We’re moving the blog to an awesome new place!

“We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…

…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

-Walt Disney-

It’s been a long journey for this little blog.

This space was created in early 2009, with the first post being published on January 25, 2009 (with an apt post title, “January 25, 2009”). For the next year or so, the blog was updated with personal writings of our organization’s founder Dan Roberts, who shared his Red Nose stories for the world to read.

Then, as Red Nose grew, so did this little blog. International volunteers who spent a few months at Red Nose Foundation began following Dan’s path by sharing their own Red Nose tales and experiences in the blog. After the foundation established a dedicated Communication team, this little blog got bigger and the writings become more varied — not only about personal experiences but also announcements and reports about Red Nose’s various field activities and fundraising events.

Right now, we are glad to inform you that the blog will be moving to a new place. As of today, the Red Nose blog will be integrated with Red Nose’s official website, and can be visited at www.rednosefoundation.org/blog.

You can still find old articles, published before February 2013, here in this blog. Meanwhile, for newer articles as well as the latest updates from Red Nose Foundation, please visit our new blog, where we will continue sharing wonderful Red Nose stories from our two fields in Jakarta.

Terima kasih.

Thank you.



Time flies during my project at the Red Nose Foundation!

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My name is Judy Middelburg, I’m from The Netherlands and I worked for the Red Nose Foundation for six weeks. I had a great time with a lot of surprising experiences. I came to Jakarta with the goal to have a different experience than the other journeys I made before. I wanted to know what it was like to work at a foundation which works in poor areas, because I never did something like that before. I hoped to experience what it was like to work in a developing area, to help the people over there and to develop myself, my English and to meet a lot of new people. I also wanted to learn more about the Indonesian way of living. When I look back, I think I succeeded in all of this!

Before I started working for the Red Nose Foundation, Dan and Renny already prepared me about the areas and circumstances they worked in. They told me about the dirty areas they work: the poor houses people live in, the flies all over the place, the smell of rotten fish, the heat, but on the other hand also the motivating and enthusiastic kids. I thought I had a good view about the circumstances I had to work in when I had to go there on my first day. When we arrived in Cilincing I was really surprised by the circumstances the people really live in. You can’t imagine what it is like to live there until you go there yourself. Same story for Bintaro, again I was surprised to see how the people can live there.

I really liked it to see what the Red Nose Foundation is doing for all the kids in Cilincing and Bintaro. My colleagues (Dan, Renny, Nino, Dedi, Anggi and Mila) are really involved in the work they are doing. They put a lot of effort in teaching, circus, helping the kids and arranging scholarships for them and a lot of other extra things and events. Before I came here I already knew it was a very busy and professional foundation, but I was really surprised by how well everything was organized. The organization was bigger than I expected beforehand. I was surprised by all the extra things the RNF arranges for the kids besides the lessons they give and the arrangements of the scholarships.

On the one hand it was amazing to see the enthusiastic and motivating kids. They love to learn a lot of new things and they are really enthusiastic and disciplined to learn. When the RNF arrived at the locations, the kids were really enthusiastic and helped us with preparing the materials and lessons. On the other hand it was a challenge to motivate some of the older kids and to improve their English, because some of them were not yet that good in English as some younger kids. It was a challenge to involve them in the lessons and it was great to notice that they actually really appreciate everything the red nose foundation is doing for them, even if they don’t always show it. The differences in the English level of the kids are big, also among the kids in the same class. The RNF teaches English in a practical way and that makes the level accessible and good for all of the kids.
The kids were a little shy in the beginning because I’m a ‘Bule’, but after a while it felt like I was working for the RNF for a long time already. The kids tried to teach me the circus skills and they succeeded a little bit in that, but that can be blamed on me because I was not really talented and it is really harder than it seems.

Another big advantage of the Red Nose Foundation is the great team you work with. They showed me around during my first days in the neighborhoods they work in and they also showed me the way of teaching. They also told me a lot of things about the foundation and Indonesia. I’ve had a lot of fun with my colleagues; there is always time for a lot of joking, also with the kids. When we are teaching it is serious off course (with some little jokes in the mean time). They are involved in the life of the kids and they want all the best for all of them. The working days are long and you have to put a lot of effort in all the activities, but it also gives you new energy while working. The combination of all these things makes it great and inspiring to work for the RNF. My advice to students who want to have an unforgettable experience and really want to do something good, want to develop themselves and help others, should really try to arrange an internship at the RNF.

Finding My Nose, Part 3

The following column was written by Dan Roberts as part of a series published in the Jakarta Globe Newspaper in 2012. This is part 3 of the column series; Read Part 1 & Part 2.

After leaving Chicago, I took a short detour through the northeastern United States to work with America’s premier youth circus, Circus Smirkus. Getting away from the hustle-and-bustle of the big city was a nice retreat to begin planning and focusing for Indonesia. I organized several small fundraisers with performer buddies, raised enough money to buy a plane ticket and cover some basic costs for the expedition and boarded the plane back to the place I had grown up.

When I first returned to Indonesia after a six year hiatus, things were different than they were when I left. I was different. I arrived home to this scattered gathering of islands knowing that I wanted to help. I had an idea of what I thought the children of Indonesia needed, and I was set on giving them just that! I spent three months touring through the city under the auspices of the international comic relief organization, Clowns Without Borders USA.

I performed for thousands of children and their families in poor villages, orphanages, homeless shelters and hospitals. It was wonderful to learn that children in Indonesia were basically the same as children in America. Yes, they were more poor and they looked different, but the characteristics that make you innately childlike are the same in any culture or country.

It was during one of my first village visits to a North Jakarta fishing village called Cilincing that I discovered the name of my expedition and future organization. Cilincing was my first sight at the poverty behind the curtains. It was a face of poverty that you don’t see driving in your car or stopping at traffic lights. I was shocked and a little scared. The smell alone was overwhelming. I tried to hide my feelings of discomfort and focus on what I was there for: To perform and bring joy to children in need of a laugh.

During my first trip through the labyrinth of make shift houses with recycled tin rooftops and bamboo walls to the performance space, I was greeted with scowls, stares and some sarcastic “hey mister” attitudes. Watching up to dodge the low hanging awnings and watching down to avoid stepping on the dead rats or piles of human waste, all I could think was, “How am I supposed to be funny?”

Once I’d seen the location where I was supposed to perform, I returned to the car to get into my minimal clown gear. I put on the oversized clown shoes loaned to me by a good friend back in Chicago, tied my overgrown hair in a ponytail and glued the clown nose to my face. As I tried to remember which small alley connected to the next, ducking and often colliding into the low hanging rooftops, I noticed that people’s attitudes towards me had changed. I was no longer this oversized foreigner staring at them as though they were in a zoo, but now I was a clown! Old men literally rolled off their benches in fits of laughter as they all pointed and screamed, “hidung merah! Wah, hidung merah!” My Indonesian was a little rusty, but I could tell by the tones in their laughter that whatever “hidung merah” was, it was a good thing.

The show I put on was different than anything I’d ever done in the past. In the corner of a family’s shanty home, with the heat seeping through the bamboo grass walls, I began to goof and joke. The room was jam-packed. Children were climbing on top of each other in the back to take turns looking at this goofy foreigner with a red nose. After the show, the children took turns learning how to spin a plastic plate or throw and catch a few scarves. And when I couldn’t handle the heat any longer, we packed up and headed home.

On the way home, I asked my friend, who’d brought me to the village, what “hidung merah” meant. She smiled and replied, “red nose.” I learned that day that a red nose might just be what brought us as people together. A red nose is not Indonesian or American. It’s not from a wealthy family or a poor family. It’s just red. And if we all wear red noses, then we are all the same. Everything that made us different didn’t matter. We were just a bunch of clowns. Everything began to make sense and my program had found its name.

During this 10-week expedition, I also began teaching informal circus lessons to the children who attended my shows. My philosophy, which I adapted from a combination of CircEsteem’s mission and Clowns Without Borders, was to bring the children on a journey far away from their actual lives for a few hours; teach them to be superheroes before they had to return to their unfair lives. To call these children at risk might not do justice to their actual situations. Yes, they are at risk: At risk of child labor, at risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, at risk of having their human rights to food, clean water and education being denied to them. But their situation goes beyond the standard western understanding of “at risk.” These children were in need of so much, I didn’t know where to begin. So we laughed and smiled together. We created positive memories among the plethora of negative ones.

I was proud of my work in Indonesia and I loved watching the faces on the children and their families as they laughed at my clown acts, jumped for joy at their successful spinning of a plate and joked with their friends wearing the red noses that I’d passed out. But somehow, I couldn’t help but feel like I was 16 again, sitting in my car, only reaching my hand out to give them a few coins and then driving off.

As I began to say goodbye to the children I’d worked with, I realized something that I found profound. Giving them emotional relief was great — comic relief tours are important. But, if I really wanted to help these children, it was going to take more than a 10-week performance expedition. After spending time getting to know the children of this city, I found myself left with an uncontrollable desire to do more. I knew it would be hard, but when asked why I wanted to help so badly, my response was always, “Because I’m young and I can. If I can help and I don’t, who is going to?”

And it was with those thoughts I returned home to begin fund-raising for what I would later call the Red Nose Foundation.

Finding My Nose, Part 1

Finding My Nose, Part 2

School Renovation

This post was written by Julia, a Red Nose intern from Germany. This is Julia’s sixth post; to read more by Julia follow the links below.

My sixth week in Red Nose started again on a Sunday morning, I meet up the Red
Nose crew in Jakarta International School. This is my sixth week but I am still not
able to juggle and to be honest I am not sure if I will ever learn how to juggle before
I have to leave Jakarta

After spending time at Jakarta International School, I spent the rest of the afternoon
in BSD, where my host family is living. I was busy every weekend busy and had no
time to explore the area I am living in, so this is a good chance to do so. It was good
to walk a bit around the park and the area. One thing I am really missing in Jakarta
is walking. In Germany I walk daily over long distances, but Jakarta is not built for
walking… no pedestrian ways and the heat makes you sweat after the first 500

Red Nose is searching for new employees, so we were joined from one of the
applicants in Cilincing. He hold an English lesson for the kids and afterwards Dedi
and I left for Bintaro. In Bintaro the situation is still quite similar to the situation last
week. More houses demolished, more families moved, but a big group of people is
still staying in the area.

On Friday I helped Nino taking pictures at a school in Cilincing, which will be
renovated with financial support from Red Nose Foundation and other donors.
We arrived at the school very early in the morning and the workers were already
collecting the rubbish from the playground of the school. The whole building is
in bad condition. Around 2 hours later the first trucks with cement arrived at the
school and the renovation of the playground started. It was interesting to see how
work like ground renovation is done in Indonesia compared with Germany. At the
end the result of the renovation was great and the whole school looks much more as
a school should look. On Sunday there will be an opening ceremony of the new and
improved school.

Read more posts by Julia:
Part 1: Arriving at Red Nose
Part 2: Birthday and Getting a Routine
Part 3: Television and Radio
Part 4: A Rainy Week
Part 5: Rolling Stone Cafe and Moving…
Part 6: School Renovation

Finding My Nose, Part 2

The following column was written by Dan Roberts as part of a series published in the Jakarta Globe Newspaper in 2012. You can read Part 1 of this series here.

As a teenager and with a group of friends, we found a way to combat poverty that made sense for us. Fast forward a few years to university: I’d graduated high school with average grades and made some slightly above average achievements in extra curricular activities, but I was most proud about what my band had done with the profits from our music concerts. I felt as though we’d actually made a difference in the world. And that felt good. That being said, no one in their freshman year of college really cared about hearing your stories of donating a few hundred bucks to an orphanage, so these moments slowly faded into memories. 

I quickly joined the rest of my peers in obsession with what “show” we’d get cast in (did I mention I went to theater school?) and whose fake ID looked the most original to buy beer on the weekend. I got into theater because I liked the attention you got on stage. It made me feel good about myself and I wanted to be a movie star. Although, for some reason you weren’t supposed to admit that, so I told people “I wanted to make a decent living working in the arts,” but really, I wanted to be a movie star.

It wasn’t long after I began “crafting my art” that a feeling of emptiness started creeping up. Something was missing in my life, but I didn’t know what. And I couldn’t stop thinking about the “It” I’d witnessed in Indonesia. Why was the government not doing anything about the “It” problem? Why weren’t all the wealthy people doing something to solve “It”?

Why wasn’t I doing something about “It”?

Shortly after “It” started to consume my conscience, I learned about another person trying to do his part in changing the world.

Paul Miller was a clown. He was trying to help kids in inner city Chicago succeed by teaching them self-esteem through circus. It just so happened that my school was teaching circus for a semester to teach actors how to perform without their mouths. My lust for performance was revived. When the unit was over, my professor suggested I get a hold of his friend, Paul Miller. An upper classman from my university took me to Paul’s school — it was then that the first volume of my life was complete and the second began to write itself.

Paul’s organization was called CircEsteem and they operated out of a community center in a predominately African immigrant neighborhood. My first day of volunteering for Paul’s organization was, at very least, enlightening. There were groups of children from opposite sides of the city and opposite sides of the economic spectrum working together as a team, as partners and most importantly, as friends. Paul had really “tough” kids wearing red noses and practicing clown falls. What was this amazing vehicle of reaching children that he’d created? Why wasn’t everyone spreading peace throughout the world with circus?

The haze of amazement was abruptly shattered towards the end of the class, when a 14-year old girl burst into fury, yelling obscenities and storming out of the gym. Paul immediately chased after her. Shocked and silenced having never seen a child treat their teacher in that way before, a colleague leaned over and told me not to worry about it, “She does that all the time. She didn’t want to walk on the big balance ball.”

I watched as Paul chased after her, acknowledged her anger and encouraged her to reach her full potential. It was that moment that the magic of social circus made sense to me. Paul wasn’t talking to her about walking on a balance ball, he was talking to her about life through the veil of a circus trick. The next four years, I was deeply and completely devoted to this program. I watched as that angry, scared and confused young girl grew into a strong, intelligent and powerful young woman. There were many other success stories that I witnessed at Paul’s CircEsteem. However, it was during this journey that I also learned one of the hardest lessons when working with at-risk children.

That lesson is that they are actually at risk. No matter how hard you try, the hours, days, weeks and months that you devote to them, you will fail some of the time. Some children will get sucked into the backwards system, some will make bad choices and some won’t survive because of it. We lost many children along the road at CircEsteem, some left the program and had their lives taken away from them. But, despite the pain, we feel when we lose some, the hope is that the children you help outnumber the children you can’t help. And even more so, the hope is that while some of the kids might never reach their full potential and thrive into positive contributing citizens, at least you’ve made an impact in their lives positively, even if temporarily.

As soon as I discovered social circus, I forgot about my dreams of being a movie star. I only went to class because I knew my folks wouldn’t have allowed me to quit. But sitting in Shakespearean Literature and Ensemble Singing class gave me time to dream about how I was going to change the world. I wanted to build a social circus, just like CircEsteem and the many other wonderful programs I was introduced to, but in Indonesia.

I believed that this might be the answer to that looming “It.” I watched kids in America change their lives because of learning how to juggle, maybe I could help children in Indonesia do the same thing. I spent several years learning everything I could learn from Paul and his growing circus program until eventually it was time for me to take my show on the road.

Finding My Nose, Part 1

Finding My Nose, Part 3

Rolling Stone Cafe and Moving…

This post was written by Julia, a Red Nose intern from Germany. This is Julia’s fifth post; to read more by Julia follow the links below.

Red Nose Foundation will have a huge fundraising event on May 11th at the Rolling Stone Café in Jakarta. The whole team went to Rolling Stones café on Friday to make seating layouts preparation. We were moving tables and chairs around to find the best way to place the seats and furnitures for the event. I felt a bit out of place and awkward to be in a place like Rolling Stone Café after working the whole week in Cilincing. After pushing, lifting and a lot of sweating, we finally made a decision to where to put the seats and tables. Exhausted but happy, we finished the day watching a reportage of Red Nose Foundation on a local tv station. The reportage is a result of having Trans 7 ( The tv station ), following us around Cilincing and Bintaro for several days last week. It was great to see the end result of their work but also strange to see myself on the screen and to take up an outside perspective on our daily work in Cilincing.

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After the meeting at Rolling Stone Café Nino, a Red Nose hunk who is living in Bogor gave me a ride to Bogor. I spent my weekend there at a frieend’s house. On Saturday we went to a National park to see the beautiful countryside and the waterfalls nearby. On Sunday morning I had the unique chance to visit an Indonesian wedding. It was very nice to see the traditional costumes and dances. After the wedding my friend brought me to the botanical garden in Bogor and on the evening I went back to Jakarta. In Jakarta I went directly to the place of another friend and he brought me on my free Monday to the seaside in North of Jakarta. It was so relaxing to sit next to the sea and do nothing. A nice change from looking at the sea from Cilincing.

At Tuesday the week started with going to Cilincing, where the children were already waiting for us. My fifth week is at the same time as Alex’s last week the other volunteer working in Red Nose. It is remarkable how fast these 5 weeks were passing bye. I’m quite sad by Alex finishing his volunteer work, because he was a person I can share my thoughts and experiences, who was in the same situation as me and were quite often sharing the same opinion about various topics.

In Bintaro the situation on Wednesday were mostly influenced from the ongoing changes there. The owner of the land, where the children and their families are living, wants to build new apartments there. As a consequence the families have to move to a area nearby and their homes will be demolished. When Dedi and I arrived in Bintaro the families there were already on the move. Some homes were already empty and partly demolished, other families were still organizing their stuff. The whole atmosphere in Bintaro was different. The classroom where Red Nose teaches was half full with “valuable” items, which the families want to keep. The already normally limited space in the classroom became smaller. Also outside, in front of the classroom several objects constrained the kids to move freely. We will see when the moving will be done and maybe Red Nose will teach in a house of one of the children’s.

On Friday after the English lessons in the morning the children are invited to “Disney on Ice” from Permata Bank. The show will hopefully entertain them and allow them to break out off their normally environment in Cilincing and Bintaro.

Read more posts by Julia:
Part 1: Arriving at Red Nose
Part 2: Birthday and Getting a Routine
Part 3: Television and Radio
Part 4: A Rainy Week
Part 5: Rolling Stone Cafe and Moving…
Part 6: School Renovation

The Clowns have Arrived!

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Red Nose Relief in collaboration with Clowns without Borders

Gabi and I arrived in Jakarta yesterday afternoon, and were introduced to the Red Nose Foundation team and to Jakarta’s formidable traffic.  Gabi and I had never met before, so we got to know one another while attempting to stay awake to combat jetlag. We made it to 8:30 pm.

This morning we drove with our host Dan (Red Nose founder/director) and his team to the village of Cilincing, 45 minutes from downtown Jakarta, where Red Nose runs a small school to teach circus and english.  Dan showed us around the sea-front fishing village, which is a very rough and crowded bario literally built on trash, discarded shells, and cement.  It was a little intimidating but Dan seems to know everybody in town, including his many circus students.

We walked to an elementary school nearby where Red Nose is sponsoring a new renovation.  There was a ceremony and also a chance to help lay down a new brick courtyard.  Gabi and I helped level and set bricks for half an hour, before retiring to a classroom to work on show ideas.

Over lunch we pulled together a plan for a short show with Darmadi and Dedi, two members of Red Nose who will be sharing the stage with us this trip.  Then, less than 24 hours after landing in Indonesia, we mounted our first show for over 250 children from the neighborhood.  We did some club juggling, diabolo, tug of war, and some improvisation, with Dedi contributing a sing-along song.  Over-all the show was judged a success; with many smiles from the local kids, school teachers, and others.  It also gave Gabi, Dedi, Darmadi and I a chance to get to know each-other as performers, having just met we thought we acquitted ourselves well.

Tonight Kolleen, our third CWB clown compatriot, arrives; and tomorrow we will have time for proper rehearsal.  Tuesday we leave for the remote island of Mentawai, off the coast of Sumatra, with Dedi, Darmadi, and a Jakarta reporter and photographer.  After a twelve hour boat ride, we’ll stay there for eleven days of shows and workshops.  Here in Jakarta we have easy access to the internet, but Mentawai has little electricity, so we do not expect to be able to send regular updates during that week.

So if you don’t hear much from us, at least know the trip is off to a promising start!
Jan Damm