideas in mind.
“I’ll run another island in 2014, a similar distance, but I’m looking to up the number of kilometers I’ll be running daily. It has to be tougher. We have to up the ante. It’s probably putting more pressure on me than I can bare but…”
But then again, pressure has never been a problem for Thompson.