Satu Padu

September 04 2018 | by

WHEN Father Giancarlo Zamengo, General Director of the Messenger of Saint Anthony visited Indonesia back in 2015, he accompanied some children from the Bandar Baru orphanage in Tiga Juhar, Indonesia, to a large vegetable garden. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he asked several of the children during the trip: “I want to be a footballer” said one 9-year-old boy, “a teacher” replied a 17-year-old girl, others said “a monk”, “a hair-stylist” and many other occupations and professions, each child with hopes and dreams like kids everywhere around the world. “Every child deserves to have a happy healthy life and a bright future,” Fr. Giancarlo said in June 2015, launching the appeal for the feast of Saint Anthony that year, “The future [for these children] lies only in the ability to offer a school in which human and Christian values are transmitted.” Today, the new Satu Padu Boarding School bears witness to the generosity of the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony: the dream of a new school, SMP-SMA SATU PADU Boarding School Tiga Juhar, has become reality.


Deprived region


Tiga Juhar is located in a territory with flat areas, mainly cultivated with rice, and hilly and mountainous areas, cultivated with palm oil, cocoa and other crops suited to that terrain. Production of palm oil is big business in Indonesia, accounting for nearly half of the world’s total supply. The environmental impact is severe: great swathes of pristine rainforest are destroyed each year to produce the oil. Land owners think only of the profits, not of the degradation. There is no environmental education. Economically it is a poor region based on traditional manual agriculture. The majority of the inhabitants are from the Karo tribe, mainly Christians, both Catholics and various Protestant denominations, but there are also Muslims and animists. The scholastic level is very low: the elderly and adults can barely read and write; most of the children attend elementary school, while the number of those attending middle school and then high school is reduced, because of both the distance to the schools which are located in the city, and for economic reasons. Other issues that make it difficult to conclude secondary and high schools are typical youth problems here, in particular difficulties in the city including bars and gambling halls, and unfortunately also the use of alcohol and drugs. The morale of young people is very low: there are no good role models to follow. Only a minority manage to register at the university. Most of the young people who decide to stay in the village take jobs related to agriculture, manual work, or other more humble jobs. The lack of personal entrepreneurial skills has created a dependence on work from multinationals, creating what could be described as exploitation of the people and reducing them to a lifestyle that is often not very dignified and precarious. The provision of a new school is a response to these problems and is intended to help the territory grow culturally. “It will be a catalyst that allows this area to take off and become a part of the new world,” said Fr. Zamengo.


School completed


Fr. Thomas Tarigan, OFM Conv., was responsible for the realisation of the project assisted by Fr. Maximilianus Sembiring, OFM Conv., Provincial Custodian. The Diocese continues to support the initiative, and the Custody of Indonesia OFM Conv. not only provided the land for the construction of the school, but also for the creation of a 20-hectare plantation. It is also the guarantor of the construction of buildings, the educational process, and the plantation. Its friars act as educators at the school, and help run the plantation.

Construction of the school was in several phases supported by five instalment payments – one for each phase of construction. The first phase was the preparation of the land and the excavation and laying of the foundations. This was followed by planned phases for the ground, first, and second floors together with construction of the roof. The fifth and final payment paid for completion of the building internally: floors, tiling, doors, windows etc. The completed school consists of sixteen class rooms, plus a computer room, a library, and toilets. A further part of the project was to create a 20 hectare plantation which would provide an opportunity for ‘non-graduates’ to find a job in agriculture. The school’s future autonomy and continuity will be secured through the payment of school fees that families will pay for each child at the school. The net income from the plantation will also serve to provide a fund for any unexpected expenses during the first years of the school.


First time


Over 5,000 people attended the inauguration of the new school on the 30 July 2017. Many notable dignitaries were there, including the Archbishop of Medan and the Minister of Education and Culture of Indonesia, Mr. Muhadjir Effendy, together with other MPs. It was noted that in the history of Indonesia, this was the only time a minister had come to inaugurate a school in Tiga Juhar. Fr. Giovanni Voltan, Provincial Minister of the Provincia italiana di S. Antonio di Padova, and Fr. Valerio Folli were also in attendance, together with many local friars. “It was not possible to use ‘Saint Anthony of Padua’ as part of the school name,” explains Fr. Voltan, “because young people, both Catholics and Muslims, study together at the school. A more ‘ecumenical’ name was chosen: Satu Padu which means (also symbolically), ‘unity’ – and also refers to the ‘united in diversity’ policy of the President of the Republic of Indonesia.” But although it was not possible to use the name directly, Fr. Voltan reveals that “the friars pointed out that Satu Padu contains an abbreviation of ‘Saint Anthony of Padua’, and the design of the school logo incorporates an image of the Saint.” The inauguration included multiple speeches, ribbon cutting, signing of an inscription, and a tour of the school followed by one dance after another. “As Italian friars, Fr. Valerio and I received gratitude addressed to all the donors of our great Anthonian family,” says Fr. Voltan.


Bright future


For the first school year of the new school there are currently 55 students, of whom 26 are middle school students (23 males and 3 females) and 29 high school students (20 males and 9 females). Two classes have been activated. There are 16 teachers. “For this year we evaluated that with these students we will be fine,” explains Father Thomas, “but for the new school year we will open the school to another 150 students.”

“First, I would like to thank the Lord who, until today, has accompanied us in carrying out our projects,” concludes Father Thomas, “and then, of course, the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony, without whose generous gifts we could not have proceeded. May St. Anthony continue to protect us all.” The new Satu Padu school will finally give children in Tiga Juhar the bright future they deserve.

Updated on September 04 2018