a magical place with special people
Michael Westberg on the first Connect festival
Jakarta. Traffic. Trash. Trash pickers. Street kids. Smiles. Inspiration. Connections. For me, ISTA has always been about making connections.
It was an introduction to the world of Jakarta’s street children that led to my hosting the very first ISTA Connect festival in April of 2014: Hidden worlds. In the previous 25 years I had participated in multiple festivals as a host, visiting teacher, SEL, Rep and AD. I was keen to initiate something new – something innovative that had never been done at any other festival before. What could I do to make this a completely new experience – one that would have such impact that each participant would experience a transformation that returned them home a different person than they had been when they arrived… ?!
The inspiration for my festival came from the life changing experience I’d had during a new initiative established at my school (JIS) two years earlier, called Burst the Bubble. On the first non-teaching day back on campus, the entire staff is assigned to different service groups that venture out into the real, yet often hidden, world of Jakarta’s less fortunate citizens. I was lucky enough to be sent to KDM (Kampus Diakonia Modern), an organisation that offers a safe haven for street kids providing them with shelter, education and daily meals. Spending the day getting to know those kids changed my life. We had fun playing drama games and other ice-breaker activities. The kids were so hungry for the connection and fun, and like most people who get involved in community service I returned to school with a new sense of purpose and real connection to my local community.