Zainah Rahmiati

If “a book is a device to ignite the imagination” (in the words of British playwright Alan Bennett) then Flinders alumna Zainah Rahmiati has set alight an inferno by establishing a successful community library for the disadvantaged in her hometown of Lhokseumawe, Indonesia.

Zainah, a Master of Language Studies graduate (2016), left Flinders to return home to Lhokseumawe, Aceh’s second biggest city, wanting to promote literacy education for children in rural areas of her hometown.

With support from one of her Flinders lecturers, Dr Michael Savvas, Zainah re-established a library she had started in 2012. The library, now officially registered at the regional Ministry of Education, was named Hasan-Savvas Library/Rumoh Baca Hasan-Savvas, in memory of Zainah’s father Hasan, a devoted Imam (Islamic religious leader) who tirelessly worked to serve and teach Islamic knowledge throughout local villages.

“He did his work voluntarily for many years until his death,” she says. “His dedication inspired me to do similar things for my community. I chose to help and support children and youth in remote or rural areas, who normally do not have access to books of good quality, together with literacy education and other recreational programs.”

At the end of 2016 the library received nearly $10,000 in funding from the Direct Aid Program via the Australian Embassy. The money was used to build a multipurpose room in the new library. In June this year Zainah was awarded $3,000 in recognition for being the second-best community library manager throughout the Aceh Province.

Zainah’s project is a childhood dream. “Both of my late parents were good role models of promoting reading in a family. Because of this I dreamt of having a school for underprivileged children and a library.”

The project has now been extended to provide other forms of non-formal education and training for teenagers and women to develop their skills and knowledge in their chosen field.

Zainah has fond memories of her time at Flinders University. “I would say to prospective students that Flinders University, and the city of Adelaide, are a harmonious combination of living and studying in Australia. Friendly people, a unique mix of cultural identities, socio-economic backgrounds, and religious beliefs, that allows students to feel more accepted within the community, to interact and connect with others, and to grow and learn something new from each other.”

Zainah’s future goals are to build two new community libraries to help more children to get access to a good quality of books and help reduce illiteracy among women in rural and remote areas of Aceh. If you would like to support these projects please contact Zainah via LinkedIn.

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