We are happy to report that in general the project has been going quite well and that we were able to implement the project within the proposed time frame and budget.
Our partner, the Indonesian Institute for Energy Economics (IIEE) is wonderfully supportive in various sectors of the work. Our home institution, Institut Teknologi Bandung, via Bosscha Observatory and the Department of Astronomy provide additional support, particularly in financing the travel cost of their staff to Timor. The National Agency for Space and Aeronautics (LAPAN) supported part of the land transportation in Timor and accommodation.
The need assessment survey was completed and we received the report and discussed issues with the surveyor. The public gathering for the introduction to the grand plan of the astronomical observatory, its impact to the local community, the community development project, etc, was very well attended. The speakers include the Head of LAPAN who also acts as the Head of this National Observatory Project, the Regent of Kupang, and academicians from Nusa Cendana University the largest university in the province, and from Institut Teknologi Bandung.
Meaningful dialogues with local people followed for weeks after the gathering. We got to listen to peoples’ aspiration, and also anxiety and worry. The training in STEM for teachers in STEM and training in office financial management for public officers started well but went at slower pace than expected. A few adjustments need to be made, which include revising the list of priority.
We need to consider a couple of subtle issues such as village politics in order for the project to fit in smoothly. We include an additional program: reading with and for children and providing books, particularly school books via school, and setting up a small public library at the district office. Funding for this work comes from other source, mainly private donations.
The evaluation on our first visit suggests that we put more effort in engaging the public via more types of activities. It is important to build trust, especially since this project is a long term one with little short term gain. People can be patient, and are willing to participate in projects they know worthwhile. We need to know them as they need to know us. Sooner or later it will be just one big understanding community, no need to distinguish them from us.
For this, the plan is to have another big visit in mid August to complete the STEM teacher training program and public officer management training (rather than wait till November) and to add activities to the Independence Day festivities on August 17.
This visit is preceded by an astronomy training in Kupang city for a number of Nusa Cendana University staff members. They will be the backbone of public outreach program in the future. Some of them will join us to the village to assist in the teacher training program.
Much of the work has been on developing deliverables and preparing training visits. The distance learning system that was planned to be worked on in June must wait till October. The visit in November will be for evaluation, measuring the impact of the project, further direct dialogue with local people, teachers, public officials, and community representatives. This will be carried out by a smaller team. Overall the designated expenses for each block of activity in the budget will not be altered.
Project documentation – Preliminary Needs Assessment report, presentations, posters