Finding My Nose, Part 1

The following column was written by Dan Roberts as part of a series published in the Jakarta Globe Newspaper in 2012.

My name is Dan Roberts and I’m the founder and executive director of Red Nose Foundation, an arts and education outreach program to empower underprivileged youth through the circus. The journey taken developing the Red Nose Foundation has not always been easy, but we continue to stride forward with the assumption and hope that we are helping to better our community, our nation, our world. One little piece, one child at a time. And this is my story:

Life has a way of changing things; sometimes for the worse. But the hope is that more often than not, it’s for the better. I believe that it is through that change that we as individuals, communities, or dare I say as a society, develop the strength to progress.

As an expatriate child growing up in Indonesia, there weren’t a lot of things to complain about. I pretty much got what I wanted. I was fortunate: Drum sets and big-screen TVs, chauffeurs and family cooks, school trips to the Great Wall of China and senior trips to that tropical paradise, Bali! So maybe fortunate is an understatement. Very fortunate.

But I was one of the lucky ones. Despite my family’s affluence, my parents insisted that their children not completely lose sight of reality. It was through their generosity to the people around us that I learned the most important lesson of all. Our job as members of humanity must be to take care of each other. Taking care of each other certainly has a different meaning to everyone, and indeed it should.

For my father, it was putting our house staff’s children through school and university. For my mother, it was visiting the same orphanage once a week for six years to spend time with children who needed to be loved. It was inviting the guys from my high school rock band to come down and eat dinner with our family. It was actually caring about the people in our world, with no expectation of a return on our “investment” — no expectation at all. Simply caring because we all need to be cared for sometimes.

When you are young, I think you don’t notice “It.” But, coming of age in one of Southeast Asia’s largest cities, the other “It” begins to creep up on you. When “It” is a 5-year-old girl knocking on your car window asking for a few coins, or a blind woman stumbling in between the cars at a crowded intersection or when “It” is a man who lost his legs in what was no doubt a horrific accident, and drags his body along the curb with a cup tucked in his belt, “It” begins to be difficult to ignore.

“It” is Indonesia’s poverty.

We often don’t know how to combat these feelings of hopeless compassion for the poor around us, so we keep small cups of coins in our cars and try to pass them out at every stoplight or traffic jam. This is how we care. And it might help. Those poor people on the outside of the glass might eat a meal that day, they might buy medicine for their sick spouse and they might put their children back in school. Unfortunately, the more likely scenario is that the man or woman lounging on the bench just out of reach, but not out of sight, will take the coins that we passed out and leave the beggars with none.

If you watch closely, it’s like smoke and fire. Where there is an unbathed child tapping on her tambourine, there is someone counting how many coins she receives and taking his cut. So what do you do? If the child doesn’t meet their quota, they might not be fed, or possibly even beaten. But should you continue to perpetuate the cycle of enabling these children to be abused? It was this poverty that left me confused, sad and a little angry. What could I do, I was only 16!

Around the same time I started to notice poverty, I was introduced to a young man who had traveled a similar path as me; an expat child studying in luxury at an international school. Emmanuel had left college early to come back to Indonesia and open an orphanage for some street kids in his old neighborhood. He changed the path that he thought his life was supposed to take, and devoted himself toward putting a roof over the heads of a few street kids. His devotion and dedication toward the less fortunate in his life was inspiring to me at 16. He was someone like me, and look at what he had accomplished.

Like I mentioned before, I played in a rock band (although a scream band might be a better way to describe it, but that’s beside the point). My school had a tradition of putting on big music concerts, and when it was my turn in the pecking order to organize these events, I started donating our funds to Emmanuel and his orphans. The amount of funds that we raised was small, possibly insignificant, but it was what we could do. It was our way of taking care of each other. It was our way of combating poverty in a way that made sense for us as teenagers.

Finding My Nose, Part 2

Finding My Nose, Part 3

Advertisements

A Rainy Week

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

My fourth week started on a Sunday. I joined Red Nose and the children in Jakarta International School, where they practice circus and acrobatic. It was a nice experience to see the children out of their usual environment in Cilincing and Bintaro. Compared to the facilities where the children train their circus skills normally, JIS offers a lot of different opportunities and facilities. The building is quite big thus the children are able to move freely and practice also acrobatics, which is not imaginable in Cilincing or Bintaro. The children, in short time, created small circus shows from which I was quite impressed. Also there I am still not able to juggle with three balls (Am I making progress?…;)).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Aside from my activities in Red Nose, I had a great weekend, my first weekend in Jakarta;) I met a friend and he showed me the old city center and I got a different view on Jakarta than only moving between Pondok Indah, BSD, Bintaro and Cilincing. I met new people and collected different impressions of the city. Next to that I bought a new camera, after I had to figure out that the cost of repairing the old one are nearly as high as buying a new one and after 5 months of daily usage it is maybe the time to accept that the old camera did a good job;) But as result I can also provide new pictures for you from my fourth week at Red Nose Foundation.

The beginning of the week was characterized by the heavy rainfalls in Jakarta. On one hand I am not used to heavy rain in Germany or any other places I have lived in.  While we were leaving Bintaro on Monday evening after the lessons with the children, the streets were already flooded and the rain was heavy. First I was only impressed by so much water, later I had to realize the consequences of the floodings… It took me three hours on Monday and four hours on Tuesday to come home, which is normally supposed to take me only one hour.  The long journeys by bus with the freezing air conditioner are exhausting and I only wish that the rain will stop soon, but until now the weather does not seem to change.

My experiences to teach the children English are going well. Also if I meet my limits if I have to explain a child in Cilincing expressions like: locations where people from the upper class are living. Sometimes it is quite hard to see how the educational books from school are missing the reality of these children. Of course the books are written for the whole Indonesia, independently from the social class the children are from, but still makes it the effort to translate and teach the vocabulary not easier and somehow ridiculous.

At the long weekend I will visit a friend in Bogor and as I was describing before I am looking forward to see some nature and a different environment the crowded and busy Jakarta.

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

Television and Radio

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

The third week was mainly conditioned from the press. Three out of five days journalists from television and radio was accompanying us to Bintaro and Cilincing. On the one hand the children seemed to be somehow used to the attention from outside. On the other hand cameras and unkown people taking attention. The large part of the time the children were presenting their artistic skills, but still we tried also to teach English.

Next to this I came down with a bad cold with fever and cough, which makes every single movement more exhausting. So in total I am looking forward for the weekend and to have a rest.

The weekend in Sumatra was great but unfortunately my camera broke on Thursday evening, so I had no possibility to make pictures. My mission for the next weekend will be to buy a new one, so I can also present new pictures to emphasize my impressions.

On Monday I changed the hostfamily and I am living now in BSD, so I am able to come to Pondok Indah by myself by bus. The way is long, but I am still happy that I am able to move freely. The new family is very friendly and helpful. Until know I did not have the time to share lot of experiences with them, but I hope we will find time after Hannas exams.

Read more posts by Julia:
Part 1: Arrived 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

Birthdays and Getting Routine

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

I had a great weekend in Bandung. The green of the countryside around Bandung really freshed my mind  and I had to realize that I enjoyed to see nature so much only after one week in Jakarta and Cilincing. I had to realize that I have this possibility to break out of the poor environment in Cilincing and the grey and crowded environment of Jakarta. The children here do not have this option. I am not sure how many of the kids saw something else than the tough neighborhood in Cilincing, the rubbish, the mussels in every alley, the  smell that welcome us here upon arriving here in the area and flies which are following  us into the car and we have 1 hour back to Pondok Indah to spend.  It feels good to wash your hands and feet when arriving at the office after a long day in Cilincing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From the moment I signed the contract with Red Nose Foundation I knew what I am doing. I was living before for over a year in Turkey and in the Middle East.  There I saw also very poor areas and I was also working with children there. In my opinion the difference between the ‘slum’ areas  in Indonesia (or lets say in South-East Asia) and these areas in Balkans, South-East of Turkey or Armenia is the problematic of the rubbish. Somehow it seems that the handling of rubbish is different in these countries. Of course the rule ‘as more rubbish you can find on the street as poorer is the area’ is also working in Middle East but it is not that extreme as in South East Asia. Additionaly, the difference in the climate are also responsible for the whole impression of areas as Cilincing, which you can find very similar in Myanmar and the Philippines.

The second week was in the structure as the first one. Mondays we are going to Bintaro, the rest of the week to Cilincing and two persons alternately at Wednesdays to Bintaro. After the days with the children we are working on organizational topics, preparing the teaching materials and I have the English tutoring with Darmadi as often as possible.

On the Monday of the second week of my time at Red Nose we went around midday to Bintaro where the children were already waiting excited  for us. Today should be there joggling exam, which means that the children present the tricks they learned at the last month and the children which are able to present 20 tricks getting three joggling balls as present. This present also allows the children to train their skills next to the time in class.

It was fantastic to see how proud the children were to present their skills to the rest of the group and to see what they are able to do with 3 balls. I tried to juggle from the first day of the last week. But already after 30 minutes my teacher Darmadi told me that I will need a long time to learn it and if I am honest I think he his rightJ For this reason it is especially impressive to see what the children are able to do… joggling with 3 balls  knows every child.. lets say standardJ. The tricks they are able to do with the balls are amazing and I am still impressed if I see the ease and effortlesness with which they are doing their show. The emotions and personality aspects are becoming obvious in smiles and the bright look on the students’s eyes after finishing the performance.

On Tuesday Darmadi and I figured out per coincidence by teaching the children ‘When is your birthday?’… ‘My birthday is on… ’ that our birthdays are at the same day.. the 21st of March and so the day after.  At the next day after teaching in Bintaro and Cilincing the whole team surprised us with a cake and were singing for us. The atmosphere was very nice and a good memory to my 26th birthday in Indonesia.

Next to this ‘special events’ of the week we were following the normal routine of the week: Teaching and tutoring the children English and circus. We are meeting at 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning at the office and arriving than at 9 or 10 o’clock in Cilincing. By arriving there the first children will pick us up from the car and the last children will bring us to the car for leaving back to the office around 14.30 or 15.30 o’clock. Lessons for 5,5 hours seems a the first moment not much, but if the only breaks between are short visits to the bathroom, the days are quite exhausting. After arriving around 16.00 or 17.00 o’clock back at the office, having late lunch in the Warteg nearby there is a lot of organizational stuff to do for me and Darmadi to study more English, only on a different level. For this reason pictures of the whole team sleeping on the way back to the office (as you can see on the pics) are not seldom.

After I found out last weekend that Friday is public holiday in Indonesia, I booked a cheap plane ticket to Padang in Sumatra and will leave to there on Thursday night. I am looking forward to see a totally different area of Indonesia than Java and will escape again out of Jakarta to be surrounded by green trees and blue lakes.

Read more posts by Julia:
Part 1: Arrived 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

Arrived at Red Nose

The post was written by Julia, a Red Nose intern from Germany. This post is Part 1 Julia’s story, for more, see the links below.

Monday the 12th of March at 10 am was the start of my time at Red Nose Foundation. The team picked me up at the meeting point and after a warm and friendly welcome and a short introduction in the duties and responsibilities, the daily schedule for the following two months and further important items, I had my first English lesson with Darmadi. I had to realize that talking and teaching English are two completely different things, but with the time we find a good routine in explaining vocabulary with nonverbal expressions.

The following days of my first week we went everyday to Bintaro or Cilincing to teach the children there. I will never forget the first time I saw the area. After an hour ride by car from the office we arrived in Cilincing and when we opened up the car door the first I notice was the smell, it was horrible. The idea that the children are growing up in this smell surrounded by an unbelievable amount of flies and rubbish is difficult to stand. On the other hand it is impressive to see how motivated and happy the children are about learning. It is great to see that as soon as arriving in Cilincing, the children are already waiting and eager to start the lessons, what I am probably not able to say about the majority of the children in Germany.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I spent the first week getting to know the children and trying to learn the names of the students. At the beginning I was worried that the children would not believe that we will be able to communicate with each other. They were asking my Indonesian colleagues for every single vocabulary, if they did not understand the meaning from my nonverbal explaining directly. For this reason it was quite difficult to catch the attention of the children for a longer time period. I decided to learn together with the children: by teaching them English, I am writing down the translation in Bahasa Indonesia. On one hand I am able to communicate easier with the kids, winning their trust so that we can communicate with only few words and especially I am able to win their attention for longer time periods. On the other hand my daily life in Indonesia becomes easier with few words of the language and if I would be a bit more talented with learning languages, it would be an easy language to learn J

I arrived in Jakarta and at Red Nose Foundation after 4 months of travelling in South East Asia and it felt good to do something meaningful after that long time of collecting new impressions and experiences in different countries. It feels good to stay for longer than few nights at one place. I love travelling, but after 4 months it can also feel good to come back ‘home’ at the end of the day. I gained a different view on the country than only visiting the touristic attractions. I am looking forward to new experiences I will have in the following weeks by teaching the children in Bintaro and Cilincing. Before I came to Jakarta the student organization through which I found Red Nose Foundation, found an Indonesian family, which is able and willing to host me in their house for the first 2 weeks. I arrived at their home at the weekend before starting my project. They welcomed me very friendly and they had a lot of questions about me and the life in Germany. I try to answer honestly but sometimes I bumped to my limit, because to answer general questions about a whole country can turn out quite difficult. As in every country in the world, if it is Indonesia, Germany or US there are different people with very different ways of living. Human beings love to think in categories and stereotypes and so my answers to the questions seems to be quite disappointing from time to timeJ

My biggest problem at the beginning in Jakarta was the public transportation from Depok (the place where the family is living) to Pondok Indah (the area where is the office of Red Nose). After the first day the family offered me their private driver to go their. I was impressed from the kindness from the family, which already offered me a bed in their house and also from the team at Red Nose, which were trying to find a solution for my situation from the first moment. After the first 2 weeks we found a good solution with the offer from the family, for which I am still very thankful and after next week I will already change to another family who is living in BSD. There should be a public bus going from Pondok Indah to BSD and I hope than I can move independently between my workplace and my ‘home’.

At the weekend after my first week with lot of new experiences and impressions, I will go with my host family to Bandung to visit the son of the family there. After 5 days of Cilincing I am looking forward to the green countryside around Bandung and we are planning to visit the volcano .

Read more posts by Julia:
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

Living Diversity

This entry was written by Matheus Ferri, a Red Nose Intern from Brazil:

When I chose Indonesia to do my exchange I wanted to experience something different from what I had in Brazil and could get in other place. Different Habits. Different lifestyle. Different beliefs.

Cilincing is not exactly a nice place to live and neither is the slum we go to at Bintaro. Apart from that the kids are always happy and even happier when we get there but it still amazes me. The cultural shock in the first week after I arrived at Indonesia was quite big, the reality at both our workplaces is completely different from what I live in Brazil and though we have people living under those conditions too since we are also a country striving to develop I had never been so close to poorness and people that face it everyday. Not only the condition startled me but also dealing with kids, I needed to learn to control my patience and go slowly with the teaching.

Regarding Indonesia a lot of things are different from Brazil. The food is too spicy, the climate is very hot and humid and there is an amazing quantity of malls. In my city we don’t have that many motorcycles in the traffic and not even that much traffic as Jakarta does.

After getting used to the differences in the following days after that first experience me and Emily started to know all the children, memorize their names and to try to make them comfortable with our presence since a lot of them were very shy. When that was done work became easier and the weeks flew. After 7 weeks now I am getting prepared for the last one and I still have a lot more to see and learn from them.

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.