By Anne Scott,
Vice President of Global Programs
Note: Anne is currently traveling in Indonesia visiting ChildFund International programs in that country.
Tucked behind Soekarna Hatta International Airport, just across the three lane highway and hidden behind the Sanyo and Samsung billboards, lies a very poor neighborhood of the capital city Jakarta. It is called Kemal. You would never know it was there. The rapid infrastructure development serving Jakarta has passed it by.
The residents of Kemal earn their living by processing garbage and plastic discarded by the 14 million or so residents of Jakarta. Garbage and plastic are piled head high along both sides of the one lane road leading into Kemal. A maze of alleyways leading off the road contains makeshift houses and free-standing structures. A mobile phone tower rises high, smack dab in between the houses. The Kemal residents have put it to good use to hang their laundry out to dry.
Buried deep in the heart of Kemal are three development centers serving 600 ChildFund International sponsored children and youth. At the first early childhood development center – as a plane takes off overhead at about 1,000 feet – 40 young children in bright red and purple uniforms sing us a greeting song, and show us their center, which is covered in simple, but colorful number cut-outs, paper chains and lanterns made of drinking straws and bottle caps. In this crowded slum, the 8 by 10 foot playground with a hand-painted seesaw and slide is a luxury. A bright yellow SpongeBob Squarepants adorns the entrance.
We proceed through alleyways to an after-school program for older children. They are busy learning to draw in perspective, using pastels that bring vividly to life, as only children can – the green trees, brown rivers and blue mountains of prettier parts of Indonesia. The children are also learning to play traditional Javanese music.
We walk on to the youth development center, where there is a bucket of soggy paper pulp and a bucket of bright red dyed water. The youth are making recycled paper waste products into colorful handmade paper. Once it has dried in the sun, they use the paper to make hanging ornaments and hand-written notes for their sponsors. They also sell the paper to the childhood development centers.
The sounds and colors emanating from the child and youth development centers of Kemal offer an oasis of calm and beauty in an otherwise harsh environment.
The ChildFund Indonesia team is working in nine areas scattered across the huge metropolis of Jakarta. Thanks to them, the children of Kemal can experience the benefits of development, too.
Additional photos of Anne Scott’s trip to Indonesia can be found on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChildFundInternational.
By Anne Scott,
Vice President of Global Programs
Here at last! I left the United States on Wednesday morning, and by Saturday morning, after too many hours in the air, I arrived in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Then I went on a seven-hour drive, up a winding road into the mountain district of Bener Merieh. An additional 4 kilometers by dirt track leads us up to the village of Pancar di Lombok, which sits on the high mountain top at about 8,000 feet above sea level.
In the dirt front yard of a simple wooden house surrounded by colorful fruit trees and coffee plants, with oxen tied to a nearby fence and chickens running about, about 20 village children are gathered, singing and laughing and playing games.
Parents and grandparents are happily watching their enjoyment. For a long time, before 2006, children could not come out to play or go to school. Due to conflict in this area of Aceh, they were confined to their homes. Day-by-day they lost opportunities to learn how to communicate their needs and ideas, explore their world, gain knowledge and make friends.
The children gathered today in Pancar di Lombok are recapturing lost time through structured play. Guided by their facilitator Kemalawati, the children play games and sing rhyming songs that build physical coordination, literacy and numeracy skills, memory recall, and a sense of belonging with fellow playmates. Tapping his toes and snapping his fingers to the beat of an introducing song, 6-year-old Ari takes his turn in the children’s circle to shout out with confidence, “Namanya saya Ari!” (“My name is Ari!”)
In this area of Banda Aceh, ChildFund International is working in 33 villages like Pancar di Lombok, helping children and communities to rebuild after the end of the long conflict. The ChildFund team has trained village community facilitators such as Kemalawati in how to engage and teach children through structured play. Kemalawati’s ability and enthusiasm, and the obvious affection that the children have for her, demonstrate that the ChildFund team has succeeded in its task.
The facilitators work with the children for two hours after school each week day. This activity is part of a larger project to rebuild communities like Pancar di Lombok. The ChildFund team is also helping to strengthen school curricula and bolster families’ incomes.
I’m coming down from the mountain now, feeling good about the difference that ChildFund is making in the lives of children affected by conflict in Aceh.
Anne Scott joined ChildFund International in August 2008 as vice president of Global Programs.