Naga Naga Naga!

So the world woke up on Friday morning to the news that Neil Bantleman and Ferdi Tjiong had finally been released from prison…and what a day it was! After almost 400 days in jail for a crime that they clearly did not commit, they were released and reunited with their families, and tears of joy and relief flowed triumphantly around the world. When I heard the news I was not only overcome with happiness, but also with a sense of pride that I feel compelled to write about and share with as many people as I can. You see, I spent 7 years working as a teacher at JIS, and it’s always been home for me in many ways. I remember the day that I left Jakarta wondering if I’d ever find a school community that would embrace me and my family the way that JIS did, and I wondered if I’d ever be fortunate enough to win the lottery for a second time. There was something magical about JIS that I could never quite put my finger on until now, and what the world has witnessed with regards to leadership, commitment, character, and love over the past 15 months has brought this magic to life for all of us.

If I can be bold enough, I want to take some time on behalf of the international school world to thank the community of the Jakarta Intercultural School for showing us what the true meaning of “family” is all about. The leadership that they’ve shown throughout this nightmare is beyond inspiring…from their Board of Trustees, to their leadership team, to their amazing teachers and parents and support staff, and from all the JIS alumni and extended community around the world who were unwavering in their support. They were resolute in their commitment to justice and they never took a break from their pursuit of freedom for their two wrongfully convicted family members. Thank you Jakarta for modelling for the rest of us what a true school community looks like, and for reminding us all that schools are only as strong as their culture, and what they are ultimately willing to stand for, and at what cost. Tim Carr, thank you for showing the world what true leadership is in the face of adversity, and to the rest of the JIS community, thank you for reminding me yet again why you are without a doubt one of the finest schools on the planet. I’ve never been more proud to be a Dragon…

But here’s the thing…the overwhelming pride that I’m feeling right now isn’t just because of the way JIS stood up for justice, but because of the way that we all did. It was incredible to see the support of schools and organizations around the world rallying together and standing together, united in their support for not only Neil and Ferdi, but for what is right and just. It was truly beautiful to see us all bond together and share in the sadness, the grief, the hope, and finally the joy that this ordeal thrust upon us, and I feel honoured to be a part of this amazing community of international schools. There wasn’t a day that went by that I did’t see a post, a picture, an article, a prayer, or a supportive word from some corner of the globe, and it brought me to tears on a number of occasions. Bob Johansen wrote a fantastic book recently called, The Reciprocity Advantage, which speaks not so subtly about the power that a community can attain when they leverage their collective strength. As international schools we are stronger when we band together, and share with one another…whether it’s taking a stand against an injustice or simply sharing with each other the programs and practices that can enhance student learning. We are all committed to the same goal, and the fight for Neil and Ferdi’s freedom has shown us that we can overcome even the most difficult of challenges when we band together as a true international school “family”. Often times it’s only through adversity that we find out what we’re truly made of, and together we are strong…Dragon strong.

Thank you, Jakarta Intercultural School for showing your strength of character to us all, and for modelling all that is right with the world. I’m proud today…prouder than I’ve ever been to be a Dragon. We have all been Dragons over the past 400 days and it makes my heart burst…now, let’s turn our attention to the innocent cleaners and free the 5 so that we can truly celebrate the end of this surreal and absurd experience. I’m asking you all to take a minute today, wherever you are and scream from the rooftops, NAGA NAGA NAGA! We are all with you JIS until the final 5 are released…let’s fight for Icha, Awan, Agun, Syahrial, and Zainal’s freedom, and fight to clear the name of Azwar, the good man who died in custody…For Neil and Ferdi…welcome home…free at last!