No Change for Change

I wrote this as an assignment for the jakarta globe when i first applied there.. Had wanted to post this sooner but alas, i'm too busy :P Pics will come soon..
Sanggar Anak Akar is a children's foundation for alternative education. It started as children's rights advocacy group that also provides shelter and alternative education for street children. Alternative here means that they focus more on informal education and skills such as art, music, and dance. The foundation holds regular performances, if you live around Jakarta and/or would like to visit the school and see the children practice, their address is at:
Jl. Inspeksi Saluran Jatiluhur No. 30, RT 07/RW 01 Cipinang Melayu RT 07/RW 01 Kalimalang - Jakarta Timur 13620
During my visit they were practicing for a performance in Goethe, it was just amazing to see the children perform.
KKS Melati is a volunteer group that provides open library for, especially, street children. They provide books as well in a number of children shelter across Jakarta, and circulate amongst them every couple of months. So if you have too much books on your shelf, or need to get rid of those from your childhood, you can visit their "central" library and i'm sure there are lots of children who will love to read them. KKS Melati's address:
Jl. Ampera II No. 17A RT 005/009
Jakarta Selatan 12550

No Change for Change

Having to face something everyday might create apathy, taking it for granted. Jakarta’s street children is one of the phenomenon that is slowly, and unrightfully slips away from the society’s concern. But is the condition all too hopeless to expect for any change? Does giving out small change to buskers can help change their condition?

Tika (16) and Yuni (15) are regular buskers at the Kampung Melayu bus terminal. Together with their younger siblings and other kids they would sing along the rhythmic clappings of their hands or the strums of their small guitar. Tika refused to state how much money she got from busking but according to ojek drivers on that area child buskers could get as much as Rp 90,000 a day.

When one asked why they are busking on the streets instead of going to school, most of their answers were surprisingly because they liked it there. Except for Irma (7) who had to be there since her mother had been ill and her father had ran off with another woman. Tika admitted that she never wanted to go to school. None of her four siblings went as far as having basic formal education. Parents like Tika’s might not be abusive, but it’s their way of thinking that entrapped their children. It is better to have their children close-by or at a neighborhood they are familiar with, than at some alien institution. Not to forget that it is also cheaper and it brings in extra money. To the children, both formal and informal institution means restriction to their freedom. Ijul (30), one of the inhabitants of Yayasan Anak Akar (“Akar” Foundation for Children), to be free was everything that he wanted when he was young.

So Tika and her friends chose to stay on the street, and the bus terminal is their second home and their playground. Take a closer look and you could see their happy faces between the bustles of people and Metromini daredevils. They might try to look sad so that you gave them money, but sometimes you can actually tell that it’s just make-pretend. Such an irony, but they are having fun.

4km south-east of Kampung Melayu is the Yayasan Anak Akar, a compound in East Jakarta with a spacious gazebo for an open classroom, or theatre, dance, and music workshop. It started as a foundation for the advocacy of street children’s rights 15 years ago before focusing more on the practical and hands-on actions as educators of children. Today it is what 40 ex-street children called home.

The compound is a living and learning area for street children who used to live as far as Tanjung Priuk (Northern Jakarta, 20km away). Hatta (15) ran away from home with a friend when he was only 10 years old. Susilo Adinegoro (44) aka pakde (uncle) aka the rector, an ex-journalist and one of the founder of The Foundation stated that these children [who came to the house on their own initiatives] are indeed very special. They are the rare ones who consciously stepped out of the vicious poverty circle in search of a better way of living. Susilo himself saw Yayasan Akar “graduates” become professional musicians, employees, and teachers/tutors/instructors.

Further down in southern Jakarta in the Ampera area is the community-rooted Kelompok Kerja Sosial Melati (“Melati” Community of Humanitarian Worker). Since its initiation in 2001, KKS-Melati consists of volunteers of all ages working towards a better Jakarta. Targeting at under-privileged youth around the neighborhood, KKS Melati provides mini library and an afterschool learning group where children are being taught creative writing, drawing, handcrafts and by request, school subjects such as math and English. The community is also responsible for the facilitation of books and stationeries of 15 children shelters across Jakarta.

Yayasan Anak Akar and KKS Melati are both supported by a strong network of people and volunteers contributing their time, skill and knowledge. Their years of work brought positive reaction from local communities and parents that, in the long run, share their vision that children have the right for protection and education.

The life in Jakarta’s streets is mean and harsh but it is not possible to foresee a better ending for these children. Foundations such as Yayasan Anak Akar and SAJA (Sekolah Anak Jalanan or the School for Street Children) are trying to find alternative ways to educate and empower children, and grass-root communities such as KKS Melati consorts people to co-create sustainable learning environment for disadvantaged children. Governments and their official bodies may be facilitators and enforcers of law, but communities and individuals are the real initiators of change. Active participation from the society is needed, and giving out small change to child buskers does not change anything.