My Hidung Merah experience.

G’day, my name is Emily Cousins and I have travelled to Jakarta from Adelaide, Australia to volunteer for Red Nose Foundation for 8 weeks. Working with Red Nose Foundation has been an experience of highs and lows, strengths and weaknesses and above all education.

Education began as soon as I arrived at work on day one where I was given juggling balls and somewhat taught to juggle before heading to a slum in Bintaro where I would teach my new found skill (along with English) to the children. I had always heard of the incredible divide between rich and poor within Indonesia, but was unprepared for what confronted me when arriving at the Bintaro classroom that day. Despite the distinct urge to fall in a heap with sorrow, a brave face was worn and work begun. The word ‘poor’ took on a new meaning as I found people living amongst the rubbish and in houses smaller than my bedroom. My upper-middle class upbringing meant great ignorance to the plight of these people and foundations such as Red Nose, especially when I found myself asking how the people actually make money by picking through the rubbish. A powerful lesson was learned: people are people, regardless of socio-economic boundaries… Respect is still deserved, smiles are still smiles and the laughter is still contagious.

The week continued with English and circus lessons at Cilincing. I had been told to hold my breath as I exited the car to walk to the classroom in this town as the smell of rotting fish was sure to make me faint. Again, it was not until I experienced this that I truly believed it. The most shocking experience I found from my first day at Cilincing was the mentality of the people there. It was (and still is) difficult for me to fathom the attitude of the families living in the area in that the children are not educated because that is simply ‘wasted time’ where they could be working to earn some (very little) money. Despite these apparent lows, I could not catch myself once without a smile on my face. The children would teach me circus laughing at me when I got simple things wrong and I would teach them English where we played games and made learning fun.

After one week of seeing the children in Bintaro and Cilincing day in and day out, I found what I thought to be my greatest weakness turn into a strength… Patience. Until 17th January I truly believed that patience was a virtue in which I did not possess, but how this changed rapidly. I found myself having to rely on their patience when trying to understand what they were communicating to me in their broken English and with my minimal understanding of Bahasa Indonesia. I sincerely hope this new found patience travels back to Australia with me.

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