• REI

Summer Trips in the Age of COVID

by Katie Nicholson, Associate Country Leader, Indonesia

(l-r, front) Tori and Brooke (l-r, back) Andrew, Levi and Royce standing in front of the new fruit dehydration training and production facility (left) and cold storage facility (right)


In early February 2021, with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic nowhere in sight, six eager Americans gathered at REI headquarters to prepare for their Boaz Internship trip to Indonesia May-June 2021. Were they crazy? We told them on a Zoom call during this February orientation that “today is the start of your trip. It does not start when you arrive in Indonesia in May. The lessons that are there for you to learn will begin now.” This was particularly true this year!


Levi, Melanie, Andrew, Royce, Brooke, and Tori raised their whole budget without knowing for sure that their Indonesia visas would be issued in time. Now, that’s faith! Because of COVID-19 issues making travel more challenging, they ended up traveling in twos to Indonesia and doing a mandated 5-day quarantine in a Jakarta hotel with little to no language under their belts! All of us here grew in our excitement for them as we know that these types of uncertain situations require faith and develop stamina and resilience, mirroring for them the actual life of a longer-term development worker in Indonesia.


Arriving in Malang, East Java, each one headed into their homestay situation with local families, one of the best parts of our Boaz internship! This simple commitment does more to teach these summer interns about Indonesian culture, language, and religion than anything else we could possibly prepare for them. Living there, and asking eager “why” questions with an open mind, is such an amazing way to break down barriers and walls to collaboration. Now, having had summer interns for at least nine times, we see the longer-term positive effects of these relationships in the community.

Levi with Bu Titik, his language teacher


Besides language, culture, and world-view input, these six interns arrived engaged and ready to invest their skills and knowledge in predetermined projects that will benefit our Java Bite dried fruit business here in East Java. As these six collaborate with four Indonesian college students on teams, they will focus on:

  1. Dealing with Waste Management issues, specifically mango peels

  2. Assessing the technologies of our new cold storage freezer and creating a manual for its use

  3. Instagram training to help beef up our marketing strategies

We can’t wait to hear the deliverables that they will present at the end of June as they wrap up their time experiencing the life of an overseas development worker. We are expecting to see how the synergy of their summer projects pushes things forward in our business and helps us to make increased future contributions to the communities here.

Melanie (left) with Katie (right) working on marketing of

Sun-REI food products through Instagram


We never know where the summer interns will end up after their short six weeks in Indonesia. We hope and pray that they gain a greater burden for the developing world and are more eager than before to invest their skills, abilities, and heart “Building People to Build Nations.”

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