There was something about Mery. She was different from all the other caddies. Paul, an expat from Canada who golfed in his free time, spotted it right away.
Mery was the best caddy on the Malaysian golf course. More than that, she was fun, sweet, respectful, hardworking and smart. Very smart. Paul said, to his wife Janet: You have to meet Mery.
Mery came from a poor village in Indonesia. At 24, she had turned down a university scholarship and been working as a caddy for five years to put her younger brother through school. (School is not free in Indonesia.)
Caddy-life in Southeast Asia does not fall far behind the sex trade. Paul and Janet worried about Mery's future, and decided to offer her a chance of a lifetime.
On July 23, 2017, Mery arrived in London, Ontario, ready to begin her new life in Janet and Paul's basement. It wasn't long before she was thriving as an ESL student at Fanshawe College and playing on the golf team (the only girl amidst a long line of tall boys!)
For the first time, Mery began believing that her dream to "make a building" might come true.
Mery doesn't cry. But on her third night in Canada tears streamed down her face as she talked about her childhood. When Mery was seven, her father left her mother for a younger woman and shortly after her mother became very sick. Mery and her three siblings were shipped off to their grandmother's where they were bullied by an uncle who said they belonged in an orphanage.
Mery can't bear the thought of orphanages. For her, they represent a place where unloved children go. This is why she wants to "make a building" - a school-like place where poor children can go and feel safe and happy.
On July 3, 2016, Mery and her family visited a new housing development (called Siosar) located near her village in the district of Tanah Karo in the Indonesian province of Sumatra Utara.
Like others, they were curious to see what the government had finally done in response to a deadly volcano in 2010.
For three years, over 10,000 villagers had lived in various evacuation centres waiting for the government to step in and provide support.
Today, the displaced villagers are working hard to rebuild their lives in their subsidized housing units.
Mery remembers seeing little children running loose that day while their mothers worked in the fields. There was schooling for older children, but nothing for 3- to 6-year-olds.
A year later, Mery was in the capital city of Jakarta applying for her student visa and met up with her brother-in-law, a pastor named Robin hed Gurusinga. Robin asked: Why Canada, Mery? Mery was clear. This was her chance to "make a building" for the little children of Siosar.
Robin's church had built a school for poor children in Jakarta a few years prior. He agreed to help Mery, and shortly thereafter travelled to Siosar to pick out the land.
Robin has quoted $35,000 CA for Mery's project. This will buy the land, “make the building” and purchase school supplies to last several years. Annual teacher salaries will be covered by the "paying" families - those who can afford the typical school fees. Poor children will go for free.
“All I want is to make a child’s life better than mine was,” says Mery. “I believe a school will do that. A safe and happy school.”
To anyone interested in supporting The Mery School Project, thank you!
- Lisa Shepherd
- The Code-McKillop Family
- Nam Ju Jung
- Highland Women's Section
- Highland Men's Section
Organizer and beneficiary
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