The Jungle School at the Indonesian Embassy, Washington DC
Washington, DC, April 10, 2012
Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal and the staff of the Indonesian Embassy’s Economic Section welcomed Butet to the US capital today for the official launch of The Jungle School in the United States. The stage was set with jungle greenery in the beautiful ballroom at the Embassy. More than 120 guests attended the launch.
Pak Dino opened the event with a heart-felt description of Butet’s work in the jungles of Jambi with the Orang Rimba. He even described a meeting with one of Butet’s “jungle students” in his Jakarta office. This young Rimba man was so confident and articulate he made a lasting impression on Pak Dino.
Pak Dino invited Craig Hanson, director of the People & Ecosystems Program at the World Resources Institute, to welcome Butet and share his impressions of the book. WRI is a non-profit, global environment and development think tank that goes beyond research to find practical ways to protect the planet and improve people’s lives.
Craig observed that The Jungle School is a reminder of the power of education. The Orang Rimba have lived in the Sumatran rainforest for thousands of years, but are now facing new challenges as the outside world bumps up against them. Yet, as the book describes, they lacked the reading, writing, counting, and other fundamental skills needed to engage with others, participate in the market, and interact with government. Butet recognized this and, through trial and error, developed an education method that worked for the Orang Rimba, enabling education to areas where conventional schools could not reach. In short, she is showing that education can be a powerful way to help people not only adapt to the advances of the modern world but also determine their own way of life.
The audience included government officials, non-profit organization staff, Indonesian students and many American friends of Indonesia and everyone was enthralled with Butet’s stories. She shared her adventures in the jungle to laughter and applause.
Butet’s favorite question came from Pak Dino’s daughter Alexa, “Why do the Orang Rimba go to the city?” Butet explained that the Orang Rimba sometimes leave the jungle to shop in the market or that they might go to Jakarta to make a case for their rights in the rainforest. Most interestingly, Butet explained that educated Rimba usually continue to live in the jungle. They use their literacy and other skills to help their own community.
A reporter from Kompas asked Butet what her role is today with the Orang Rimba. Butet said, “I am like Nokia – connecting people!” During her talk, Butet created a connection between the Washington audience and the Orang Rimba. When she returns to the jungle, she will tell stories of her book tour in America and complete the connection.