Hundreds of Thousands of Children Live On The Street! What Is Your Choice?

Dian giving a speech at the recent opening of Sahabat Anak's new secretariat and Children's Activity Centre - Rumah Sahabat.

In life, we cannot escape choices. From the moment we wake up in the morning we are faced with many options: Which clothes should I wear? What to eat this morning? Which road should I take?  There are times when I doubt that I am choosing the right thing. There are even times when I regret the choices  I have made. But one thing I do believe is right and I do not regret  is the choice to be a volunteer at Sahabat Anak.

In the early days of my journey with Sahabat Anak, I dreamed that my presence would bring change to the street children I met. I wanted to leave behind something good for them. After more than 10 years of volunteering I do not know how much of my dream has become a reality. Neither do I understand how to measure it. I am never quite sure how much my presence impacts on the lives of the children and what the good things are that I have left behind. But I am absolutely sure that THE CHILDREN HAVE CHANGED ME!

It is true! I had a paradigm shift! That is I began to see street children as PEOPLE, not as a THING. I used to view them, with my heart full of pity, as being weak and powerless. But I was wrong. They are first and foremost children! They are the same as other children all over the world. They are talented, have good hearts and they have strength and determination to succeed. Go visit Prumpung and see the paintings made by the children there. I’m sure you’ll find them as good as the paintings made by the children at the top schools. Come to one of the art events which are held to show off the children’s talents. You won’t believe that the dancers, actors or musicians  are all kids who used to sing on the streets as beggars. Not to mention the number of the children who excel in school when they have the chance to return to formal school.

Artwork by a student from Sahabat Anak Prumpung.

My brain has evolved. My mindset has changed. When I pitied them all I saw was weak and powerless street kids, but when I honour them I can see that they are children who are full of potential.

I have learnt many life lessons from them. For instance I have learnt to share from a 10-year-old street child. One day I bought food for this child, which included two pieces of chicken and rice. The child ate voraciously, while I also ate with her. After she had finished I saw that she had left one piece of the chicken and half of the rice. I asked her why she did not finish her food. She replied: “It’s for my mother.” I felt like I had been slapped hard. Recently at one of Sahabat Anak’s events, for the “Share Your dreams” campaign, I discovered that a child had a hope that someday he would be able to please his parents and make them proud. It  really blows my mind that frequently children are used by their parents to make money and yet all they desire is to make their parents happy. It was an invaluable life lesson for me.

The stories are not always so sweet. Many children  drop out of school and return to the street, some even disappear. Still, I have learnt from them. I have learnt how strong they are living in the midst of a hard life. They are much younger than me, much smaller, and live a hard life, yet they still survive.

Tutorial classes at Sahabat Anak Kota Tua

As I have continued to work with Sahabat Anak, my volunteer role has changed. Now as the Capacity Building Division coordinator I am more connected with the volunteers than the children directly. The Capacity Building Division is responsible to meet the needs of the volunteers and equip them with the training they need as a volunteer. This training has included teaching them how to teach, how to communicate with the children and about children’s rights.

Through working with the volunteers, I have also learnt many things. I am always amazed to see hundreds of people responding so positively and becoming a  friend to the children at all the events. I really appreciate my friends, who over the years, have come directly to the children and become their friend through volunteering. Whether my friends have had commitments such as study or work, they have always been happy to whole heartedly volunteer their time to help these children.

Dian with some of the volunteers from Sahabat Anak.

I have seen people come and go. In the end those volunteers who survive are those who do not come as a hero with super powers, but those who simply want to share their life with the children and who view the children as equals. They see street children as valuable human beings and are willing to learn from them.

We are faced with many choices. Sahabat Anak, is not the only option. There are hundreds of thousands of street children in many places who need friends, who want to share their life with them, or we may even may need them.

What is your choice?

– Dian Novita Elfrida –


About Sahabat Anak

Sahabat Anak is a non-profit organisation that provides quality education and children’s rights advocacy in an effort to encourage and inspire Jakarta’s street children to escape urban poverty. The movement began in 1997 after a group of university students made a commitment to make a difference in the lives of Indonesia's street children. As a volunteer-based organisation, Sahabat Anak aims to involve as many members of the community as possible to help improve the lives of street children.

Posted on 04/12/2012, in Bahasa Inggris (English), Volunteers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Komentar.

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