Indonesian-American couple contributes to education

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 1:21 AM
Tina Soong

Muslimah and Tom Barnes, an Indonesian-American couple who moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, have not only participated in the rebuilding of the city, they are active members of the Asian Pacific American community programs and its activities.

26octina.jpgView full sizeTom and Muslimah Barnes

Recently, the Barneses contributed $1,000 to the Asian Pacific American Society scholarship fund to help needy Asian-American graduating high school seniors who will attend college this fall, or freshmen and sophomore students who will be enrolled full time in the fall semester. They invite everyone to match them.

Among other contributions, the couple has donated to help the recovery of Sumatra after it was devastated by a tsunami. They also supported three needy Asian children in obtaining a good education. In return, the children are asked to finish their schooling, to financially help their families and to help further the growth of a non-family member.

“We believe in helping when help is appreciated and unexpected. We believe in helping youths to achieve their potentials and goals,” Tom Barnes said.

Barnes was born and educated in Oklahoma, where he graduated from Spartan School of Aeronautics. He served in the U.S. Army from 1966-69. He worked as chief inspector for Universal Oil Products LLC’s inspection department in Des Plaines, Ill., for 21 years. He worked in 20 different countries and areas throughout the world, including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Tom met Muslimah in Java in 1999. They were married in 2000 in Karangkapel, Indonesia, her hometown, in a traditional Indonesian wedding with a Western reception. She moved with him to Oklahoma the same year.

In 2005, the couple moved to New Orleans. Tom worked for Murphy Oil and oversaw the inspection and recovery of hurricane-damaged oil refineries. In 2010, he founded his own inspection company in Kenner. Muslimah studied at John Jay Institute of Cosmetology and plans to establish her own beauty salon upon obtaining her state license.

Muslimah discovered the Indonesian American Community Association soon after they moved to the city and began to actively participate in IACA programs and activities. Through IACA, the Barneses became involved in the programs and activities of the Asian Pacific American Society. Muslimah Barnes was chosen by the IACA as the recipient of the APAS Frank Hara Community Excellence Award in 2008.

Muslimah is currently the president of Arisan, an Indonesian social group that meets monthly for dinner and social activities.

“One of the characteristics which I have noticed both here within the Asian-American community and abroad in Asian countries, is the sense of community they present and project. They are willing to help in nearly every situation. They are quiet hands in the background. I admire that, as it closely resembles my approach to life,” Tom said.

“People who work and help one another in good and bad times are richly rewarded with mutual appreciation and true friendship,” Muslimah said.

The International Culture Exchange Corp. in New Orleans offers non-credit summer Chinese language classes, a Chinese history class and ESL classes.

Classes are held every Saturday from 1 to 3:30 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at Newcomb Hall, fourth floor, Tulane University. The classes run from May 19 to Aug. 10.

The small-group Chinese language classes and history class are designed for people who are interested in learning Chinese language and culture.

ESL classes teach writing, reading and communication skills. The classes are designed for new immigrants, beginning learners or anybody who wants to improve their overall English skills.

International Culture Exchange also has other programs for people who would like to participate in intercultural activities, such as learning Chinese musical instruments, teaching in China, etc.

To learn more about ICEC’s programs or to reserve a seat in a class, go to or call 504.273.6737.

Members of the Asian/Pacific-American communities in the New Orleans area are invited to email news items to Tina Soong at

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