(Photo by Peak Johnson)
Indah Nuritasari was born and raised in Indonesia. She ran away from her home and to Germany in 1994, establishing the first independent journalist union soon after, when Indonesia was still under the Suharto regime.
She is a writer, journalist and has been the recipient of the Leeway Foundation’s transformation grant for work connecting immigrants and refugees to writing. Nuritasari is also the editor of the Indonesian Lantern.
Nuritasari established the Indonesian Lantern five years ago. There is a stigma, she said that immigrants are taking advantage of the system here in the U.S., that they don’t want to work and are taking away American jobs.
“We want to show that we contribute to this country even though some of us are still struggling,” Nuritasari said. “We work hard and most of us are educated and we have skills that many people don’t have and I believe that stories, journalism is very powerful.”
Nuritasari knows that she does not represent every Indonesian, but wants to show that they do contribute to the United States.The Lantern, Nuritasari added, is her contribution to her community. That she wants to tell their stories, the real ones.
"We can use ... our journalistic skills to help people and to change the narrative."
“Trump just said that he would arrest undocumented immigrants, I got so many calls from people, so many calls asking what they should so,” Nuritasari said. “With the Indonesian Lantern, I can share the stories. I can give them information because there are so many hoaxes out there.”
“I think the media is very powerful, especially ethic media,” she added. “Our audience trusts us, so we can use the information and our journalistic skills to help people and to change the narrative.”
At the Women’s Opportunities Resource Center, Nuritasar does economic development for immigrants and refugees. She helps them to be financially independent, which can be challenging since many of them lack the necessary education of how to work their way through the system.
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They have to come to the United States, Nuritasari added, because they will not get a second chance yet they don’t feel at home. A lot of them are dealing with trauma that the average person may not be able to comprehend.
“If you ask me why I organize workshops for immigrants, it’s because I know how hard it is for them, especially for refugees,” Nuritasari said. “They are forced to leave their countries, right? When the United Nations offers them this place, America, they can’t say no because if they do they may not be able to get out of the refugee camps.”
When Nuritasari started her workshops as a way for immigrants and refugees to share their stories, initially it was only 10 that had shown up. They did not want to share their story right away and Nuritasari did not push. By the second day, however, they were ready to share.
Nuritasari spends more time in her office listening to the “interesting and colorful” stories of the women because she was like them when she first arrived in the U.S. She can relate.
Nuritasari told of a time while working at WORC that she noticed how sad one of her clients appeared. She asked what was the matter and the client ran her finger across her neck.
“She said that the husband had been beheaded in front of her and their children in 2006, if I’m not mistaken,” Nuritasari said. “I started to cry, but she said that it was ok. I realized that’s why they look so stressed and sad all of the time. For me it’s still very hard to live here, it’s still very hard to feel at home.”
Many women especially, Nuritasari said, never really told their stories to other people. Only their communities or a small group of people.
“Many of them have beautiful stories. Interesting, colorful and yet so brave, but you really don’t know unless you listen to them.”-30-
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