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Giving Street Children a Fresh Restart in Life

Arya Jumadi used to earn money from wiping car windows on street lights and even joining a street gang that led him to jail. He started to slowly blend in with the other children after the CEP project started and has now developed into an honest, responsible, confident, and caring person. The 26-year old is now a married father of one, working as a coordinator of trainers for paper recycling and coordinator for paper production, as well as instructor for street children.

Street children have mostly been the victims of cynicism, neglect, and even discrimination by the public. The public has often failed to see that these children could have a future, even a bright one, should they be supported by the public wholeheartedly. Take the Setia Kawan Raharja (SEKAR) Foundation, for instance. JICA first supported this local non-governmental organization (NGO) since it has been dedicated to rebuild the lives of street children in North Jakarta with the hope they would be independent economically while not needing to return to the streets anymore.

SEKAR started its activities in 1997 as a ‘Visiting House’ for street children – a pilot project of the Ministry of Social Affairs - and then legalized as a foundation in 2000 since the social workers there did not want their support for the street children end together with the pilot project. According to Dindin Komaruddin, the Chairman of SEKAR, it was a coincidence how they first got connected with JICA. “A friend introduced me to JICA. And we found that since JICA is an organization with a concern on environmental conservation, it may be interested in supporting street children’s activities that involve waste utilization.”

The support, through the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) scheme, was focused on providing the street children with (recycling) skills for turning waste (such as used paper) and other unused materials (such as banana trees, water hyacinth, onion skins) into products with commercial value (such as art paper, gift boxes). When asked why SEKAR chose paper recycling as the main activity, the 37-year old Sundanese explained that it can be done by anyone. “Used-paper recycling does not require special skill. An elementary school graduate or even someone who never received formal education can do it. Moreover, the basic materials are always available. And, there are markets for these products,” he stated.

 [Above] Still embracing the love for music, Dindin (right) accompanied their band in entertaining visitors from Japan
[Left] Children collecting water hyacinth from a nearby lake
Photo: SEKAR (left), JICA (right)

Therefore, the hardest part is building the children’s trust towards their instructors as well as changing their way of thinking: from getting money instantly through begging on the streets only to spend it instantly as well, to going through the process of building life with a steady income. Dindin, who has just become a father of two boys, explained “They are used to think and act instantly. They would rather buy used clothes at a cheap price rather than wash their own dirty ones. Or they would rather earn money by singing on the streets or busses rather than do works that require discipline and responsibility. They can get enough money just by one or two bus rides.”

In implementing the project, SEKAR’s staffs and volunteers realize that they have to be patient with the children. When the CEP project started in 2004, most of the target children still partly returned to the streets to get pocket money. At first, they arranged the timing so that the children can still earn money on the streets in the morning and evening, and do paper recycling at SEKAR at noon and afternoon. But little by little, their time on the streets decreased and finally many of the 45 target children aged between 15 and 21 have focused on using their creativity in recycling.

Meanwhile, when asked how he first got interested in the issue of street children, Dindin – a graduate of the STKS School of Social Welfare in Bandung (West Java) – answered, “Maybe because I once lived with them when I first came to Jakarta, when I couldn’t find any job yet … . This feeling gradually came, to learn and move forward with them, since I saw they had much potential to be developed. I learned a lot from them, especially hard work, strong brotherhood, and enjoying life.”

Making a piece of paper consists of blending raw materials with used paper utilizing simple household blenders The papers are being dried under the sun to ensure good quality output
(Photo: IMAMURA Kenshiro / JICA (left), Helmy Noermawan / JICA (right))

During the 2-year project period, Dindin expressed that the most memorable moment would have to be when he went looking for the materials around the Ancol beach or Sunter Lake together with the children using a becak (pedicab) SEKAR bought. “I would use my motorbike, while the children use the becak. Or sometimes I ride the becak while one of them steers it. (Laugh) We would get wet with the stinky lake water, but it was a great feeling (working together with them).” On the other hand, he also recalled how hard it was when he first learned how to make the (financial and activity) report for JICA. “Before, I didn’t know about making work plans, activity reports… . But after this JICA project, I got used to make those things, to be more disciplined in time and work, etc. I also got used to make presentations in front of many people, who are not street children. (Laugh)”

Since the project completed in 2006, some of them have started their own small business groups: making and marketing art paper (even for small-scale export to Japan), creating handicrafts from recycled paper, doormats from used carpets, and reflexology kits from wood waste. Some of them have even become group trainers, disseminating the skills to various groups throughout Indonesia: to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), communities, private companies, and so on. Meanwhile, “Gallery K’Qta,” which was first established as a business unit of SEKAR to develop the children’s creativity and sell their products, has become an independent entity operated by some of the ex-target children.

“Galeri K’Qta” is fully run by the ex-street children, displaying various products from colorful papers to handicrafts. Making a piece of art paper needs patience other than skill
(Photo: IMAMURA Kenshiro / JICA)

One example is Arya Jumadi, who used to earn money from wiping car windows on street lights and even joining a street gang that led him to jail. Dindin stated that Arya started to slowly blend in with the other children after the CEP project started, and has now developed into an honest, responsible, confident, and caring person. The 26-year old is now a married father of one, working as a coordinator of trainers for paper recycling and coordinator for paper production at the “Gallery K’Qta,” as well as instructor for street children at the Kumala Foundation. To note that Kumala Foundation was established by the initiative of the ex-street children who runs “Gallery K’Qta.” Therefore, if “Gallery K’Qta” is a means for generating income, Kumala Foundation is their means for social activities, helping other street children.

Another is Aditya, who used to sing on the streets and regularly went in and out of SEKAR. But he also started to settle with SEKAR after the CEP project started, Aditya never left it far and long ever since. “He has changed in terms of not depending anymore on other people’s sympathy. He has started to be able to manage the utilization of his own earnings,” Dindin beamed with pride. Now the 20-year old produces paper at the “Gallery K’Qta” and works as a tutorial team member and instructor at the Kumala Foundation.

Although there are still many children roaming the streets day and night, especially in Jakarta, every child leaving the street life – like Arya and Aditya – is an accomplishment. Through this program, SEKAR has shown that there is hope for these children to have a fresh restart in life.



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