Thursday, March 17, 2005

Griya Asih

Griya Asih, located close to Cempaka Putih Barat, started in 1996. It is a large two-story building with an interior long in need of a coat of paint. The children share grim and dingy rooms accommodating up to six bunk beds with grubby, threadbare mattresses and hardly any other furnishings. But it is still their home.

Ibu Pandaya and her team of five social workers have had to be imaginative in their attempt to keep the children fed, housed and educated as they rely only on their own small income generation projects, along with funding and material donations from NGOs that provide rice and other staples. An international NGO pays the salaries of the five full-time social workers.
The children rear chickens in the backyard for eggs and meat as well keeping catfish in tanks, which they sell to local warung (food stalls).

The catfish project has been a success and new tanks have been built to breed more of the popular delight. Mushrooms are grown in a humid darkened room and these also sell well on the market.

The foundation provides education and training, which are offered in conjunction with a Catholic organization known as Salesian Don Bosco, where the children can learn engineering, electronics, mechanics and other technical skills. There is also a sewing project run together with Dian Mitra, a small foundation working with the poor in Senen.

In addition to these, due to the generosity of a large multinational company, the young people have access to on-site computers and the foundation's social workers are provided with free training in computing which they in turn impart to the youngsters.

On one Sunday morning, despite the air of decay, there is joy and excitement amongst the young people as three trainee Catholic priests spend the day with the children engaging them in creative activities and sport. Brother Dydu has been coming to Griya Asih almost every Sunday for the past two years and has never grown tired of working with the youngsters.

Today, the children are divided up into small groups and compete against each other to make funny things out of a plastic bottle and other bits and pieces. Though Brother Dydu sees a part of his mission as saving the children from sin, this is by no means his main aim.

"We want to help the children and increase their confidence. We try to keep them away from criminality and help them to do something for their future."

"We play musical instruments together, play football and basketball. There's no field nearby so we take them to Sunter in North Jakarta where we can use the facilities there. In today's activity we can share our happiness and motivate the children. The kids have a chance to interact with 'ordinary' people and they are free to express themselves."

Edi, who appears decidedly small for his 15 years, was one of the children who expressed himself eloquently in words today in front of the other children and volunteers.

"We never dream of becoming a Joshua who at a young age has become a millionaire," he said of the child singer.

"We just want to sleep well on a bed and dream about our world. God, please listen to our prayers. We are the children of the street- we are the nation's gray generation."
Edi comes from Tasikmalaya, West Java, and lost his mother when he was small. His stepmother had difficulties accepting him and he subsequently found himself on his way to Bogor where he earned money collecting and selling plastic. From Bogor he went to Jakarta and sold newspapers until he heard about the foundation from a street friend.

Nowadays, the foundation's social workers invest time and resources attempting to return some of the children to parents back home and offer solutions to the financial difficulties many of the children's families find themselves in. Some parents receive money to pay for school fees, uniforms and books- funded by Griya Asih via individual sponsors. In other cases it may be more appropriate to give the parents the equipment required to start a warung (sidewalk food stall) which might sell chicken noodles or fried rice.


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