What does it mean to be an intelligent community?

By Elisabet Karma, coordinator of the Fyarkin community organisation, July 2022

We are a community living in Saribi, a village in Orkeri district, Biak-Numfor. We live on the island of Numfor. We have set up a collective business called Fyarkin. [In the Biak language], Fyarkin means “to be guided in the right direction”.

We are a group of people who had felt unable to participate in activities organised by the village government, by the community and by the church. What I mean by this is that we didn’t have enough confidence in ourselves.

[Fyarkin] has been working for around two years. Through the process of working with TFT Papua, we have learnt many things.

The first is how the learning process with TFT Papua unearthed the potential that already existed in each of us. Everyone is born intelligent. Every person has their own potential but may not be aware of it. Each one of us has our own potential which we should acknowledge.

This is what happened with us. [Before this] we felt ashamed of acknowledging our own strengths and potential. But that self-acknowledgement happened with each person participating in the learning together with TFT Papua. That acknowledgement made each of us proud of ourselves. We became proud of our identity. We learnt that we are intelligent from birth, that people are not born lazy.

Second, we are a business group. But we are still learning how to build and believe in ourselves.

In our experience, village groups developed by government activities do not last long. This is because those groups are formed for a project or because there is money. Trainings are given before the community fully understands what it means to be a group and how to organise a group.

The lesson we learnt from this experience was to first correct our way of thinking. We did’t want to set up a group just because there was [government] aid to be had. Rather, [we wanted to know] how a group can sustain itself with the resources we have, around us. That way, if there is assistance, the group will know how to manage it properly.

This is why our group has lasted as long as it has.

Third, our achievements over the past two years must first be measured in terms of the people [who make up Fyarkin] only then in terms of production. In learning together with TFT Papua, we didn’t focus on theory. We instead focused on understanding concepts. Theory, for us, is simply a complement. Our critical thinking [is shaped by] our life experience. This [approach] makes it very easy for us to read the situation around us and to identity how to solve problems.

Now, having journeyed with TFT Papua over the past two years, we are able to participate and to involve ourselves directly in activities implemented by the village government, the community around us and also the church.

Our success is not measured in how much we produce, rather in how we each make small changes in our lives. [We can see these changes] in how we were previously so dependent on [government] aid, how we had lost cohesion in the community, and in how we have now rebuilt that cohesion.

Most importantly for us, we are proud of our life now. We are proud of our identity.

We ourselves formed Fyarkin without being told to by anyone else. We have set up so many groups in the past but they didn’t last long. When we tried again to build this group, we then got involved in activities that made us forget that we are, in fact, a business group. We got involved in so many activities implemented by the government and the community that we sacrificed the needs of our own business group.

We have learnt from this mistake. Sometimes, things have happened in our group where we have ended up disagreeing with each other, to the point that we feel distant from one another. But within one or two weeks, [because] each of us is aware that something isn’t right, we come together again without anyone telling us to do so.

Like I said before, we formed this group ourselves. No-one forced us to. So, when we meet, we admit to our mistakes. We have the courage to admit to our mistakes and we learn from them.