Youth Leadership Program: Exploring Social Justice in Indonesia

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Program Dates: July 8-28, 2017
Open to: High school level students
Location: Bali and Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Application Deadline: March 27, 2017

Exploring Social Justice in Indonesia is a youth leadership program for high school students from the US and Indonesia. In July 2017, the group will explore Yogyakarta and Bali, Indonesia while developing their global leadership and experiential learning skills through engaging in collaborative social justice projects.


The program is designed to create a cohort of American and Indonesian youth interested in social justice globally and in their respective countries. The goals of the program are:

  1. Improve youth understanding of democracy, civic rights, and responsibilities and increase their commitment to civic participation, social justice, community service, and leadership.
  2. Strengthen the capacity of youth by providing them with the skills and knowledge needed to become active and engaged citizens in their communities.
  3. Increase dialogue and facilitate meaningful and substantial interactions between Indonesian and US participants in order to contribute to mutual understanding.
  4. Mentor youth in producing creative and ethical collaborative projects, from project inception to final product.

The program will connect American and Indonesian high school students with peers and civil society organizations in Indonesia working on issues of social justice and youth empowerment.  Students will work in pairs or small groups (each group with Indonesian and American students) on issues of social justice in conjunction with local civil society organizations and local universities.  Students will be mentored in their project by academic staff and will present their findings to the local community in Yogyakarta.  Past projects conducted with VIA in Indonesia include work on child labor, disability, homeschooling and informal education, LGBTQ communities, interfaith relations, environmental sustainability and food sovereignty, but students are free to develop their own projects in cooperation with local institutions and VIA staff.

Students will stay in homestays and guesthouses  in Yogyakarta and Bali. In addition to the individual projects, students will participate in media workshops, explore the intertwined histories, economies, and politics of the US and Indonesia, and learn how the world’s largest Muslim-majority country tackles interfaith issues.

Trip highlights include: visits to Indonesia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Borobudur and Prambanan; studying the Indonesian arts of gamelan and batik; learning about the intersection of mass tourism and environmental issues on Bali’s beaches; exploring youth-led eco-tourism projects and social movements and spending time at an Islamic permaculture farm and an Islamic boarding school.

Information for Parents

VIA (Volunteers in Asia) is a nonprofit with 52 years of experience running cultural exchange and experiential learning programs in Asia. Our programs strive to encourage young leaders to learn about other cultures and empower them to become changemakers. VIA staff members and Bay Area educators will ensure that participants are well supervised at all times, and we have comprehensive emergency plans in place in case problems arise during the program. We will provide time for periodic check-ins between students and their families during the program, and VIA staff in our San Francisco headquarters will be in constant contact with the traveling group while the students are abroad.

Indonesia Art Workshop


Program Fee: $4000; some merit and need-based financial assistance will be available.

Program fee includes: all meals, housing, international travel and medical insurance, 24/7 US and Indonesia based staff, all entrance fees, tickets and events, local transportation

Does not include: Visa fees, passport fees, international airfare, spending money for souvenirs

Travel Details
All travel arrangements will be made by VIA and participants will travel as a group.


“I really loved the people [best about the program]; both the ones I came to Indonesia with and the ones I met when I got here. Our group has become a family and I feel like I can share anything. They’ve taught me so much about myself and my identity and my relationship to the world. The people we’ve met in Indonesia have been so open and loving and have taught me so much about happiness and acceptance and what that means.” -Mckenna Barney, Program Participant, Summer 2015

“The VIA staff guided our way to developing our own leadership and communication skills. VIA offers a unique blend of cultural exposure and a concentration on personal growth. I am constantly thinking back to what I learned and experienced in Indonesia. Entering my senior year, I could not be more thankful for the opportunity for intellectual and personal growth the Indonesian Youth Leadership Program offered.” – Gabrielle Raphael, Program Participant, Summer 2016

“Looking back on this one month summer program I can guarantee anyone that is fortunate enough to go on this trip will have countless experiences that will shape them beyond that one month. The leadership skills and peace and conflict skills we learned on this trip were only the beginning of the transformation that will come on this trip. Additionally, the people that you will meet along this one month are connections that will last for long beyond this month, the learning environment they create is unlike anything that can be experienced in a school environment. All in all this trip is one the best experiences I have ever had.” – Kristian Olsen, Program Participant, Summer 2016

“It was clear that VIA went above and beyond trying to find opportunities for the participants that were not typical tourist traps but rather actually worked with local individuals collaboratively so that we could learn about Indonesian society from Indonesian people themselves. My time with VIA was eye opening, educational, and truly an adventure. For anyone who would like to travel in a sustainable way which respects and works with locals in another nation or who wants to have one of a kind experiences that only come with having strong community ties, I could not recommend VIA enough.” – Mallory Milestone, Program Participant, Summer 2016

There are several different parts to the application process, and it can take some time. Please use this suggested timeline as a guide to complete and submit all the pieces on time:


  • Discuss the program with your parents.
  • Complete the first section of the application (see Application section for details).
  • Read over the short answer questions and start thinking about your responses.
  • Contact 2-3 people to ask about completing the letter of recommendation form for you. It’s a good idea to explain to them why you’re interested in the program and how it will help you in your studies and future goals. Let them know it has to be sent to Izzy Rhoads [izzy|at|] by March 24, 2017.
  • Send the Letter of Recommendation Form to the person who has agreed to fill it out (see Application section for form). You only need one letter of recommendation.
  • Complete the short answer questions and submit your application.
  • If applying for a scholarship, review the scholarship application form with your parents and start composing your essay (see Application section for details). If using the online form, we suggest you write your 1 page essay in a Word document first, then copy/paste it into the online form.
  • Contact your letter writer to let them know you’ve submitted all of your materials (and ask/remind them about submitting the form to Izzy [izzy|at|] by the deadline).

Final deadline for all application materials: 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time (PST) on March 27, 2017

Late March / Early May

  • Semi-finalists will be contacted to participate in an interview.



Application Details

The application includes the following sections:

  1. Basic Information
    • Personal Information
    • Applicant & Parents’ Contact Information
    • School Information
    • Other Information (interest in scholarship, travel experience, etc)
  2. Short Answer Responses (250-500 words)
    •  Please describe why you are interested in the program, what you hope to learn, and what you will contribute to the program if you are chosen.
    • Describe a social justice issue/problem that you are passionate about. What steps could you take as an individual to address this problem?
    • Tell us about a time you took an active leadership role – what strengths did you bring to the role? What aspects did you find challenging, and how did you overcome these challenges?
    • Talk about a stressful situation that you faced, and describe the strategies you used to deal with it.
    • Tell us something interesting or important about yourself that hasn’t been addressed in other questions.
  3. Letter of Recommendation
    • A teacher, coach, employer, or other adult mentor must submit a letter of recommendation on your behalf.
    • This form is only available as a Word document, and must be emailed by the letter writer to Izzy Rhoads (izzy|at|
  4. Scholarship Application (only for students applying for a partial or full scholarship)
    • There are some questions regarding family income and dependents, so please review the form with your parents.
    • At the end of the application, you will be asked to write a one-page essay (400-500 words).
      • Essay Question: Please submit a one-page essay with this application explaining why participating in this program is important to you, how it will contribute to your future plans, and how you would bring the lessons you learn back to your community.

How to Apply

There are two ways to complete the application:

  • Apply Online
    The basic information, short answer responses, and scholarship application can be completed online. Start by clicking the blue Apply button at the top of the page.
  • Letter of Recommendation
    The letter of recommendation can ONLY be downloaded and emailed. Please download this form and email it to the person filling it out for you. That person must email it to Izzy Rhoads (izzy|at| by 5pm March 27, 2017.